Kuwait is the most democratic state in the Gulf Cooperation Council and attracts a number of our clients. Thanks to the high standard of living enjoyed by Kuwaiti citizens as well as the strict controls on the large expatriate workforce, the risk of widespread social discontent is low. Oil wealth typically enables the state to run a fiscal surplus, although the large size of the public sector hampers the development of the non-oil private sector.

We keep our clients abreast of the latest market moves and political developments as part of our 'top-down' and 'bottom-up' perspective. Clients also benefit from in-depth analysis on 18 of Kuwait’s most important industries. We provide interactive data and forecasting alongside detailed and risk-assessed analysis from our expert research teams. We aim to keep you ahead of the curve, so you can do business with ease in Kuwait.

Country Risk

Kuwait Country Risk

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Core Views

  • We expect the Kuwaiti economy to perform relatively well over 2015 and 2016, and retain our forecast for real GDP growth of 2.6% and 2.4%, respectively, from an estimated 2.7% in 2014. After a long period of stagnation, the Kuwaiti investment outlook appears to be improving, while the prospects for consumption remain bright. However, we again highlight Kuwait's ever-volatile political situation as the key downside risk to economic activity.

  • Kuwait has seen a flurry of populist legislation recently, including several measures specifically targeting expatriate workers. This runs the risk of increasing uncertainty within the private sector, as well as cementing perceptions of the country as a hub of policy instability.

  • We expect tensions to remain between the government and the legislative branch, even with the election of a...

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Kuwait Operational Risk Coverage (9)

Kuwait Operational Risk

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Investors entering the Kuwaiti market will encounter moderate levels of operational risk. Currently we see low energy costs, low taxation, free movement of goods and capital and low crime rates as the key drivers for international investment. The key downside risks are inefficiencies in the transport system, high levels of government bureaucracy, the slow pace of legal reforms, and restrictions on foreign ownership and participation in key sectors.

The outlook for the labour market and logistics sector is good, as government spending programmes seek to address key structural weaknesses over the medium term. Meanwhile, crime and security present little risk to international companies. The greatest area of concern lies in the trade and investment framework, which limits foreign ownership and prohibit foreign participation in key sectors of the economy. This significantly undermines competitiveness and negatively affects Kuwait's...

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Kuwait Crime & Security

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Despite significant levels of regional instability, investors and businesses working in Kuwait benefit from a moderately secure operational environment. Firms face the lowest degree of risk in terms of crime owing to the absence of a notable organised criminal presence, an effective police force and low levels of crime. Although Kuwait has had a tumultuous history with neighbouring Iraq, which culminated in the latter's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, the current likelihood of interstate conflict also poses a limited threat to firms, with Kuwait's military investment, and its military and diplomatic alliances, presenting a notable deterrent to future invasion. The highest degree of risk stems from terrorism, though Kuwait possesses an effective counterterrorism force that is reinforced by numerous security partnerships.

As such, Kuwait scores 60.0 out of 100 in BMI's Crime and Security Risk Index,...

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Kuwait Labour Market

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Owing to structural weaknesses in the national education system and a net inflow of uneducated migrant workers from South Asia, we see fundamental risks that undermine labour market competitiveness and threaten investment performance in Kuwait. While migration acts to lower basic skills levels in the labour market, it is also the backbone of competitiveness, providing two-thirds of the workforce and helping to lower the cost of labour. Overall, Kuwait performs moderately well in our Labour Market Risk Index with a score of 52.3 out of 100. This puts Kuwait in eighth place among 18 Middle East and North Africa (MENA) countries.

Kuwait faces the challenge of limited tertiary education levels, which contributes to its score of 43.4 out of 100 for Education in the Labour Market Risk Index. This is a consequence of low government expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP, and underinvestment in tertiary education in particular. We see...

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Kuwait Logistics

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Driven by considerable oil reserves, Kuwait's economy is expected to enjoy sustained growth over the coming years, which will likely translate into an increasing appetite for consumer imports. Resource wealth also enables firms to benefit from cheap electricity and fuel prices, though a possible removal of subsidies could significantly increase energy and gasoline costs in the coming months. Although Kuwait's transport network is relatively efficient, particularly in the aviation sector, the absence of railways and a limited road network drive up transport costs, while a lengthy and cumbersome trade bureaucracy increases the risk of delays and uncompetitive lead times. Kuwait ranks 11th out of 18 Middle East and North Africa states in BMI's Logistics Risk Index with a score of 54.8 out of 100, a long way behind regional outperformer the UAE, which scores 70.9.

The importance of oil and gas...

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Kuwait Trade & Investment

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Low levels of foreign direct investment (FDI) flowing into Kuwait reflect poor economic openness and an unfavourable business environment for foreign investors. The Kuwaiti government still has a strong involvement in the economy, and privatisation has been very slow. Meanwhile, limited reforms have failed to yield vital improvements in foreign investment law, patent protection and public administration, which create fundamental stumbling blocks to business. We also expect to see increased taxation, which will undermine Kuwait's primary investment incentive. In the short term, therefore, we do not expect to see FDI increase significantly, and portfolio investment into the Kuwaiti Stock Exchange will present the most attractive channel for investors to capitalise on strong economic growth.

Kuwait has low levels of economic openness, moderate legal risks and a moderate degree of government intervention. Taking these three pillars under...

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Kuwait Industry Coverage (18)

Autos

Kuwait Autos

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BMI View: Continued growth in private consumption should ensure strong demand for passenger cars and SUVs, while the February 2015 approval by parliament of the new five-year development plan should lead to an increase in demand for commercial vehicles. BMI maintains its forecast for 5% sales growth for the Kuwaiti new vehicle sales market in 2015.

BMI believes that there is scope for a better performance from the Kuwaiti new car sales market in 2015 than was experienced in 2014. We believe Kuwait will record steady economic growth over the coming quarters. Lower oil prices will only have a marginal detrimental impact, as Kuwait has some of the largest buffers to lower oil prices, with fiscal breakeven prices at around USD50 per barrel. Therefore, we do not expect a notable change in the country's oil output or...

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Commercial Banking

Kuwait Commercial Banking

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

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Consumer Electronics

Kuwait Consumer Electronics

Defence & Security

Kuwait Defence & Security

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BMI View: Kuwait continues to have a close defence relationship with the US, although Kuwait's role in facilitating terrorism in the region is creating tensions within the relationship. BMI does not believe that Kuwait faces any immediate serious threats to its security. However, rapidly changing regional dynamics, and particularly the instability in Iraq, could potentially pose a threat to Kuwait in the long term.

Kuwait is one of the more stable countries in the Middle East, and integrated under the US defence security umbrella, it is generally perceived as a Western ally. However, we believe that its failure to stamp out financing activities on its territory in support of terrorism is creating tensions in its relations with the US. In this sense, the...

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Food & Drink

Kuwait Food & Drink

Freight Transport

Kuwait Freight Transport

Information Technology

Kuwait Information Technology

Infrastructure

Kuwait Infrastructure

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BMI View: Despite a reduced 2015/16 budget and restrictive oil price, positive regulatory changes and a commitment to infrastructure spending will support our view of moderate industry growth in 2015 and beyond. Due to the uncertain political situation, we will wait for genuine project momentum and commitment to improve the business environment before making significant adjustments to our forecasts. Between 2014 and 2019, BMI forecast...

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Insurance

Kuwait Insurance

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BMI View: Growth in Kuwait's non-life insurance sector is expected to be robust, outpacing the more limited growth forecasts for the country's smaller life insurance market. Overall however the country's insurance market will remain small by regional and global standards with significant cultural barriers impeding growth potential across both life and non-life insurance and limiting insurance market penetration and density.

Kuwait's non-life market is roughly three times the size of the life insurance segment in terms of gross premiums written, and, taking into account the relative size of the non-life segment relative to its life counterpart, it will remain the key source of growth for the sector as a whole. Health insurance and motor vehicle insurance remain the dominant lines in the non-life insurance, and health insurance in particular will be the driving force behind...

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Oil & Gas

Kuwait Oil & Gas

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BMI View: Like other OPEC members, the rise in the significance of unconventional production and the rapid capture of global market share in the past few years has fundamentally changed the nature and shape of the global economy of oil, specifically the lowering price. However, though the continued deflated pricing environment in the global oil sector has lessened investment in exploration and production, because of increased supply and tempered demand, Kuwait's hierarchy of priorities has changed. For the short term, though the deflated pricing environment is causing pain, the primary motivating principle for Kuwait, as with other OPEC member states, is to recapture lost market share from the unconventional suppliers, by the current...

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Petrochemicals

Kuwait Petrochemicals

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BMI View: Kuwait's export-oriented petrochemicals industry will face a major challenge in the face of the Chinese economic slowdown and its effects on the Asian regional market and product prices, but we are optimistic that low naphtha prices will help the country's producers defend their margins.

The fall in the price of crude has had a direct impact on the price of naphtha, which is Kuwait's main petrochemical feedstock. This should help producers compete in price terms in a market that is over-supplied, particularly against regional rivals that utilise ethane as feedstock. Kuwait's growing competitive advantage will help bolster the forthcoming growth in the capacities of ethylene and derivatives, including a 1.4mn tonnes per annum (tpa) naphtha cracker.

Nevertheless,...

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Pharmaceuticals & Healthcare

Kuwait Pharmaceuticals & Healthcare

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BMI View: While the persistence of lower oil prices will drive down national budgets and curtail some investment programmes, we maintain that the healthcare sector's perception as a critical source of economic diversification away from hydrocarbons in addition to public support, will continue to be largely insulated from major cuts to funding. As such, drugmakers will continue see to sector values rise in all categories, although patented prescription drugs will dominate in value terms. However, a continued escalation of regional security concerns and to a lesser extent, internal political...

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Power

Kuwait Power

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BMI View: Recent blackouts across Kuwait have drawn attention to the significant challenges that the Kuwaiti power sector is facing in the years ahead. With power generation struggling to keep up with growing demand, much greater levels of investment are urgently needed. However, with the sector almost wholly state-owned and operated, and a highly restrictive regulatory environment, attracting major investment is difficult.

Significant changes are on the cards in the Kuwaiti power sector over the coming years, as the government attempts to spur investment into the country's ageing infrastructure. Kuwait's first public-private partnership (PPP) for the construction of the 1.5GW Al-Zour power and desalination plant has the potential to set a precedent for greater private sector engagement within Kuwait's...

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Real Estate

Kuwait Real Estate

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BMI View:   Over the long term the Kuwaiti real estate sector continues to provide enticing opportunities. The country enjoys immense oil wealth and high GDP per capita, while government initiatives are supporting an increasingly dynamic private sector. However, we believe that forecast growth in the sector will be pushed back several years due to developments in 2014. The drop in the price of oil and political instability in the region surrounding Kuwait has meant that the Kuwaiti economy is not growing as quickly as previously forecast, and thus supply continues to outpace demand in the real estate sector.

Demand for commercial real estate is set to grow in Kuwait, as the country has a stable government and...

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Retail

Kuwait Retail

Shipping

Kuwait Shipping

Telecommunications

Kuwait Telecommunications

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BMI View: Despite its small size, Kuwait's telecoms market remains attractive, as high income levels support strong demand for high value mobile and wireline services. However, intensifying price competition between the country's three mobile operators and the government's clamp down on expatriate workers pose downside risks to both value and subscriptions growth in the market. Operator data from end of 2014 reinforces BMI 's view that mobile content and data are steadily increasing as operator revenue drivers, with the launch of 4G/LTE networks in 2013 and 2014 creating opportunities for telecoms operators to partner...

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Water

Kuwait Water

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BMI View: The water sector of Kuwait faces a daunting challenge. The country is one of the most arid on the planet and yet its water consumption levels per capita are among the highest in the world. With extremely limited natural resources the government has relied on desalination as its method of choice for providing households and industry with water. This process is expensive however and exploration into other processes has begun. Despite this interest in new technology and techniques, the environment for foreign investors looks unlikely to become particularly appealing. The country has a poor record for completing infrastructure projects and coupled with a somewhat unstable political landscape leading to frequent alleged cases of corruption, levels of foreign investment are forecast to decline.

Kuwait is susceptible to long periods of drought, as has been the case over recent months. This...

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