Bahrain is a natural gateway to the Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) $1.5 trillion market, with particularly favourable access to Saudi Arabia, the region’s single largest market.
Its central location provides unrivalled entry in to other GCC markets via road, air and sea. Besides acting as an ideal entry point into the Middle East, it has become an operational hub for major organisations with business interests in GCC, and the broader Middle East & North Africa.
HSBC’s presence in the Middle East dates back to 1889 when the bank was known as The Imperial Bank of Persia. Our first branch in Bahrain opened in 1944. Today, HSBC in Bahrain provides a wide range of banking services for both corporate and individual customers.
In fact, HSBC has been a leader in financial services in the GCC states, opening branches in Kuwait (1942), Bahrain (1944), the area now known as the UAE (1946), Oman (Muscat 1948), Saudi Arabia (Al Khobar and Jeddah 1950) and Qatar in 1954.
HSBC Bahrain has a talented and diverse workforce with international expertise and in-depth knowledge of the Bahrain market. The bank is leading the conversations about sustainable finance and ESG and works closely with the decision makers in the country to support the sustainable growth agenda.
I look forward to offering my personal service as we discuss how we can support your business growth in Bahrain.
Kingdom of Bahrain
1 World Bank Group, 2020
2 Trading Economics, 2020
3 KPMG, 2022
for ease of doing business (in a survey of 190 measured economies by The World Bank)
Bahrain is an island state located east of Saudi Arabia and northwest of Qatar. A main island and several smaller islands constitute the Middle Eastern archipelago. Since the second century, pearling has been a significant local industry.
Bahrain is a constitutional hereditary monarchy. The nation has been ruled by the House of Khalifa since the 18th century.
As oil revenue has declined in recent years, Bahrain has diversified into the communication and transport sectors with the aim of attracting foreign multinational corporations. While this has been a successful strategy so far, oil still provides 85% of government revenue.
Bahrain has also diversified into tourism by hosting international sporting events, such as the Formula One Grand Prix which attracts 100,000 spectators to the compact island state.
With a name meaning ‘two seas,’ Bahrain was one of the first Gulf nations to discover oil and establish a refinery, in 1932. However, as a result of dwindling oil reserves, the nation has now become one of the most diversified Arab states in the region.
Although mentioned in the writings of ancient Greek, Persian and Roman geographers, Bahrain has been Arab and Muslim since the 7th century AD. Occasionally, during Bahrain’s history, the British have intruded to foil the power plays of rivals such as Russia and Germany. This relationship led to Bahrain becoming a protectorate of the United Kingdom in 1861. For 110 years, Britain assumed responsibility for Bahrain’s defences and foreign policy.
Arabic is the official language of Bahrain. English is widely and commonly used, and it is a compulsory second language in schools. Persian or Farsi is also spoken, although this is mainly among family.
When oil was discovered in Bahrain in 1932, the nation became the first Arab state to open a refinery and begin production. More recently, with weaker barrel prices bringing less predictable revenues and fears of an end to their oil reserves (since proven unfounded after the discovery of new oil fields), the nation has been steadily diversifying its economy with the aim of developing non-oil sectors. For instance, the government has encouraged growth of the banking and tourism sectors.
Today Bahrain has one of the most varied economies in the Arab world and boasts a Formula One Grand Prix event, a series of innovatively engineered water parks, state-of-the-art shopping malls and high rises. Opened in 2008, the Bahrain World Trade Centre features two 50-storey, sail-shaped office towers linked by sky bridges. The 9,600-square-metre MODA shopping mall is found within, housing more than 200 boutique and luxury stores. The skyscraper’s smart and environmentally intelligent design saw it win the NOVA Award in Innovation in 2009.
Standard & Poor's lists Bahrain as B+ with stable outlook, while Moody's credit rating for Bahrain is B2 with negative outlook and Fitch's credit rating for Bahrain was last reported at B+ with stable outlook.
Launched in 2019, the National Employment Program encourages employers to show preference to Bahraini nationals. This new initiative also means an increase in charges associated with work permits for foreigners.
With a population just under two million people, Bahrain offers a small domestic market to companies looking to do business there.
Climbing electricity prices and challenges around receiving financing from local banks means costs involved in doing business in Bahrain have risen since 2019.
The introduction of certain laws and regulations have altered Bahrain’s business environment, although none are overwhelming. As in most territories, there are specific demands of commercial registration, quality standards and import restrictions that must be recognised by foreigners wishing to do business in Bahrain.
1US Department of Commerce, 2021