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Thu 30 Jul 2009 02:20 PM

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Bahrain central bank moves to limit banks' property exposure

New regulation capping Bahraini banks' exposure to come into effect on Aug 1.

A new regulation capping Bahraini banks' exposure to real estate markets will come into effect on Aug 1, a spokeswoman for the Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB) said on Thursday.Banks in the Gulf Arab region invested heavily in regional property markets during a six-year oil boom, but the bursting of the real estate bubble in Dubai late last year raised concerns about their exposure.

The CBB said in the regulations posted on its website that banks in Bahrain have increased their real estate exposures over the past few years and that it is taking action to contain these exposures and encourage risk diversification.

The new regulations put the maximum share of real estate financing that Bahrain's banks can hold in their gross financing portfolio at 30 percent. Bahraini retail banks in June had 26.9 percent of their outstanding loans in the construction and retail sector, their largest concentration in one sector, and 5.9 percent of loans were personal loans secured by property mortgages, according to central bank data.

The regulations also cap banks' real estate investments at 40 percent of their capital base. (Reuters)

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