Al-Maraj: Bahrain shows resilience to region’s jitters
Central bank governor, Rasheed Al-Maraj, has successfully navigated his country’s banking industry through the financial crisis. But headwinds persist, not least the potential for further asset-quality deterioration. He speaks to Sudip Roy about Bahrain’s financial prospects.
REGULATORS ARE UNDER greater scrutiny than ever before. However, Rasheed Al-Maraj, governor of the central bank of Bahrain, is in a relaxed mood as he speaks to Euromoney on a flying visit to London. It’s little wonder. Unlike many of his counterparts, Al-Maraj has not had to enact any exceptional measures, such as general guarantees of deposits or the injection of capital from public funds, to keep his country’s banking system afloat.
Not that there haven’t been scares or that risks have disappeared. Only in February, Gulf Finance House, a wholesale bank, escaped default on a $300 million loan at the last minute by rolling over $100 million over six months. It posted an operating loss of $607 million for the fourth quarter of 2009. The bank plans to raise $420 million through asset sales soon, including its stake in Khaleeji Commercial Bank as well as real estate projects, and has made lay-offs to cut costs.
GFH is not the only Bahraini bank to have got into trouble thanks to the global financial crisis.