‘We would like to increase our stake but the problem is that the shares are very widely distributed,’ says BBK general manager Farid al-Mulla. ‘This means that acquiring additional shares could be a long and costly process. However, we would like to move into insurance because it is a massive growth area – in Saudi Arabia, for example, with the introduction of mandatory motor insurance.’ BBK has full operations in Bahrain and Kuwait and a representative office in Dubai, but is seeking licences to operate elsewhere in the Gulf.

Already listed in Bahrain, BBK is also looking at the possibility of listing on the Kuwait Stock Exchange (KSE). ‘The greater depth of the KSE is attractive to us,’ says Al-Mulla. BKIC listed on the KSE in early November.

BBK posted a 16.7 per cent increase in 2003 nine-month net profits to BD 16.8 million ($44.2 million). ‘Our corporate business was the main driver but we are also seeing a turnaround in the consumer business,’ says Al-Mulla. ‘When everyone piled into retail banking, we took our time and this reduced our market share. However, now we are reaping the rewards of restructuring our consumer offering.’

The low interest rate environment is continuing to impact the bank’s earnings: net interest income of BD 18.7 million ($49.5 million) was marginally down on the same period of last year.