NCB and Samba announce merger to form Saudi Arabia’s $220 billion mega-bank

NCB and Samba announce merger to form Saudi Arabia’s $220 billion mega-bank
The merger will create Saudi Arabia's largest bank. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 12 October 2020

NCB and Samba announce merger to form Saudi Arabia’s $220 billion mega-bank

NCB and Samba announce merger to form Saudi Arabia’s $220 billion mega-bank
  • Merger of NCB and Samba creates ‘national champion and regional powerhouse’

DUBAI: Two of Saudi Arabia’s biggest banks signed a deal on Sunday for a merger to create a “national champion” for the Kingdom and a “regional powerhouse” for the Middle East.

National Commercial Bank, the oldest in the country, is to combine with Samba Financial group in a $32 billiondeal that will create the most profitable bank in the region. Together, they will control $223 billion in assets.

The merger is part of the financial sector development program of the Vision 2030 strategy to diversify the economy, and is the second big banking merger of the past 12 months. It is likely to lead to other major tie-ups in the Kingdom’s financial sector as the Vision plan unfolds.

Account holders and employees are likely to benefit from cost reductions and efficiency gains from the deal, which will involve “no involuntary job losses” from either bank, a joint statement said.

Saeed Mohammed Al-Ghamdi, the chairman of NCB who will become managing director and group chief executive officer of the merged banks, said: “Saudi Arabia is undergoing a historic transformation with Vision 2030. Such a transformation requires a robust financial services sector, especially highly capitalized, resilient banks that can fund economic development, as well as support Saudi Arabia’s trade and capital flows with the region and the rest of the world.

“Our ambition is to create a national champion that can facilitate the transformation envisaged under Vision 2030 and create a pioneer for next-generation banking services that nurtures tomorrow’s industry leaders.”

Ammar Alkhudairy, chairman of Samba who will assume the same position at the new bank, said: “Our merger with NCB will create a local leader and a regional powerhouse that can unlock considerable value for shareholders, provide exceptional banking services for the people of Saudi Arabia and help local entrepreneurs capitalize on opportunities for domestic and international business growth.

“This merger process marks the start of a new era for Saudi banking supporting the realization of many Vision 2030 goals. We are focused on making sure that the combined and larger bank comes together seamlessly to serve our customers, partners, investors and talent across both teams.”

The new bank is expected to come into existence next year, assuming regulatory and shareholder approvals are forthcoming. It will have a market share of about 25 per cent of retail and corporate banking in Saudi Arabia, and a commanding position in trade finance and investment banking.

The Public Investment Fund, Saudi Arabia’s sovereign  wealth fund, is a major shareholder in both NCB and Samba.

The merger will result in savings and efficiencies of $213 million a year, leading one analyst to conclude that other similar mergers could follow.

Tarek Fadlallah, chief executive of Nomura Asset Management in the Middle East, told Arab News: “This shows the extent to which the banking sector has scope to increase efficiencies, and may encourage further mergers.”


US oil industry lobby weighs support of carbon pricing

US oil industry lobby weighs support of carbon pricing
Updated 19 sec ago

US oil industry lobby weighs support of carbon pricing

US oil industry lobby weighs support of carbon pricing
  • The API is considering carbon pricing “among other policy solutions to reduce emissions and reach the ambitions of the Paris Agreement”

WASHINGTON: The American Petroleum Institute (API) is weighing endorsing a price on carbon emissions, a major shift after long resisting mandatory government climate policies, a source familiar with the decision making said.
The API, the main US oil industry lobby group that includes most of the world’s biggest oil companies, is considering carbon pricing “among other policy solutions to reduce emissions and reach the ambitions of the Paris Agreement,” the source said, confirming a report about the policy shift by the Wall Street Journal.
The group is confronting its previous resistance to regulatory action on climate change amid a shift in industry strategy on the issue and the new US presidency.
European member Total quit the group because of disagreements over API’s climate policies and support for easing drilling regulations and the Biden administration is pursuing a policy agenda that would shift the United States from fossil fuels.
A draft statement of the policy shift reviewed by the Wall Street Journal said the group does not endorse a specific carbon pricing tool such as a tax on carbon emissions or emissions trading scheme. The source said, however, that the group’s State of American Energy report released in January was supportive of a market-based carbon pricing policy.
The API did not comment on whether or when the group would formally endorse a price on carbon but said it has been working for nearly a year on an industry-wide response to climate change.
“Our efforts are focused on supporting a new US contribution to the global Paris agreement,” said API spokeswoman Megan Bloomgren.
Within API, there has been a widening rift between Europe’s top energy companies https://www.reuters.com/article/us-total-api/frances-total-quits-top-u-s-oil-lobby-in-climate-split-idUSKBN29K1LM, which over the past year accelerated plans to cut emissions and build large renewable energy businesses, and their US rivals Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp. that have resisted growing investor pressure to diversify.
Other major industry groups like the USChamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable, which includes Chevron, over the last year have endorsed market-based carbon pricing.
Chevron said it has engaged those groups and API “to support well-designed carbon pricing.”
“We support economy-wide carbon pricing as the primary policy tool to address climate change, applied across the broadest possible area to maximize environmental and economic efficiency and effectiveness,” Chevron spokesman Sean Comey said in an emailed statement.
BP and Shell declined to comment.


Dubai’s Emaar to buy out minority shareholders in malls unit

Dubai’s Emaar to buy out minority shareholders in malls unit
Updated 30 min 29 sec ago

Dubai’s Emaar to buy out minority shareholders in malls unit

Dubai’s Emaar to buy out minority shareholders in malls unit
  • Emaar Properties, which already owns close to 85 percent of Emaar Malls, will swap 0.51 of its own shares with shareholders of Emaar Malls

DUBAI: Dubai developer Emaar Properties on Tuesday said it was buying out minority shareholders of its shopping centre unit, less than a decade after floating shares in the company.

The all-share deal comes as both businesses have seen profits plunge over the past year due to the coronavirus pandemic as fewer overseas visitors travel to Dubai.

Emaar Properties, which already owns close to 85 percent of Emaar Malls, will swap 0.51 of its own shares with shareholders of Emaar Malls, the two companies said.

That values Emaar Malls, which operates Dubai’s largest shopping centre, Dubai Mall, at 24 billion dirhams ($6.53 billion), according to Reuters calculations.

Each Emaar Malls share is valued at 1.85 dirhams in the deal, a 10 percent premium based on its last closing price, Reuters calculated.

Emaar Malls, as a wholly owned subsidiary of Emaar Properties, will continue to develop and operate shopping centres and retail assets, the companies said.

Emaar Properties, roughly 30 percent owned by state fund Investment Corp Dubai, will remain listed on the Dubai stock market.

Emaar Properties last month reported a 58 percent fall in 2020 net profit to 2.62 billion dirhams, while Emaar Malls’ yearly net profit dropped 70 percent to 704 million dirhams.

Emaar Properties raised about $1.6 billion listing Emaar Malls in 2014.


Changes in KSA so far just tip of the iceberg, Saudi PIF chief tells the ‘oil man’s Davos’

Changes in KSA so far just tip of the iceberg, Saudi PIF chief tells the ‘oil man’s Davos’
Updated 03 March 2021

Changes in KSA so far just tip of the iceberg, Saudi PIF chief tells the ‘oil man’s Davos’

Changes in KSA so far just tip of the iceberg, Saudi PIF chief tells the ‘oil man’s Davos’

DUBAI: Changes in Saudi Arabia in the past five years are just the “tip of the iceberg” of the transformation the Kingdom will experience under the Vision 2030 strategy and beyond, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, governor of the Public Investment Fund, said on Tuesday.
“The things we’d like to achieve in 2030 will be our optimal way of starting the next phase, which is what we will do until 2040, or after that to 2050,” Al-Rumayyan told a virtual session of CERAWeek — the “oil man’s Davos” — in Houston, Texas.
“Our society is changing, the people are becoming more receptive to new ideas on how companies should work and how society should function, and even the social contract is changing. If you add all of these together, you will have an idea of what Saudi Arabia, by embracing and implementing Vision 2030, will look like in nine years,” he said.
Al-Rumayyan, who is also chairman of Saudi Aramco, said plans remained in place to sell more shares in the world’s biggest oil company, after the biggest initial public offering (IPO) in history in 2019 when it sold less than 2 percent of its shares.
“From the very beginning we said we would be selling more of the shares owned by the government; once we see market conditions improving, and more appetite from different investment institutions and investors, we will definitely consider selling more shares,” he said.
He also underlined the Kingdom’s ambitions in renewable energy and hydrogen fuels. “Aramco is interested in renewables, believe it or not. It is the largest oil and gas company on the planet, but we are thinking of ourselves as an energy and petrochemical company.”
He told Daniel Yergin, the Pulitzer prize-winning oil historian, that PIF would invest $40 billion a year in Saudi Arabia to “stimulate the economy and
create jobs.”
 


Saudi forum to showcase key projects

Saudi forum to showcase key projects
Updated 03 March 2021

Saudi forum to showcase key projects

Saudi forum to showcase key projects
  • The Future Projects Forum aims to showcase future projects in the Middle East

Saudi Contractors Authority (SCA) will hold the Future Projects Forum (FPF) virtually during March 22-24.

The FPF will include the participation of more than 37 government and private  entities to present around 1,000 projects with an estimated total value exceeding SR600 billion ($16 billion).

The Future Projects Forum aims to showcase future projects in the Middle East. It also aims to create opportunities for contractors and investors via identifying details of future projects in the contracting sector and knowing the mechanism of qualification and competition.

The forum seeks to develop a wide network of relationships between contractors, investors and interested parties, in addition to creating partnerships between them.

 The number of delivered residential real estate projects increased from SR12.4 billion ($3.3 billion) in 2019 to SR13.9 billion in 2020.


Bahrain expects $3.2bn deficit in 2021, 5% economic growth

Bahrain expects $3.2bn deficit in 2021, 5% economic growth
Updated 03 March 2021

Bahrain expects $3.2bn deficit in 2021, 5% economic growth

Bahrain expects $3.2bn deficit in 2021, 5% economic growth
  • Bahrain’s economy contracted by 5.4% last year, the IMF estimated, as the COVID-19 pandemic hurt vital sectors such as energy and tourism
  • The tiny Gulf state, which based the 2021-2022 budget on an oil price assumption of $50 a barrel, expects the economy to grow 5% this year

DUBAI: Bahrain expects to post a deficit of 1.2 billion dinars ($3.20 billion) in 2021, state news agency BNA said, citing the finance ministry.
The oil-producing Gulf state projected a budget of 3.6 billion dinars for 2021 with revenues expected to amount to 2.4 billion dinars, BNA said.
For next year, total expenditure is estimated at 3.57 billion dinars, against total revenues of 2.46 billion dinars, resulting in a slightly lower deficit of 1.1 billion dinars.
Bahrain’s economy contracted by 5.4% last year, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has estimated, as the COVID-19 pandemic hurt vital sectors such as energy and tourism.
The tiny Gulf state, which based the 2021-2022 budget on an oil price assumption of $50 a barrel, expects the economy to grow 5% this year, BNA said late on Tuesday.
Sovereign wealth fund Mumtalakat will double its contributions to government revenues, said the agency, as Bahrain seeks to boost non-oil revenues.
Bahrain has accumulated a large pile of debt since the 2014-2015 oil price shock. In 2018 it received a $10 billion financial aid program from Gulf allies that helped it avoid a credit crunch.
BNA cited Finance and Economy Minister Sheikh Salman bin Khalifa Al-Khalifa as saying that the country remains committed to achieving the objectives of the fiscal balance program — a set of fiscal reforms linked to the financial aid.
“This budget makes clear Bahrain’s continued commitment to the Fiscal Balance Program, despite the unprecedented challenges of COVID-19, with core government expenditure remaining under tight control,” the minister was quoted as saying.
Public debt rose to 133% of GDP last year from 102% in 2019, the IMF has said, cautioning that the country needs to reduce government debt once economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis firms up.