Investing in the Middle East: Key essentials

Setting the correct benchmarks to maximise your investment in the Middle East can be supplemented by the right advisory inputs for high gains.

The Middle East has been one of the best investment destinations for investors around the world, for several years. Though the region has primarily buoyed the economy with crude oil and petroleum deposits, other profitable sectors have sprung up in recent years.

With a proliferation of the Internet and the rise of young, upwardly mobile populations in the Middle East, it is obvious that infrastructure and housing have emerged as the key investment destinations. Close on their heels are Internet-based businesses and new media fuelled by a rise in the use of smartphones. Plus, there is a burgeoning start-up culture in the Middle East, with many younger age groups starting several enterprises spanning different industries.

However, the right technical and financial inputs are required before an investor can make an informed decision about investing in the region. These are necessary especially when foreign investors look to gain broad exposure in the Exchange Traded Funds (ETF) markets in the Middle East, or individual country ETFs. The investment solutions they choose must be backed by expert analysis from experienced financial advisors in the region.

Investments with the right team of experts

This is where reputed financial advisory firms in the Middle East come in – they provide the latest market analysis and tailor their recommendations for new investment solutions to suit their clients. These recommendations are based on continuous research and tapping trends as they emerge in the Middle East. They have links with the top players in the markets, from local businesses to international entities. Thus, their investment solutions are customised to suit every individual investor based on a variety of factors.

These investment advisory companies in the Middle East take into account the investor’s risk appetite, strategic and financial goals and the monies they wish to spend every quarter. The solutions are prepared basis the investor type (Private, Privilege and Corporate), their specific needs and the markets/countries they wish to explore. Then, the portfolio is prepared in close consultation with the investor(s) to arrive at investment solutions that maximise the investor’s funds.

Thus, premier investment advisory services are able to optimise investment potential across a spectrum of industries and sectors with up-to-the-minute market information backed by resources and expertise of the most experienced financial advisors. Investors are able to gain entry into new markets and territories without having to guess at the fate of the investment – they can forge ahead with their financial goals with the security of knowledge and experience backing their many forays in the Middle East.

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8 Points that Define your Personal Finance Goals

We present eight ways in which you can create a sound financial plan for yourself and your loved ones.

Life has a way of throwing unexpected twists and turns in your path. But instead of fretting over the future, it helps to be financially prepared for life’s unpredictability. Consider the following ways to plan your financial future:

1 Set goals and act on them wisely. No dream is ever accomplished without a goal, and the same is true of personal finance as well. If you want to have an extra Dh 10,000 every year, you must proactively save money every month and follow that plan diligently. Create a financial roadmap for the year that includes all the major financial milestones you wish to achieve and act on it.

2 Explore your bank’s personal finance products. Your bank has many useful personal finance products for your use. Your personal banker may also advise you of new products and services from time to time. Sign up for products that help you further your financial aims.

3 Save to invest. Merely saving money is not enough – it must be invested in the right instruments to create wealth for the future. Visit your bank to get more information about the best investment avenues for your age, risk appetite, income and lifestyle. Creating the right investments helps augment your money for the future.

4 Spend within your means. This is an important habit that every person must inculcate: spend only what you have. This applies especially to credit card spending, in which people tend to spend beyond their means. Use debit cards instead of credit cards, and set a spending limit for yourself every month.

5 Settle all bills within due date. Not only does settling bills on time give you brownie points with your utility service providers, it also gives you a good credit score. Be sure to settle all payments on time so that your finances remain in check and you do not need to pay late payment penalties. Settling credit card bills on time is most important.

6 Buy insurance for the future. Taking an insurance policy that covers you and your loved ones is an important personal finance decision. Not only does it provide life coverage, it also ensures your family’s financial safety in case you are absent from their lives.

7 Insist on the family following good financial practices. Not just you, your partner and children must also be careful about spending money. Discourage all wasteful spending habits and teach your children how to save money. Children are quick to emulate their parents, so it is never too soon to impart lessons in personal finance.

8 Plan your retirement. This is a crucial step in your financial journey. While you pay for your family’s dreams and make sure each of your loved ones is well cared for, you must also ensure that you have a comfortable sum of money laid away for your retirement years. Your retirement planning must include having a home for yourself and your partner, as well as monies from investment and pension plans to take care of your expenses.

Things you must look out for while opting for credit card

When you have been looking for the best credit cards there are certain things you must consider. The very first thing is, what actually your needs are. Also, will you be able to cater to the things that would come as a charge to you. If you are opting for the credit card offer then you must look out for Cash back card.

The benefits of such card with cash back

If you use the card that offers cash back then you would get benefit of some monetary benefits every time you shop for something.  But again, these things would depend upon the person to person. If you wish to get Cash back card you will have to apply for the same. You will have to have a very good credit score and then only the offers that you get would be attractive.

You will have many options in regards to such cards as to which one is good. In that case you must know that the cards that you get will have some other terms too. There would be different terms and conditions that would come into picture. You must therefore take the right steps.

 

You will have to pay annual fee

 

If you settle down for a card then you must make sure that it is free. This is because; sometimes there would be some annual fee as well. So, it would be your decision as to whether you are fine with the fees.

 

Are credit cards helpful?

 

It is important to note that credit cards would be helpful to you in some or the other way. There are chances that you may not have enough cash and at such times you can take up with the credit card’s help. Also, if you want to do some expense and want to pay the bill later then the credit card would come into picture. But the banks would give you the credit card after checking your credentials.

 

In one way, credit cards are really helpful. Whether or not you wish to opt for cash back is something that you can choose. Credit cards are boon for those who do not want to carry cash. Sometimes you have to go out and you don’t want to carry cash and this would also help you. When you have been looking for the best credit cards there are certain things you must consider. The very first thing is, what actually your needs are. Also, will you be able to cater to the things that would come as a charge to you.

When you have to finalize on credit cards you will see that there would be some questions in your mind. If you have any doubts you can get all the doubts cleared form the relevant bank or the institution from where you get the card. These are some of the basic things that you must consider and that will help you in taking the decision.

Work Culture in Bahrain

Bahrain was named the top expat destination in the Middle East by the Inter Nations Expat Insider 2015 survey, says an article published in ArabianBusiness.com in September 2015. It is one of the most liberal countries in the Middle East region, with increasing job opportunities. For those seeking employment in Bahrain, this might just be the right time to be a part of a growing economy.

Advantages of Working in Bahrain

The non-Bahraini employment percentage stood at 77.2 of the total employment as of December 2014, according to Bahrain.com. The country not only offers numerous job opportunities but also a culture of appropriate work-life balance. Given below are some reasons why many prefer Bahrain as an expat destination and how it is offers a favourable work culture.

  1. Relaxed Tax Laws – No personal income tax increases your net income, which in turn gives you the opportunity to send more money home.
  2. Lifestyle and Culture – Although the state follows the religion of Islam as their national religion, the state is quite liberal and is open and welcoming of other faiths and cultures. The state is open to activities such as gambling and alcohol consumption. There are various kinds of sports one can participate in, such as desert driving, fishing, golf and water sports. These also are great opportunities to socialise.
  3. Progressive Labour Laws – Since 2006, the country has been constantly evolving its labour laws in order to welcome expat workers.
  4. Low Cost of Living – The basic amenities of water, electricity and gas are made available at comparatively low cost, as compared to the other GCC countries. This decreases the overall cost of living. Moreover, there is ease of transport and home or office rental.
  5. Education – The state has one of the most sought after education systems among the GCC countries. In fact, it was the first among the GCC nations to establish a formal education system. Although Arabic is the first language, English is widely known and spoken.
  6. Growing Job Opportunities – This was primarily a petrol producing economy; although it has now diversified with the service sector playing a major role in its diversification. It has one of the most mature financial systems. The financial system was first established in the 1970s. With the diversification of the economy, opportunities for employment in Bahrain have also been increasing.

If you are looking for employment in Bahrain, check out about getting a work visa. A work visa is only approved if you have a confirmed job offer letter. Your employer will be responsible for getting you a residence visa once you reach the country.

How Do You Benefit from Investing in the Gulf Region?

The average annual growth in consumer spending in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region was 6.7 percent between 2002 and 2013, according to UK-based Capital Economics. Only Chinese consumer spending increased at a faster rate over the same period. Increasing consumer demand is one of the main reasons why Middle East is fast emerging as a potential destination for investment opportunities.

The six GCC nations (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and the UAE) that comprise the entire GCC market make up a significant part of the world economy not only because of their oil producing capabilities but also because they have transitioned into bring important business hubs. The GCC market enjoys a strategic location. It sits between Asia, Africa and Europe, with almost one-third of the world’s population within 4 hours of flight time.

Advantages of Investing in the Gulf

The location of the GCC countries can be capitalised upon to setup a successful global business platform. Moreover, its liberal tax laws, ease of doing business, favourable laws for foreign investment, 100 percent foreign ownership, among other reforms, make it a favourable destination to set up shop. If you are planning to invest in this region, here is how you can benefit from setting up a business or branch here:

  • Ease of Doing Business – The Gulf nations rank quite high in the ease of doing business, primarily due to government policies. You can open your business in free trade zones which give you 100 percent ownership. Most of the countries do not have corporate, sales tax or VAT, which increases your profit base. Moreover, there are also liberal laws regarding export and import with the GCC countries.
  • Skilled Labour – There is no dearth of skilled and unskilled labour in this region. Moreover, you can hire expat workers if need be.
  • Full Repatriation – Most of these countries allow free and full repatriation of capital and profit.
  • Availability of Proper Infrastructure – Availability of proper physical and financial infrastructure decreases the cost of setting up business. Most global banks have a significant presence in the Gulf region.
  • Ease of Visa Provisions – These nations have made a conscious effort to facilitate foreign investment, therefore the visa provisions are less cumbersome than before. The same applies to employee visas.

If you wish to benefit from the untapped potential of the GCC market, consider investing in any of the Gulf nations when you next wish to expand your business.

Can Saudi Arabia Pull Down the Prices of Crude Oil Further?

Crude oil prices have reached the lowest in 11 years at $35 a barrel, as opposed to its peak in 2014, when it soared to $112 a barrel. There are many factors that have affected this fall in price some of which are – the devaluation of Chinese currency, stagnancy of European economies, Saudi Arabia’s reduced subsidies, the possibility of resumption of Iranian exports as well as the repeal of the US export ban have all caused high supply and low demand, according to an article published by CNBC on January 5, 2016. Various analysts across the world have predicted that the bearish market will persist and all of them have different predictions for how low the prices will go. The biggest impact of this slump will be faced by the Middle East economy, which depends heavily on the crude oil and petroleum industry.

Factors Effecting Low Oil Price and Middle East Economy

Saudi Arabia being the biggest economy in the middle east, has a fair amount of influence on that of the surrounding nations. The GCC region controls about 40 per cent of the world’s crude oil reserves and as such, plays a major role in its global supply. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries or OPEC countries have historically cut down on supply in order to boost oil prices. However, given that the most influential OPEC member Saudi Arabia is at loggerheads with another member, Iran, it is refusing to cut down on its output. Therefore, if the conflict between the two nations persists and Iran begins to export crude oil of its own, chances are Saudi Arabia will pull down the prices further. Bahrain, with its strategic location between the two countries, will be instrumental in determining the impact the conflict will have on Middle East economy.

Impact of the Low Prices on Saudi Arabia

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announced early this year that it will be making significant budget cuts in order to address GDP deficit of 15 per cent. Subsidies for water, electricity and petroleum will all be cut and other public developmental projects deterred. The IMF has predicted that the country could go bankrupt in just five years if it does not make changes to its economic policies. Therefore, these are critical times, not just for the kingdom, but for all countries that have economies highly dependent on trading oil. Countries like Bahrain that have been working to develop a post oil identity will find themselves more resilient in the face of this crisis.

How to Start a Business in Bahrain

On having learned that 100% foreign ownership of business along with ownership of land for GCC nationals is permitted, most people wonder how to start a business in Bahrain. If you are one of them, the first step is to identify the business activity and then the legal structure of the company that you wish to register. This will determine the approvals that you will need in order to receive a Corporate Registration from the Ministry of Industry and Commerce.

Legal Structures of Companies in Bahrain

Bahraini Shareholding Company (Public/Closed): A shareholding company that is public constitutes of 7 or more promoters who hold negotiable shared. They are liabilities are in proportion to the value of the shares that they hold. On the other hand, a closed shareholding company consists of two or more partners who hold negotiable shares that are not offered to the public for subscription.

With Limited Liability Company: As the name suggests, the liability of the partners in such a company is limited to the extent of their shareholding in the capital. It must constitute of at least two partners at all times and cannot issue public shares or debentures.

Partnership: This type of company is formed between two persons or more and they assume joint responsibility to the extent of their entire personal assets for the company’s debts and liabilities.

Simple Commandite: Such a company is a limited partnership company, at least one of more of the partners are liable to the extent of their personal wealth while others are only liable to the extent of their share in the capital. These limited partners are not involved in the management of the company.

Commandite by Shares: The ownership of such a company is divided between two categories of partners – one in which the partners are jointly responsible to the extent of their personal wealth and the other in which the partners are only liable to extent of their equity in capital.

Single Person Company: If you are an individual contemplating how to start a business in Bahrain, you may want to opt for such a company. It has one natural or corporate person as the owner of its capital and he is liable only to the extent of the capital that he has allocated for the company.

Foreign Company Branch: If you are the owner of company that is registered elsewhere and are wondering how to start a business in Bahrain, you may want to operate as a branch or a regional office in the kingdom.

Holding Company: This is a company that owns more than 50% shares and stocks in Bahraini or foreign joint stock companies or participate in the establishment of such companies by providing loans or acting as a guarantor to a third party. It also has a distinct legal structure of its own as a closed or open public shareholding company, a limited liability company or a single person company.