x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Lord Bell blames stress as contract suspended

One of the region's leading PR agencies has had a major contract in Bahrain suspended

Bell Pottinger, the PR agency for DP World and Emirates Airline, has had its contract with Bahrain's top economic body suspended because of the three-month state of emergency in the kingdom.

"Obviously, the business environment is at the moment under a lot of stress," said Lord Bell of Belgravia, the chairman of Chime Communications,the holding company for international public relations group Bell Pottinger.

But he said the suspension of its contract with Bahrain's Economic Development Board was just one component of about seven other clients in the Gulf state, and others in the UAE and Qatar, where the company also had a presence.

"There's a song and dance that's been made from this and it doesn't mean we don't have a relationship and we don't still do things for [Bahrain]," Lord Bell said.

He admitted some of the work Bell Pottinger had been doing for its clients across the Middle East had been put on hold as month-long political protests culminated in the kingdom.

But Lord Bell said the suspension would be re-examined when the emergency rule ended, expected to be in June.

An exodus of staff took place as unrest escalated across Manama as international banks, law firms and other corporate organisations temporarily closed or scaled back operations.

Bell Pottinger's office, based in the Bahrain Financial Harbour, had been temporarily closed as a police blockade aimed at clearing protesters prevented access into the main two towers that make up part of the kingdom's financial hub.

"We have a lot in common with a lot of law firms, advisory firms et cetera, in that some businesses based in Bahrain are thinking of moving base. But I am monitoring this carefully and this is not necessary at the moment," said Lord Bell.