UAE bank to open branches in Saudi Arabia

FAB, the UAE’s largest lender, will open up to three branches in the Kingdom as part of its expansion strategy. (REUTERS)
Updated 22 March 2018
0

UAE bank to open branches in Saudi Arabia

LONDON: First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB), the UAE’s largest lender, is poised to establish a commercial banking business in the Kingdom after being granted a license by the Saudi Arabia Monetary Authority (SAMA).
FAB will be able to open up to three branches as part of its expansion strategy that recently saw Riyadh’s Capital Market Authority (CMA) give it permission to establish an investment banking subsidiary.
The Abu Dhabi bank joins Western financial institutions that have shown an interest in operating in KSA as the economy opens in line with the Vision 2030 modernization and reform program.
Citibank, for example, started up in Jeddah in April 2017 after a gap of 13 years, making it the first American bank to put down roots in the Kingdom in more than a decade. Citi won a license to take part in mergers and acquisitions, initial public offerings, privatizations, and other capital markets business.
Goldman Sachs, which has been operating in the Kingdom since 2009 as an agent and underwriter last June won CMA approval for a license to trade equities.
Commenting on the FAB license, Tahnoon Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, chairman of FAB, said: “In light of the recent securities license approval secured earlier this year, FAB is moving forward with the next phase of our growth plan for the KSA market.
“By providing new opportunities for customers in the region to grow stronger, this new addition to the banking landscape will be another catalyst for the continued advancement of the KSA economic agenda, and will further reinforce the UAE and Saudi Arabia’s solid relationship.”
CEO Abdulhamid Saeed said: “These developments give us the platform to tap into the region’s largest economy with the full strength and capabilities of the FAB offering, and build on the strong potential of the KSA market. We are confident that our expansion into Saudi Arabia will enhance our regional presence and will provide an important contribution to our international network.”
Headquartered in Abu Dhabi’s Khalifa Business Park, FAB’s international network spans over 19 countries outside the UAE.
Based on audited financial information as at December-end 2017, FAB had total assets of $182 billion.
Recent reports by Bloomberg have suggested that Citi, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and HSBC have been appointed to advise on Saudi Arabia’s global borrowing program. This involves the refinancing and extension of the $10 billion loan from two years ago, and a new bond which could rival the record-breaking $17.5 billion issue of 2017.
The Saudi stock exchange opened itself to direct investment by foreign institutions in mid-2015 and last year eased restrictions on foreign ownership in its stock market to improve the investment environment.
International firms such as BlackRock, Citigroup, HSBC and Ashmore Group have since been among those to join the list of institutional investors that can directly trade the market.


French Q1 growth slowdown tests ECB optimism

Updated 15 min 31 sec ago
0

French Q1 growth slowdown tests ECB optimism

  • French inflation data offered ECB central bankers some relief on Friday
  • Consumer spending growth, traditionally the main motor of the French economy, grew only 0.2 percent in the first quarter

PARIS: French economic growth slowed slightly more than expected at the start of the year, official data showed on Friday, a day after the European Central Bank played down concerns of softness in the broader euro zone economy.
The INSEE statistics agency said in a first estimate that the euro zone’s second-biggest economy grew 0.3 percent in the first three months — the slowest rate since the third quarter of 2016.
That marked a slowdown from 0.7 percent growth recorded in the final three months of last year and was slightly below economists’ average forecast for 0.4 percent in a Reuters poll.
Slower business investment and exports in the face of a stronger euro were the main drags on the economy in the first quarter, a breakdown of the data showed.
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said the growth slowdown came as no surprise after the exceptionally strong end to 2017.
“I think growth is solid in Europe and sustainable but we all know there are some clouds on the horizon,” he said on the sidelines of a meeting with EU counterparts in Bulgaria, citing the risk of a trade war and interest rate increases.
The European Central Bank sought to calm concerns about a slowdown in the euro zone economy on Thursday with sources telling Reuters policymakers were keen not to upset investors’ expectations that its stimulus program would end this year.
French inflation data offered ECB central bankers some relief on Friday, showing consumer prices rose the most in five and a half years in April to 1.8 percent, just below the ECB’s 2.0 percent target.
Weak inflation had been the main justification for the ECB’s €2.55 trillion stimulus program.
Capital Economics economist Jessica Hinds said that the slowdown was likely to prove a blip, forecasting the French economy would grow 2.3 percent this year and next after expanding 2.0 percent in 2017.
“Granted, the activity surveys have softened since the start of the year. But they are still consistent with quarterly GDP growth of about 0.6 percent,” Hinds said in a research note.
“And investment is set to grow at a decent pace thanks to President (Emmanuel) Macron’s pro-business approach. Meanwhile, the continued improvement in the French labor market points to solid growth in consumer spending,” she added.
Consumer spending growth, traditionally the main motor of the French economy, grew only 0.2 percent in the first quarter despite exceptionally cold temperatures boosting energy consumption in February.
Meanwhile businesses slowed investment growth to 0.5 percent from 1.6 percent in the previous three months while overall production of goods and services slowed to only 0.3 percent from 0.9 percent.
Manufacturing production fell particularly sharply, down 1.1 percent as companies such as carmaker Renault and pharmaceutical group Sanofi said the euro’s strength had hit their sales.
As a result, exports swung from a sharp increase in the fourth quarter to a slight decrease in the first three months of 2018. Since imports were flat, foreign trade had no impact on overall growth, INSEE said.