The material on this site is for financial institutions, professional investors and their professional advisers. It is for information only. Please read our Terms & Conditions, Privacy Policy and Cookies before using this site. Please see our Subscription Terms and Conditions.

All material subject to strictly enforced copyright laws. © 2022 Euromoney, a part of the Euromoney Institutional Investor PLC.

Bahrain: Gulf island’s financial sector hit hard by unrest

International firms evacuate staff; Further woe for local investment banks

Political tension looks likely to end Bahrain’s claim to be the Gulf’s financial centre. It might also lead to debt restructuring and defaults among already struggling investment banks headquartered on the island, especially the Islamic ones.

As far as the global bulge bracket is concerned, French banks BNP Paribas and Crédit Agricole are the only firms still maintaining regional bases in Bahrain rather than in Dubai. With France having advised its citizens against travel to Bahrain since February, Dubai will look even more attractive for these institutions.

After protests by Bahrain’s Shia majority escalated on March 13, international banks were forced to evacuate staff to Dubai and beyond, although expatriates working for local and regional institutions have largely stayed. With the UK perhaps the largest source of the white-collar labour on which the banking sector relies, the UK Foreign Office advised against travel to Bahrain, even for business.

One banker says protesters blocked the area around the central bank at the height of the unrest, forcing the banks to conduct business from a disaster recovery site – as did the central bank itself. Standard Chartered and HSBC, the main international banks operating in the local retail market, closed their branches.

You have reached premium content. Please log in to continue reading.

Read beyond the headlines with Euromoney

For over 50 years, our readers have looked to Euromoney to stay informed about the issues that matter in the international banking and financial markets. Find out more about our different levels of access below.


Unlimited access to and

Expert comment, long reads and in-depth analysis interviews with senior finance professionals

Access the results of our market-leading annual surveys across core financial services

Access the results of our annual awards, including the world-renowned Awards for Excellence

Your print copy of Euromoney magazine delivered monthly

£73.75 per month

Billed Annually


Unlimited access to and, including our top stories, long reads, expert analysis, and the results of our annual surveys and awards

Sign up to any of our newsletters, curated by our editors


Already a user?

We use cookies to provide a personalized site experience.
By continuing to use & browse the site you agree to our Privacy Policy.
I agree