Complex Made Simple

Which GCC country just struck oil?

Saudi and the UAE are the two countries in the GCC vying for global attention, not tiny Bahrain.

Be it the Saudi’s diversification strategy away from oil embodied by Saudi vision 2030 or UAE’s smart city developments and EXPO 2020 plans, these two coutnries are making the headlines.

The small island country Bahrain is now claiming its own stake after literally striking oil, at least in theory, and now its plans have taken a new direction: Compete for a large stake of GCC business.

And truth be told that Saudi and UAE’s accelerated implementations of their visions are helping fuel Bahrain’s high spirits and own ambitions.

Read: Bahrain sitting on billions of dollars it didn’t know existed

Wading in green waters

Bahrain is well positioned to benefit from an expected trade boost brought about by the liberalization and economic growth of Saudi Arabia, Zayed Al Zayani, the country’s minister for industry, commerce and tourism told CNBC recently.

“By having a more liberal and accessible Saudi Arabia we all stand to benefit from that,” said Al Zayani.

“We already have a large industrial base in Bahrain that’s predominantly orientated to Saudi Arabia and the rest of the region.”

Bahrain is only a short journey away from most of the major capitals in the Gulf, about four hours away from Riyadh, four hours away from Kuwait and enjoying a robust logistics network.

Read: UAE, Bahrain and Fintech: The financial disruption is on

$1bn energy fund

Bahrain’s National Oil and Gas Authority (NOGA) announced last week the launch of an energy fund that looks to raise $1 billion from institutional, domestic and international investors to develop the country’s energy assets, Kallanish Energy, an industry site, reported.

The fund will be open to investors in Bahrain, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and internationally, according to Kallanish Energy.

Bahrain announced last month an oil discovery off its west coast, estimated to contain some 80 billion barrels of tight oil.

Read: Mine Crypto in Bahrain and lose big, mine in Saudi and double your money

Oil and gas player

In early April, Bahrain announced its biggest discovery of hydrocarbon deposits in decades off the country’s west coast, estimated to be at least 80 billion barrels of tight oil and between 10 and 20 trillion cubic feet of deep natural gas.

Good news for Bahrain’s budget deficit which reached as high as 17.8% of GDP in 2016 and would be no less than 12% of GDP in 2018 as predicted by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Bahrain’s hydrocarbon-related revenue accounted for 75% of government revenues in 2017 and 55% of exports, figures sure to increase when exploration concludes.

Rating agency Moody’s reported that Bahrain has an oil output of around 198,000 bpd of which around 150,000 bpd comes from an offshore field that it shares with Saudi Arabia, a country that produces just around 10 million bpd.

Read: Bahrain US trade deal an attempt to squeeze out of financial trouble

Account deficit

Bahrain’s current account swung from surpluses averaging 8% of GDP in 2012-13, to deficits averaging 3.7 percent of GDP in 2015-17,” analysts told CNBC.

“The reserves have since recovered somewhat on the back of large sovereign external bond issuances, including $3 billion in international bonds in September 2017 and $1 billion in international sukuk (Islamic bonds) in April 2018.”

Bahrain’s dwindling foreign reserves stood at $2.8 billion at the end of November covering only 1.4 months of imports of goods and services and less than 10 percent of Bahrain’s short-term external debt, according to CNBC.