We are coming to the end of this four-part series in which we highlight the MVP companies on the key MENA stock exchanges. Today, we conclude with a triplet! We’ll explore three emerging stock markets in the countries of Bahrain, Kuwait, and Qatar.
As we all know that there are no small parts in a play, each of these countries’ bourses — respectively, Bahrain Stock Exchange (BSE), Kuwait Stock Exchange (KSE), and Qatar Stock Exchange (QSE) — are part of the larger opportunity of investing in the MENA region.
Bahrain is known in the Gulf for its reputation as the island of one million palm trees… and banks! In fact, at the top of its list by market cap are Ahli United Bank (AUB), National Bank of Bahrain (NBB), and Bank of Bahrain and Kuwait (BBK). The country is also a FinTech leader in the region as the Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB) was the first financial regulator in the region to launch an open banking framework (Bahrain OBF). The regulator has also been pioneering when it comes to cryptocurrencies and it was also the first regulator in the region to have a crypo regime.
Another prominent publicly-listed company on the island is Bahrain Telecommunications (aka Batelco), which is the biggest telecommunications firm in the country and the first company to have a dual listing (its shares are on Saudi Arabia’s stock exchange too). Looks like the company is living its best life as it’s offering the fastest 5G mobile business broadband packages in the country.
Bahrain also boasts the world’s largest aluminium smelter, Aluminium Bahrain — aka ALBA (no relation to Sue Storm). The company, who reported profits of $138.8m in Q1 2021, has always been a true model when it comes to green policies. In June, Alba launched its latest environment, social, and governance campaign ‘Achieving the Balance’ — A for effort.
The Bourse of Kuwait has165 public companies, most of which are in financial services, real estate, and industrials. Gulf Investment House (GIH), Kamco Investments (KAMCO), Kuwait Finance House (KFH), and Kuwait Financial Centre (MARKAZ) are among the country’s biggest financial services companies that are all strongly investing in digitization.
As for the real estate sector, the undisputed leader is National Real Estate Company (NRE), with assets and capital now exceeding $2b and $308m respectively, making it one of the most reputable and actively traded companies on the KSE. Following are Al Mazaya Holding (MAZAYA), one of the most distinguished real estate development companies in the Middle East markets, and Commercial Real Estate Company (ALTIJARIA), which has been in business for over 35 years. Al Tijaria’s main activities include purchasing, leasing, and selling real estate properties, constructing buildings and roads, and establishing real estate funds and portfolios in a Shariah-friendly manner.
On the KSE there are 28 companies listed under “industrial companies,” a sector contributing to 10% of the country’s GDP. The majority of the industrial players are subsidiaries of larger family-owned conglomerates and include National Industries Group (NIG), United Industry Company (UIC), and Acico Industry Company (ACICO).
A special mention has to be made for Agility (AGLTY), a Kuwaiti company that has become one of the largest logistics companies in the region, working across more than 100 countries. The company does good for others too – it previously donated $130,000 to “Feena Khair,” to support the fight against the pandemic, and facilitated the urgent movement of 1.2 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines into Indonesia.
Qatar might be small (well, not as small as Bahrain) but its public companies are huuuge! The country has 17 companies listed on the Forbes’ Top 100 Companies in the Middle East list, and these superstars are led by Qatar National Bank (QNB), which is based in Doha but has subsidiaries and associates in 31 countries spanning three continents with a market cap of $42b.
Another flagship company on the list is Ooredoo (ORDS), the Qatari multinational telecommunications company that provides mobile, wireless, wireline, and other content services. One reason why we particularly like the company is that it has a female CEO, boss babe Noor Al Sulait, who revamped the firm’s e-commerce position and expanded its portfolio.
The country also stands out in sectors such as industrials and logistics related to energy production — with companies such as Industries Qatar, which has several subsidiaries in the petrochemical sector (IQCD), and shipping and maritime company Nakilat (QGTS), a global leader in energy transportation with a $3.2b market cap.