After years of neglect, the Iraqi banking sector offers promise once again. Mobile banking, trade finance and infrastructure financing opportunities are proving attractive to existing lenders and the wave of new entrants looking to break into the market. But, before the tide can finally turn, there are regulatory issues that need addressing.
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In a career that has spanned more than 50 years, Ibrahim Dabdoub has transformed the National Bank of Kuwait from a small local player into a global force. Now that he has chosen to step down from his position as chief executive, The Banker reflects on the legacy that he will leave behind.
Islamic banking already has a strong presence in Kuwait. With a number of innovative lenders competing in the sector, and support and regulatory oversight from the country's central bank, it looks as though the industry can only become a more prominent fixture on the country's financial landscape.
Kuwait may lay claim to more than 5% of the world's total oil reserves, but without the expertise and equipment needed to tap into the bulk of this, and with strict rules prohibiting foreign help, the country is struggling to realise its energy potential.
With performance starting to pick up again in the Kuwaiti banking sector, and strong growth potential both in the domestic market and in neighbouring Iraq, the small country is finding itself the focus of a growing number of lenders, with competition among them growing fierce.
Steadily rising oil prices, a stable economy and the implementation of the National Development Plan are causing ripples of optimism in Kuwait, as the country looks to build on the slow progress it has been making in recent years.
With a greatly increased technological capacity and a new external regulator increasing transparency, hopes are high that there will soon be a healthy pipeline of deals for the Kuwait Stock Exchange.
Despite an unusual structure as the holding company for a fixed-line monopoly, B Communications issued Israel's first dual-listed bond to considerable demand.
With the country's well-capitalised banking sector set to transition smoothly to Basel III standards and a positive macroeconomic outlook, central bank governor Mohammad Al-Hashel is able to concentrate on Kuwait's longer term prospects. He tells The Banker how he expects more growth in the Islamic banking sector and an increase in government spending, both of which will prove beneficial to the country's economy.
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