Citigroup to expand Saudi Arabian teams on MSCI trading

By BLOOMBERG

DUBAI • Citigroup Inc plans to hire about five more bankers in Saudi Arabia as it prepares for an expected increase in foreign investment in the kingdom’s stock exchange.

The lender is expanding its team in Riyadh after getting regulatory approval last month to start cashequities trading and custody services, chief country officer Carmen Haddad said in an interview. MSCI Inc’s move to include Saudi stocks in emerging-market indexes will boost trading, and Citigroup wants to be ready, she said.

“We’ve had about 14-15 people on the ground and that will grow to about 20 this year,” Haddad said. “We’re very focused on equities, custody, mergers and acquisitions, capital market debt and equity origination, and research and advisory business. We’ll add a few traders and some middle office staff this year as a result of getting the permission to provide cash equity and custody services, and those should be operational in a few months.”

Citigroup lost a Saudi Arabian presence that dated back to 1955 when the New York-based lender sold a stake in Samba Financial Group in 2004. That left a gap for rivals such as JPMorgan Chase & Co and HSBC Holdings plc as the kingdom rolled out an economic transformation plan to wean itself off oil. A company-wide push to get back in paid off in 2017, when Citigroup received an investment- banking licence, allowing it to advise on local initial public offerings and acquisitions.

Since then, the bank has won mandates on some of the biggest deals in the country. That includes the sale of a 70% stake in Saudi Basic Industries Corp to oil giant Saudi Arabian Oil Co (Saudi Aramco), working as a bookrunner on Saudi Aramco’s US$12 billion (RM49.92 billion) bond sale, and advising Zain Saudi Arabia on the US$672 million sale of its mobile towers to IHS Holding Ltd.

“We’re excited by the momentum and positive deal flow,” said Haddad, declining to comment on plans to apply for a full banking licence. — Bloomberg