Bahrain banking sector posts strong growth in first half of 2008

August 28th, 2008 - 1:25 pm ICT by IANS  

Dubai, Aug 28 (IANS) Bahrain’s banking sector continued to show dynamic and confident growth in the first half of 2008, according to that Gulf nation’s leading economic authority.In a statement issued in Manama, Bahrain’s Economic Development Board (EDB) stated that during the period, the banking sector posted very strong financial results with a number of new banks being granted licences by the country’s financial services regulator, the Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB).

“Banking remains one of our key strengths in Bahrain and we are delighted that the first half of 2008 has seen not only healthy financial results from our established banking operations, but also a number of exciting new ventures which will strengthen our position as the Gulf’s premier banking centre,” Sheikh Mohammed Bin Essa Al-Khalifa, chief executive of EDB, said in the statement.

Overall, the total consolidated balance sheet of the banking sector increased by $17 billion to reach $269.5 billion by the end of June 2008, compared to $252.5 billion by the end of March.

Khaleeji Commercial Bank, a niche Islamic bank, reported that its profits have grown by 224 percent, with total assets up 182 percent in the space of one year.

Other banks reporting healthy balance sheets and double digit profit growth include Venture Capital Bank, BMI Bank and United Gulf Bank, the EDB statement said.

Venture Capital Bank reported that its net income rose 447 percent to $45.7 million in the one-year period, which ended July 2008.

BMI Bank’s net profits also rose 23 percent during the same period to $7.4 million while United Gulf Bank announced that, for the first half of 2008 it has earned a net profit of $71.5 million, an increase of 10.3 percent compared to the same half-year period in 2007.

Alongside healthy profit announcements by Bahrain’s major banks, the months to July 2008 also saw a number of new names entering Bahrain’s already mature and well represented banking sector.

Towards the end of July, Bank Sarasin & Co. of Switzerland was granted a licence by the CBB to commence investment banking operations in the country.

Earlier in the month, a licence was granted to BSI AG (Generali), another major Swiss private bank. The Bahrain branch will be BSI’s first operation in the Middle East region.

In April, the CBB granted a licence to leading French banking group, Credit Agricole, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Calyon Group.

A recent independent report had high praise for Bahrain’s economic diversification programme, describing it as the best in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region.

‘The Growing Beyond Oil Report’, issued by American not-for-profit research organisation Conference Board, described Bahrain’s economy as exceptional within the Gulf region and destined for success.

The report highlighted the rapid rise of Bahrain’s economy and demonstrated how the country has avoided many of the GCC’s general economic pitfalls to position itself at the vanguard of economic progress in the region.

The GCC comprises Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

These countries are all focussing on diversifying their respective economies and move away from their sole dependence on oil and gas.

The report lauded Bahrain’s diversification into the high-productivity sectors of finance and manufacturing, which, it said, contrasted with other Gulf countries’ diversification into low productivity areas such as construction.

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