Quant opinion: Business Opportunities and the Financial Services Industry in the Gulf Cooperation Council GCC Region
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region brings together the oil-rich states of Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The GCC economies have been growing rapidly on the back of rising energy prices and economic diversification that includes some $700 billion worth of development projects either under way or in the pipeline. The potential for international financial services groups is vast, in areas ranging from project finance to fast-expanding mortgage, consumer finance and private banking markets. Rapid economic growth and commercial diversification within the GCC region offer valuable opportunities for international financial services groups. GCC markets are increasingly being opened up to foreign investment and ownership. With $700 billion worth of developments either under way or in the pipeline, the GCC is now the world’s largest project finance market. The investment spans leisure, residential, infrastructure and industrial developments as the GCC seeks to forge a stronger and more diversified economic future. The real estate boom in Dubai and other emirates of the UAE is being increasingly mirrored across the GCC region. This includes Saudi Arabia, where the scale of new and planned developments is expected to overtake Dubai in the next five years. While some naturally question whether the boom is sustainable, demand continues to outstrip supply in most real estate sectors for now. Expatriates in most GCC countries can now own property, which is helping to open up a new mass market in mortgages. Owning property can also provide the right of abode and, from this, the attraction of low taxation and the right to set up businesses in the country of residence. Consumer finance is expanding as a relatively young and fast-growing population increasingly embraces consumerism. Key growth sectors include credit cards and vehicle financing. Islamic financial services are growing faster than the sector as a whole.
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