Al Ahli Bank of Kuwait seeks buys as Gulf lenders merge

KUWAITAl Ahli Bank of Kuwait is on the lookout for acquisitions in the Gulf region as it seeks to boost revenue from international operations.

“We want to manage and absorb the last merger, but we’re always looking for acquisitions,” CEO Michel Accad said in an interview on Monday in Kuwait City. “We can consider anything at the right price, but not anywhere, we have a preference for the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).”

Al Ahli Bank, which bought Piraeus Bank Egypt in 2015, is seeking to increase income from non-domestic operations to about 33% in three-to-four years from about 20% currently, Accad said. He added that he hoped to achieve that goal “faster”.

Banks in the six-nation GCC are consolidating to better compete in a crowded market. Abu Dhabi’s largest banks combined last year to create a US$175 billion (RM700 billion) powerhouse. Saudi lenders backed by HSBC Holdings plc and Royal Bank of Scotland plc are in the process of merging, while three Qatari banks are considering a combination to create the nation’s biggest Islamic lender.

Al Ahli Bank now operates 39 branches in Egypt, as well as 31 domestic branches and two in the United Arab Emirates.

The bank has excess capital and liquidity and was hoping to participate in more of Kuwait’s development projects. It’s currently joint lead manager for two local projects with a combined value of 790 million dinars (RM10.4 billion), Accad said. The projects are “trickling down a bit too slowly”, he said.

Loan growth in Kuwait is expected to remain flat this year in the low single digits due mainly to project delays and low consumer spending, the CEO said. —Bloomberg