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Tue 13 Dec 2011 07:07 PM

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Saudi Arabia now Gulf's top financial centre, says WEF

Kingdom overtakes the UAE, Bahrain to be top ranked in Gulf by World Economic Forum

Saudi Arabia now Gulf's top financial centre, says WEF
Saudi Arabia is now the top ranked financial centre in the Gulf, according to WEF

Saudi Arabia has leapfrogged the UAE and Bahrain to be ranked the Gulf's top financial centre, according to a new report published by the World Economic Forum on Tuesday.

The Gulf kingdom's financial systems and capital market rose to 23rd position in the global list of 60 economies, with it topping the list for financial stability, one of the main measurements for the report.

It rose three places compared to last year while the UAE - ranked best in the Gulf region in 2010 - fell four places to 25th.

Bahrain, which has been hit by social and political unrest this year, fell one place to 24th, WEF said in a statement. Kuwait was unchanged in 28th place.

Globally, Hong Kong overtook the United States and the United Kingdom to top the annual Financial Development Report.

As the first Asian financial centre to achieve this rank, Hong Kong’s position was bolstered by strong scores in non-banking financial services such as IPO activity and insurance.

The report ranked 60 of the world’s leading financial systems and capital markets.

It analysed the drivers of financial system development in advanced and emerging economies to serve as a tool for countries to benchmark themselves and establish priorities for reform.

The rankings are based on over 120 variables spanning institutional and business environments, financial stability, and size and depth of capital markets, among other factors.

Although it fell one spot to second, the United States’ overall score remains almost unchanged compared to last year.

While financial stability continues to be a concern, the US was able to offset this weakness with strong financial intermediation results.

The results remained relatively stable among the rest of the top 10 with Singapore’s decline to fourth place a result of the securitization markets drying up and a weakening banking system.

Australia, Canada and the Netherlands maintained their positions at 5th, 6th and 7th place, respectively. Japan and Switzerland traded spots in the rankings to place 8th and 9th overall. Norway jumped into the top 10 because of a positive change in strong IPO activity.

"Hong Kong's ascent to the top of our Index marks a major milestone, the first time in the Report’s history that the United Kingdom or the US didn't come out on top," said Kevin Steinberg, chief operating officer, World Economic Forum USA.

"While Western financial centres are understandably focused on short-term challenges, this Report should serve as a wake-up call that their long-term leadership may be in jeopardy."

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