His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa the Prime Minister of Bahrain formally opens Phase I ‘The Financial Centre’ of the region’s first fully integrated financial district, the ‘Bahrain Financial Harbour’
o Day long formal opening ceremony titled ‘Enterprising Bahrain’ included a high profile conference titled ‘Middle East Financial Services Summit’ in association with the Financial Times Group and a specially themed evening event with every act being sourced from within the Kingdom of Bahrain
o Event attended by 350 of the world’s leading Banking industry professionals in addition to other local, regional and international dignitaries
o Development of Phase II, the key residential component of the project, the US$ 450 million Villamar @ the Harbour, which is also its key residential component, is well underway
Manama, Bahrain, 2 May 2007:
In one of the most eagerly awaited events of the region, His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa, the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Bahrain today formally opened Phase I ‘The Financial Centre’ of the region’s first fully-integrated financial district, the US$ 1.5 billion Bahrain Financial Harbour (BFH).
The day long formal opening ceremony was attended by over 350 of the world’s leading Banking industry professionals, regulators and senior government officials from the Kingdom of Bahrain, in addition to other local, regional and international dignitaries. Furthermore, the event titled ‘Enterprising Bahrain’ included a high profile conference titled ‘Middle East Financial Services Summit’, held in association with the Financial Times Group, and a specially themed evening event. The formal opening of the Financial Centre by His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa was followed by an impressive high voltage spectacularly choreographed multi-media laser and fireworks show which artistically lit up the entire Harbour while bringing the Iconic Harbour Towers into the spotlight.
Commenting on the occasion, His Excellency Rasheed Mohammed Al Maraj, Governor of the Central Bank of Bahrain, said: “The region is witnessing a significant change on all fronts be it political, social and even economic. The financial sector in the region, of which Bahrain is a key driver, has also been undergoing a dramatic transformation, successfully emerging into a global financial centre. However, with the rapid growth being witnessed in the region the time is now ripe for the next big growth thrust in the sector, which currently is to some extent being limited by certain aspects of infrastructure and regulation.
“While, as the Central Bank of Bahrain, we are actively working on the regulation side in the Kingdom, it is developments such as the Bahrain Financial Harbour that we believe would play a large role in addressing the issue of meeting the complex and constantly evolving infrastructure needs of the sector,” His Excellency added.
Commenting on this momentous occasion, Mr. Esam Janahi, Chairman of BFH, said: “Bahrain has over the last couple of decades successfully gained the reputation of being the financial hub of the Middle East, driven by the forward looking and open market policies adopted by the Kingdom’s dynamic leadership and government and backed by the world-class regulation through the Central Bank of Bahrain and the Bahrain Economic Development Board. Furthermore, where the first half of this decade saw record repartition to the tune of US$ 1.5 trillion back into the region, the last couple of years has seen the trend being reversed with the emergence of Middle East as one of the leading global exporters of investments and the emergence of Islamic Finance, pioneered by the region, as a significant alternate to conventional banking globally.
“This has laid the ideal platform for the region to emerge as a leading global financial centre and Bahrain with its leadership position in both conventional and Islamic Finance, along with its advanced regulatory framework, strategic position and robust multi-lateral trade agreements including WTO membership and a FTA agreement with the USA is well placed to take significant advantage of this. However, there are some limitations in terms of relatively less developed capital and bond markets and the lack of world-class technologically advanced infrastructure that is to some extent restricting this progress. BFH was conceived with the aim of addressing these concerns, in the process significantly contributing to enhancing Bahrain and the region’s position in the global financial markets.
“As promoters of this landmark development which is the region’s most technologically advanced and first fully-integrated master-planned waterfront financial district, the formal opening of this project by His Highness the Prime Minister of Bahrain is a matter of great pride for us. We are confident that this milestone project will not just significantly impact the position and economy of the Kingdom but would also create large-scale employment opportunities for the highly educated and trained workforce of Bahrain,” Mr Janahi added.
The US$ 1.5 billion BFH was conceived as an integrated financial city, coming up on the Manama Corniche. Furthermore, spread over 380,000 square metres of prime seafront property, it aims at re-enforcing Bahrain’s position as the financial capital of the Middle East and further enhancing the attractiveness of GCC as a whole for global financial sector players.
Phase I of the project ‘The Financial Centre’, which is also the main business district, includes the Harbour Towers – Bahrain’s tallest towers - and the Harbour Mall. The Harbour Towers will provide prime office and commercial space for the financial services industry while the Harbour Mall will house high quality retail outlets and cafes, other leisure facilities as well as brokerage and trading firms. Additionally, development of Phase II of the project, the US$ 450 million Villamar @ the Harbour, which is also a key residential component, is well underway.
Elaborating on ‘Enterprising Bahrain’, Mr. Stephen Rothel, Chief Executive Officer, BFH, said: “I am delighted to say that every act in the official launch ceremony of the Bahrain Financial Harbour has been sourced from within the Kingdom of Bahrain. It is an incredible accolade for Bahrain’s performers to be able to put on a show of such quality and diversity – with the added passion in the performances that comes from knowing everyone involved in this historic occasion is representing their country.”
The full schedule of the event also involved a full spectrum of talent and abilities from traditional to contemporary being displayed. In addition to the light and fireworks display and the other acts, one of the most popular performances of the evening was by Bahrain’s Olympic gymnasts who are amongst the most accomplished sporting groups in the Kingdom.
Additionally, elaborating on the ‘Middle East Financial Services’, being jointly held by BFH with the Financial Times Group in association with the Bahrain Financial Services Development (part of Bahrain EDB), as part of the Enterprising Bahrain platform, Mr Rothel said: ”With over 350 of the world’s leading Banking professionals attending the event, the platform highlights the growing reputation of Bahrain as an International Financial Hub. Additionally, the event which was designed not just to truly reflect our core charter of positively impacting the region’s financial sector and positioning it as a world-class global financial center, also vindicates the immense response the project has received from the global financial markets. It is in this context that I would also like to highlight the fact that BFH has already received confirmed tenancy commitments from over many regional and global banks, financial institutions and retail houses.”
While the opening address at the Middle East Financial Services Summit was delivered by Stephen Timewell the Editor-in-Chief of The Banker, the welcome speech was delivered by Mr. Esam Janahi the Chairman of BFH, while Mr. Brian Caplen the Editor of The Banker introduced the keynote speaker Mr. Niall Booker the Chief Executive and Deputy Chairman of HSBC Middle East. Speakers and panelists at the event included high profile and influential leaders of both the regional as well as international Banking and Financial Service industry figureheads.
Issues discussed at the conference included subjects like ‘The Financial Regulatory Regime in the Middle East in International Context – Quo Vadis’, ‘The Place and Role of Islamic Finance in the Middle East’, ‘Serving Gulf Customers – Innovative Solutions’, ‘Hedge Fund Solutions for the Middle East – Looking Ahead’, ‘The use of Alternative Investments in Middle East Wealth Management Strategies’, ‘Corporate Governance – Achievements and The Way Forward’, ‘Gulf Capital Markets – The Road Ahead’, ‘Gulf IPOs – Looking ahead’, ‘Gulf Stock Markets in 2007 – The Fund Manager's Perspective’, and ‘The Future of Debt Capital Markets in the Gulf’, amongst others.
With a healthy mix of a dramatic high energy specially themed multi-dimensional laser and fireworks show, and a power packed financial sector focused knowledge event, the formal opening of the Financial Centre, most definitely, will remain one of the most memorable events in the Kingdom and region’s history.
Note to the Editor
A fully integrated, master-planned development, the US$ 1.5 billion Bahrain Financial Harbour (BFH), is aimed at creating a complete financial city, a self contained community and reinforcing Bahrain's unsurpassed position as the financial capital of the Middle East. A first of its kind development in the region, BFH is a highly focused, committed and advanced financial environment spread over 380,000 square metres of prime seafront property in the centre of Manama, Kingdom of Bahrain. Furthermore, it comprises of 10 projects that uniquely combines business, leisure and residential components under one canopy. The BFH Client Relations Centre is located on-site at the 'Gateway to Bahrain' on the King Faisal Highway in Manama.