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Bahrain Opens Market to Foreigners

March 3, 1999

MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) _ Bahrain, the leading financial center in the Middle East, opened its doors Wednesday for increased foreign participation in stock trading in an effort to boost its economy.

According to a decree issued by Bahrain’s ruler, Sheik Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa, citizens of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council will be allowed to own 100 percent stakes in companies listed in the local stock exchange, the official Gulf News Agency reported.

Other foreigners will be allowed to hold 49 percent stakes, the agency added quoting Commerce Minister Ali Saleh al-Saleh.

The GCC includes Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.

The decree ``represented a distinguished step in the body of the law related to the economic environment and investment in Bahrain,″ al-Saleh was quoted as saying.

The move was intended to attract investment to the tiny Gulf state as it tries to reduce its dependence on dwindling oil resources. The low world oil prices have also added to the island’s troubles.

Previously, GCC nationals could own up to 49 percent stake in local listed companies and other foreigners were allowed a collective ownership of 24 percent with an individual limit of one percent.

About 40 companies are listed on the island’s stock exchange.

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