The Kuwaiti financial system is sizeable and well developed. It includes a growing number of financial companies and investment funds, as well as an active stock exchange.
Financial Services Sector in Kuwait
The Kuwaiti financial system is sizeable and well developed. It includes a growing number of
financial companies and investment funds, as well as an active stock exchange. The insurance
sector is growing quickly.
ξ Banking in Kuwait consists of the Central Bank of Kuwait, eleven local banks and a
handful of foreign banks. In terms of both assets and capital, the market is dominated by
the National Bank of Kuwait (NBK). NBK is listed in the world’s 50 safest banks as
ranked by US-based Global Finance. There are five sharia-compliant lenders. Foreign
banks include HSBC, BNP Paribas, Citigroup, National Bank of Abu Dhabi and Qatar
ξ As Kuwait begins to implement its National Development Plan, it is likely that businesses
and the government will increasingly turn to local banks for financing, creating demand
for any idle capital. The banking sector appears to be well positioned to take advantage of
any profitable investment opportunities that may arise.
ξ The number of non-bank financial institutions has increased significantly in the last few
years. While the activity of conventional investment companies is heavily concentrated in
foreign markets, the core business of Islamic investment companies, which have been
growing quickly in recent years, is domestic. A number of leading investment houses have
run into financial problems as the squeeze on liquidity eroded their access to the short-term
funding, which they had relied on to support long-term projects.
ξ The Kuwaiti parliament passed legislation in 2010 that established the Capital Markets
Authority (CMA), Kuwait’s first independent stock market regulator, as part of a larger
regulatory framework for the country’s capital markets. The CMA regulates the Kuwait
Stock Exchange (KSE), supervises public and private subscriptions and oversees mergers
ξ The KSE is the second largest bourse in the Arab world after the Saudi Arabian equity
market. Many investors like the high risk environment with its high returns. However most
think that the new authority will increase competition and lead to greater direct foreign
investment into Kuwait. A plan for the KSE’s privatisation has been outlined.
Kuwait has embarked on an ambitious economic development plan involving an estimated
spending of about KD31 billion (US$108 billion), which aims to make Kuwait a regional trade
and financial hub through sustaining economic development, economic diversification and GDP
growth. The plan is driven by government spending coupled with increased private sector
participation, and offers opportunities for UK banks, law firms and other financial services firms.
In 2010 Kuwait announced a £90 billion 4 year (since increased to £100 bn over 5 years)
package for infrastructure development. In addition, the oil sector is set to see a further £60
billion investment programme including a new 615,000 bpd oil refinery and increased oil
production capacity raised to 4 million barrels per day.
In its strategy to promote and support increased private sector participation in infrastructure
development, the Government of Kuwait has established a Public Private Partnership programme
providing significant investment and financing opportunities for the private sector. The
healthcare and education infrastructure schemes in particular will be developed using UK
models. Great potential also exists, therefore, for the UK financial services industry to provide
advisory services and expertise on PPP/PFI infrastructure development in Kuwait.
To facilitate the activities of UK businesses in the PPP programme, in 2011 the UK and Kuwaiti
governments signed an MOU on Trade and Technical Co-operation which covers the area of
provision of advisory and consultancy services allied to Kuwait’s rolling cycle of 5 year
Latest export opportunities – Financial & Professional Services
Latest export opportunities - Kuwait
Getting into the market
We strongly advise UK companies to consider how to structure their business in Kuwait prior to
a decision to enter the market.
A visit to Kuwait by the UK company will help confirm the market potential and start to develop
relationships with prospective business partners. Kuwaitis like to build on social relationships
prior to business. In dealing with them, it is important to be patient and allow time for the
relationship to cement. In general Kuwaitis tend to be pro-British and once you have gained their
trust, they will rarely let you down.
Kuwaitis can be hard bargainers. Preferably the same person should return as any new
representative will often find that they need to establish the relationship almost from the start.
Regular contact, preferably in person, but at least by telephone, is the best way of ensuring your
business stays uppermost in the mind of your interlocutor.
If your business will involve the delivery of any services within Kuwait you are strongly advised
to seek the advice of a local accountant to avoid any unpleasant surprises. The application of the
tax law is often unpredictable and sometimes completely arbitrary.
Only Kuwaiti nationals or a firm whose ownership is at least 51% Kuwaiti may carry out
commercial agency business in Kuwait. An agency agreement must be registered with the
Ministry of Commerce and Industry. When registering, a number of firms take out a licence for
both trading and contracting, even if they only intend to concentrate on one activity.
More about doing business in Kuwait
Market intelligence is critical when doing business overseas, and UKTI can provide bespoke
market research and support during overseas visits though our chargeable Overseas Market
Introduction Service (OMIS).
To commission research or for general advice about the market, get in touch with our specialists
in country - or contact your local international trade team.
ξ Paul McKay, British Embassy Kuwait. Tel: +965 2259 4363 or email:
ξ Romeo Rosario, British Embassy Kuwait. Tel: +965 2259 4364 or email:
Contact your local international trade team
None at present.
UKTI runs a range of events for exporters, including seminars in the UK, trade missions to
overseas markets and support for attendance at overseas trade shows.
Latest events – Financial & Professional Services
Latest events – Kuwait
More about OMIS and other UKTI services for exporters