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Awards for Excellence 2009: Bahrain

Best Bank: Ahli United Bank

Bahrain’s collection of wholesale banks has hit a point of no return. In 2008, for example, Arab Banking Corporation’s impairment provisions totalled about $1 billion, to help it finish the year with a net loss of $880 million.

Toxic investment losses at Gulf International Bank, another flagship of Bahrain’s wholesale banking sector, reached a total of more than $1 billion over the past two years. Gulf International Bank was the beneficiary of a $4.8 billion bailout this spring as its government shareholders bought its troubled investments. This, together with a new chief executive, has revitalized the institution somewhat.

Bahrain’s crowded banking sector looks set to consolidate. More mergers have been discussed, especially among medium-sized lenders.

Yet for now, Ahli United Bank remains the Gulf state’s best bank.