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Banks battle for customers

August 2, 2004

Competition is heating up for a share of Brunei’s consumer finance market. Simon Montlake talks to local banks and foreign entrants about their strategies. Newcomers to Brunei might be surprised to find that its small but affluent population of 340,000 is serviced by no fewer than nine domestic and foreign banks. In a country roughly the size of the US state of Delaware, a branch is never too far away, with some staying open until 10pm on weekdays for late-night transactions.

Going offshore without baggage

August 2, 2004

Brunei’s relatively new status as an offshore financial centre has enabled officials to pass quickly the necessary legislation to make it a world-class location. Simon Montlake reports on the country’s attractions for foreign banks. Brunei is among the newest entrants to the competitive field of offshore financial services. In the last four years, it has introduced legislative and regulatory reforms to position the oil-rich sultanate as an attractive tax-free jurisdiction for international banks and other financial companies.

Economic evolution

August 2, 2004

The Brunei Economic Development Board is tasked with overseeing the diversification of the country’s economy and raising its international foreign direct investment profile. Restructured in 2001 as a corporate body, the BEDB is staffed by senior government officials and prominent business leaders and provides a one-stop shop for private investors in Brunei. The Banker spoke recently with its chairman, Pehin Dato Haji Mohammad Haji Daud.

Brunei diversifies to sustain growth

August 2, 2004

Oil has made Brunei a wealthy country. However, if the current economic growth is to be maintained, the tiny Asian sultanate requires a wider spread of industries contributing to its income. Simon Montlake reports.

Benjamin Netanyahu: Israel’s prime minister in waiting

July 2, 2004

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s finance minister, tells Karina Robinson about Israel’s economic turnaround and his thoughts on returning to power.

Bahrain’s roaring success

June 2, 2004

Stephen Timewell reports on how a major new financial centre, a strong regulatory environment and a plethora of projects are set to cement Bahrain’s reputation among its Gulf neighbours.
Brimming with confidence after its successful Formula 1 grand prix in early April, Bahrain is ambitious to project its long-established role as the Gulf’s premier financial and banking hub and capitalise on the booming economies in the region.

Qatar builds the dream

June 2, 2004

Qatar is on the verge of becoming the richest country in the world in terms of GDP per capita as it sees the fruits of its investments in extraction of huge liquefied natural gas reserves. By Stephen Timewell in Doha.

Economy rises

June 2, 2004

Abdulla bin Khalid Al-Attiya, governor of the Qatar Central Bank, talks about Qatar’s financial future.
Q The Qatar economy is seen to be booming; how do you see its prospects and the years ahead?
A The economy has been growing strongly, reaching 8.8% growth in 2003 and a GDP total of Qr70.8bn ($19.5bn). Other factors have been positive, too, with the balance of payments surplus rising 34.2% to Qr10.9bn in 2003 and inflation, although rising, kept at 2.3% last year. Clearly the economy is influenced by developments in the oil and gas sectors, and the growth in gas revenues has and will be significant, with gas revenues expected to be higher than oil revenues by 2010.

Rich flow of opportunity

June 2, 2004

Huge hydrocarbon reserves and modern infrastructure are creating a gold-rush mentality among bankers, with local banks’ profits rising and foreign institutions trying to get a look in. By Stephen Timewell in Doha.
Qatar’s booming economy is proving to be a bonanza for banks. Well-established local institutions have boosted profits and new regional players are buying in to get a slice of the huge opportunities available. Despite events in Iraq, investors and bankers are seeing the massive potential offered by Qatar’s unique hydrocarbon reserves and the modern infrastructure put in place in recent years.

New kids on the block

June 2, 2004

Banks in the Gulf have rarely taken minority stakes in banks elsewhere in the region but in recent weeks two prime players, Bahrain’s Ahli United Bank and National Bank of Kuwait, have been drawn to the attractions of the Qatar banking market.