MANAMA: Bahrain-based Ahli United Bank (AUB) is looking for acquisitions in its existing markets and in new ones as it tries to build a network across the Middle East, its chief executive said.
Its desire to expand across borders reflects a trend among Gulf banks, which are increasingly outgrowing their home markets. Rising trade and travel among the GCC states are also pushing the region’s banks to become more international.
AUB, with operations in six Middle East and North African countries as well as the United Kingdom, wants a presence in the three GCC states where it currently has no base — the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar — plus Turkey. “We have not completed the jigsaw,” Adel El-Labban said and added that AUB aimed to buy majority stakes or stakes as large as local law allowed a foreign party to own.
AUB has been built on acquisitions since it was formed in May 2000 through the merger of United Bank of Kuwait and Al Ahli Commercial Bank; El-Labban said the lender had looked at around 25 deals since formation.
However, obtaining enough information about potential targets in the region can be difficult, while the political environment in the Middle East has shifted dramatically in the last three years, he said.