Bahrain is a business friendly jurisdiction that attracts a significant amount of foreign investment. The country’s liberal and forward-thinking attitude to international trade, commerce and the business world has made it a successful international banking hub and the second biggest Islamic Finance market globally. It is a developed and mature market for goods and services, evident in part, from the fact that many of the world’s most prominent brands have established a presence in Bahrain.
Bahrain seeks to capitalise on this well-earned reputation by continuously innovating and developing its domestic legislation and international network to ensure that it retains its competitive edge in the global marketplace.
It was recently announced that the rules on foreign ownership of Bahraini companies are to be further relaxed. In contrast with other GCC states, which have traditionally maintained a conservative stance towards corporate foreign ownership, Bahrain has encouraged foreign investment, and this has been reflected in the ability of foreign parties to own 100% of Bahraini companies in a number of industries.
It was, however, recently reported in the Bahraini press that the availability of 100% foreign ownership will be widened further, and that foreign investors will soon be able to benefit from 100% ownership of companies in a number of industries previously reserved for Bahrainis, GCC citizens, and US citizens in certain circumstances under the Bahrain-US Free Trade Agreement.
This relaxation of company ownership laws is indicative of Bahrain’s modern and open attitude more generally, where all are welcome to assist in enabling Bahrain to flourish. It will be of particular interest to international companies seeking to establish a presence in the region. Due to a progressive system of government, the proliferation of advanced technology and telecommunications, access to a mature and well connected financial system, and the limited fiscal implications of doing so, Bahrain will continue to be an attractive location for international companies seeking to expand in or into the GCC.
It is no wonder that Bahrain regularly scores highly in the World Bank’s ease of doing business statistics in a number of categories, both regionally and internationally.
Another welcome announcement for the business world in Bahrain is the expected introduction of shelf-companies. While shelf-companies are not a new concept, they have historically been restricted in Bahrain and the wider region for various reasons. However, a recent announcement in the Bahraini business press suggests that Bahrain may soon be lifting these restrictions, significantly facilitating the establishment of businesses in Bahrain.
These steps are likely to further increase the appeal of Bahrain as a centre of foreign investment and ensure that Bahrain maintains its business-friendly reputation.