Our comprehensive assessment of Bahrain's operating environment and the outlook for its leading sectors are formed by bringing together a wealth of data on global markets that affect Bahrain, as well as the latest industry developments that could impact Bahrain's industries. This unique integrated approach has given us an impeccable track-record for predicting important shifts in the markets, ensuring you’re aware of the latest market opportunities and risks in Bahrain before your competitors.

Bahrain Country Risk

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Core Views

  • External financing from the rest of the GCC will help to shield the Bahraini non-oil sector from the ongoing retrenchment in public spending. Despite the negative impact of subsidy cuts on internal demand, we forecast Bahrain to grow at a relatively robust rate of 3.0% in 2017.

  • Bahrain's reputation as a stable and welcoming location to do business in the Gulf has suffered as a result of the volatile political climate. At the moment, it remains to be seen if Manama will be able to compete with Doha and Dubai in attracting investment into the all-important hospitality and financial services industry.

  • The economy's medium-term outlook remains contingent upon a lasting solution being found to the current political crisis. Unfortunately, we maintain our guarded outlook on the prospects that the government and...

Bahrain Operational Risk Coverage (8)

Bahrain Operational Risk

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BMI View: Bahrain suffers from a lack of skilled and suitable labour, due to poor educational standards and a small population. The country's significant levels of public unrest contribute to a considerable risk of violence and conflict, while its cybersecurity infrastructure remains underdeveloped. However, with strong availability and low costs of utilities, and highly receptive trade and investment environment, Bahrain is one of the cheapest places in the world to set up certain business ventures. Therefore, with a score of 62.6 out of 100 on BMI's Operational Risk Index, Bahrain is ranked...

Bahrain Operational Risk

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BMI View: Bahrain performs well in comparison to its regional peers in terms of its general trade and investment environment. While the country's economic performance does hinder its overall appeal as a trading destination, it is elevated by minimal trade tariffs, friendly policies towards foreign investors and key free trade agreements with strategic partners. Further incentives for Bahrain as a trade and investment destination are its low tax rates, fast and efficient tax system, as well as relatively low levels of red tape. While corruption levels in its legal system have reduced over the past few years, recent reports do call into question how independent the country's judiciary is - although this is...

Bahrain Crime & Security

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BMI View: Bahrain is a relatively stable and secure country in a notoriously unstable region. Boasting a competent policing infrastructure, Bahrain's crime rates are low. Simultaneously, a developed financial sector and oversight mechanisms mitigate risks of financial crime. However, underdeveloped cybersecurity policies, and a simmering domestic conflict over democratisation present significant threats to businesses. As a result, Bahrain receives a score of 63.1 out of 100 for its overall Crime and Security Risk, placing it fifth in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.


Bahrain Labour Market

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BMI View: Businesses operating in Bahrain will need to consider importing foreign workers due to the country's small population and the lack of educational and vocational skills in the domestic labour market. In addition, companies are facing increasing difficulties employing expatriates due to the implementation of policies intended to encourage the hiring of domestic labour at the expense of foreign workers. Nevertheless, firms which are able to absorb the cost of importing workers will face an attractive labour market in Bahrain, characterised by flexible regulations, low wages and minimal unionisation. Overall, Bahrain scores 60.7 out of 100 in BMI's Labour Market Risk Index, placing the country in fifth position out of...

Bahrain Logistics

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BMI View: Businesses face minimal logistics risks affecting their operations in Bahrain. The ease of day-to-day operations is facilitated through the cheap and plentiful supply of electricity and fuel, as well as the fast and reliable internet services available. The speed and safety for the transport of goods in and out of the country are not hindered in any way by time-consuming or expensive customs control procedures. The only major risk with transporting goods around, in or out of Bahrain stems from the over-reliance on road networks for freight transport. This is largely due to the country's island status and inconvenient geographical positioning for maritime access, which results in there being major traffic congestion on the causeway which links Bahrain and Saudi Arabia and causes some supply chain delay....

Bahrain Industry Coverage (16)

Bahrain Autos

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Passenger Car and Light Commercial Vehicle Sales
e/f = BMI estimate/forecast. Source: CIO, BMI

Key Views

  • 2015 has proved another positive year for Bahraini new car sales, which should be on track for over 70,000 units sold by year end.

  • Looking forward, BMI remains optimistic on the medium-term outlook for the sector, targeting 21.3% growth, to around the 87,000 unit mark by 2019.

  • One support to overall passenger car sales numbers as we...

Bahrain Commercial Banking

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Commercial Banking Sector Indicators
Date Total assets Client loans Bond portfolio Other Liabilities and capital Capital Client deposits

Bahrain Consumer Electronics

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BMI View: Bahrain is a high-income country, making it a lucrative market for consumer electronics vendors, even as overall market size is limited by the small population. Premium vendors fare particularly well in Bahrain, where over 56% of households are forecast to have incomes of USD50,000 or more in 2016 and there is a strong culture of fashion oriented conspicuous consumption. There are however challenges for vendors operating in Bahrain, most notably the maturity of the devices market, with high penetration even in newer device categories such as smartphones and tablets, requiring vendors to apply targeted strategies due to an absence of 'low-...

Bahrain Food & Drink

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BMI View: Bahrain's food and drink industry will be one of the region's fastest growing. We forecast positive growth for the industry led by rapid growth in the MGR sector, with a CAGR of 7.4% to 2019. Strengthening economic growth and a stabilising political crisis in Bahrain will restore investor confidence. Furthermore, a business-friendly environment coupled with cheap electricity and fuel prices will lower overheads and costs to encourage growth in the food and drink industry.


Bahrain Freight Transport

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BMI View: Bahrain will continue to follow an ambitious infrastructure investment plan in order to increase capacity within its key freight sectors. This falls in line with the government's strategic vision for 2030, which will aim to promote trade in the region and stimulate economic growth. The measures will contribute to steady growth across its freight modes over the medium term to 2020, with the road transport sector in particular benefitting from infrastructure investment and industry diversification in the country.

Real growth in GDP looks set to slow marginally in 2016, though oil prices are starting to recover slightly from recent drops. Healthy growth in the non-oil sector will have a positive impact on freight transport as demand from other...

Bahrain Information Technology

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BMI View: The decline in the oil price has dampened the economic outlook for Bahrain since the last IT market update, reflected in our downward revision of our forecast to a CAGR of 4.9% 2016-2019 to a total value of BHD154mn. The impact will not however be far reaching under our core scenario, with Bahrain's status as a lucrative retail hardware market largely unaffected, and we maintain our view that premium device spending will provide high margin unit growth opportunities over the medium term. Meanwhile, in terms of enterprise spending growing demand from the financial services and telecommunications verticals, particularly for cloud computing and advanced solutions will offset the cutbacks in the oil and gas sector. There is however heightened downside risk in the 2016 update, primarily through the potential for public sector IT spending...

Bahrain Infrastructure

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BMI View : Bahrain saw an uptick in construction over late 2014 and growth for the year came in higher than forecast, at a robust 7.3%. Growth prospects for 2015 and 2016 are more subdued, as government spending comes under increasing pressure from falling global oil prices and private investor interest remains hampered by ongoing political insecurity. The key focus remains on residential construction as Bahrain addresses the shortfall in social housing capacity, as well as transport infrastructure, particularly connections with neighbouring Saudi Arabia. These developments remain heavily reliant on external funding and as the GCC investment programme slows we expect growth in Bahrain's construction sector to...

Bahrain Insurance

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BMI View: The Bahraini insurance sector is small by global standards but it is relatively well developed when compared to its regional counterparts. The market is also home to a variety of indigenous and multinational insurance providers. The larger non-life segment, in particular, is highly diversified and competitive, and is consequently likely to see some degree of market consolidation as this market remains an attractive destination for foreign direct investment. Moreover, with the high income levels among Bahraini households as well as the expanding and sizeable expatriate population, both the life and non-life should see robust demand over the next five years. Transport lines in particular, however, will see limited growth due to their heavy reliance on the country's oil economy.

Headline Insurance Forecasts (Bahrain 2013-2020)

Bahrain Medical Devices

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BM I View: Bahrain is a small but technologically advanced market, which ranks sixteenth in the Middle East & Africa (MEA) region. The market will continue to rely on imported medical devices. Population growth, a changing epidemiological profile, increasing health expenditure and healthcare infrastructure developments are contributing to market growth, despite mounting fiscal pressures due to lower oil prices.

Projected Medical Device Market 2014-2019
Total (USDmn) Per Capita (...

Bahrain Oil & Gas

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BMI View: Despite limited success in boosting oil and gas production from the Bahrain field, the key development for the country will be the refining capacity expansion at the kingdom's centrepiece Sitra refinery. However, delays to the expansion will result in a continuation of fuel export declines and a widening of the country's fiscal deficit until 2020. This marks a two-year delay to our previous forecast which saw increasing fuel exports from 2018.


Bahrain Pharmaceuticals & Healthcare

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BMI View: We expect Bahrain's pharmaceutical market will grow moderately in the coming years, with spending set to be bolstered by the eventual implantation of a national health insurance scheme. Over the longer term, the county's growing obesity levels will contribute to a rising non-communicable disease burden, driving the demand for high quality healthcare services and innovative medicine. However, lower oil prices have impacted government revenues along with its efforts to develop the healthcare sector, which will dampen the attractiveness of the market, at least in the short term.

Headline Expenditure Projections

  • Pharmaceuticals: BHD131mn (USD347mn) in 2015...

Bahrain Real Estate

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BMI View : The country's economic dependence on the hydrocarbon sector has created challenges for Bahrain's commercial real estate sector, considering the precipitous drop in commodity prices. However, we expect rental rates to remain fairly stable for 2016 across each of the sub-sectors we cover, as demand for retail and office space rises.

Bahrain is a small island nation with a population of just over 1mn. The Gulf state is regarded as one of the most prosperous Middle Eastern countries, with an increasingly affluent population, a successful financial sector and improved economic diversity as a result of governmental structural reforms. However, the hydrocarbons industry remains important to the economy, with most of that sector in Bahrain now involved in refining and other areas, as Bahrain now produces only about 48,000 barrels per day. Bahrain thus...

Bahrain Retail

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BMI View: The Bahrain retail industry is one of the most prosperous in the world, boosted by an affluent and urban population (which is expected to grow in size due to an increased number of expats) and an increase in the level of income on the back of economic growth. Shopping centres are common in the capital of Manama, and the population is familiar with modern retail formats and informed on international brands. More shopping complexes are expected to be built in the future to support the growing demand. The food and drinks sector is less mature and has much room to grow, and retailers have a chance to establish themselves in this growing sector.

Bahrain's economy is expected to increase at a strong rate and reach USD45bn by 2019, seeing an increase of USD10bn from its level in 2015. Though the increase is impressive, it is not, in absolute terms, in the same league with some of its...

Bahrain Shipping

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We expect Bahrain to continue develop its role as a regional transhipment hub over the remainder of 2015 and into 2016, with strong container and tonnage throughput growth at Bahrian's premier maritime facility, the Khalifa bin Salman Port (KBSP), forecast to continue. However, growth rates are forecast to slow: from 18.2% to 11.6% for box throughput and from 13.2% to 3.3% for tonnage throughput, with the latter fall attributed to the ongoing slump in oil prices.

Over the medium term, Bahrain's shipping sector will continue to rely on transhipment as a source of growth. We forecast average growth rates of 11.7% for tonnage and 5.1% for container throughput at the port over the next five years, which is a decrease since the uptick after 2011. Slowing growth will be due to limited variety in terms of export goods. However, we do believe that KBSP has a chance to take on the role of a smaller inter-regional rather than...

Bahrain Telecommunications

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BMI View : Bahrain's mobile and wireline telecoms sectors continue to display healthy levels of competition and measurable benefits for telecoms customers. Bahrain still generates the second most attractive returns for operators in the Middle East and North Africa region. The ability to offer fixed and mobile services allows operators to offer bundled services. However, the growth of the broadband market will be primarily driven by dedicated mobile broadband, supported by investments in 3G/4G infrastructure...

Bahrain Water

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BMI View:  Overall little has changed in the Bahrain water sector; however, we have upgraded our forecasts following the release of new historical data. We anticipate that the need for greater water security and more efficient distribution infrastructure will continue to be the key issues facing the water services sector, yet the subdued project pipeline and the difficulties in obtaining financing will offer minimal opportunities for water infrastructure groups.

The privatisation of the water sector has been on the agenda in Bahrain for several years. This privatisation takes place in the context of an improvement of the overall investment climate in Bahrain, with domestic economic conditions gradually showing signs of improvement after little growth in the last two years. The country's Electricity and Water ministry is actively seeking bilateral partnerships with counties including France and...

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