BAHRAIN has all the quintessential elements to be the perfect gateway to the GCC markets with its solid reputation and regulator, according to the Lord Mayor of the City of London.

Alderman Nicholas Lyons, who is in Bahrain to hold talks with Bahrain and British business heavyweights and senior officials, was full of praise for the kingdom’s forward-looking vision.

He is the first Lord Mayor to visit Bahrain since 2016 and met His Majesty King Hamad and His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince and Prime Minister, as reported in yesterday’s GDN.

“Bahrain has many real advantages, including a track record in financial services, a well-respected legal system, plus the Central Bank of Bahrain which has a strong reputation as a regulator.

“These are all very important for financial institutions considering setting up operations here.

“And, as we think about British financial and professional services firms developing and building out their Gulf platform, I think it is only right that Bahrain should try to position itself as the hub for the GCC – so when they say ‘build your main GCC subsidiary here and have branches in other Gulf countries’ – that is a good model.”

The 694th Lord Mayor of London, Alderman Lyons was speaking during a media roundtable held at the British Embassy, alongside recently arrived Ambassador Alastair Long,

He works closely with the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, although they have distinct and separate responsibilities.

During his year in office, which ends shortly, Alderman Lyons has been acting as a ‘spokesman for the City’, leading overseas business delegations to key international markets on behalf of the UK’s financial and professional services industry.

The visiting official highlighted the already strong economic ties between the two countries while mentioning about the signing of the Strategic Investment and Collaboration Partnership in July this year.

The agreement aims to facilitate additional investment of more than £1 billion into the UK, support the diversification of Bahrain’s economy and drive greater co-operation between our countries in clean technology, business services and manufacturing.

It will facilitate investment into the UK through sovereign wealth fund Mumtalakat, Investcorp, GFH Financial Group and Osool Asset Management.

Cambridge-educated Mr Lyons said the UK was at a ‘very exciting time’ with the number of high growth sectors such as Fintech, green energy, biotechnology and other industries, such as education, with the country boasting the world’s seven best universities out of 20.

“There is a particular interest amongst hydrocarbon economies to diversify, particularly into renewable and green technologies,” he added, “so, in a sense, I would expect that to be where quite a lot of interest lies, but there are also significant opportunities for overseas investors to put their money into big infrastructure projects in the UK.

“I think the reason that the UK is particularly attractive as a venue for overseas investment is because we have a very long and understood parliamentary democracy, rule of law, an independent judiciary, and a well regulated country.

“This gives foreign investors and asset owner’s great comfort in investing their money in the UK.”

Alderman Lyons said following his meeting with a delegation of British business leaders, his companions praised the ‘business friendly environment’ that Bahrain offers and its investment in human capital.

“There’s nothing more important as you think about your financial services capability than ensuring that there are talented individuals to help build up those businesses,” he added.

The Lord Mayor is the head of the City of London Corporation, based in the historic financial district of London, also known as the ‘Square Mile’.

He took up the annual role last November. Following an election, Michael Mainelli will shortly take over the role.

Alderman Lyons also proposed to allocate a portion of pension funds in the UK to set up a Future Wealth Fund that enables different pension pots and companies, including Mumtalakat, to invest.

On the issue of net zero emissions targets set by Bahrain and other Gulf countries, Alderman Lyons said he feels it is imperative for hydrocarbon economies to plan their future by deploying resources in renewable technology and financial services.

However, he added that despite global economies looking to phase out hydrocarbons, oil and gas would still be part of the current energy mix.

“There are also challenges facing everybody such as big data, Artificial Intelligence and cryptocurrencies. They are not going away,” said Alderman Lyons.

“We can’t hide under the duvet and think, well, we’d rather just turn the clock back.

“This is happening around us and it’s important for regulators to come to grips with these issues and collaborate across regulators to set global standards.”

Bahrain has taken several steps that include its commitment to reach net zero by 2060, with a number of interim goals to be achieved by 2035, including reducing emissions by 30 per cent through decarbonisation and efficiency initiatives, quadrupling mangrove coverage, doubling tree coverage and directly investing in carbon capture technologies.

On the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict that will enter in its second year in February, Alderman Lyons said there was ‘no sign of an end in sight in the war’ as the tough winter approaches.

He said the continuing disruptions in the supply chain, especially related to global grain distribution, remains challenging with the impact of inflation still biting the UK, and elsewhere, in terms of food prices.


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