Deutsche Bank Seeks to Rebuild in Mideast After Years of Cost Cutting

(Bloomberg) -- Deutsche Bank AG aims to rebuild in the Middle East after years of cost cutting and has hired executives to help win debt and advisory deals.

“We have pivoted from a pure cost-control focus in 2018 to a controlled, disciplined growth phase in 2019,” Jamal Al Kishi, chief executive officer of the Middle East and Africa for the Frankfurt-based lender, said in an interview. “This year will be a better one in terms of both revenue and profitability, and you’ll see us on large financing deals and, hopefully, some M&A this year.”

Deutsche Bank recently hired Ibrahim Qasim from Doha-based QInvest LLC as head of structured solutions for the Middle East and North Africa, as well as Khalid Rashid from Standard Chartered Plc to take charge of capital markets. Last year, the bank brought in Asif Karmally to lead the financial solutions group in the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Pakistan.

Deutsche Bank reported a drop in global revenue for the eighth successive quarter earlier this month, led by a slump in its key fixed-income trading business. CEO Christian Sewing said the bank seeks a return to growth, but pledged more cost cuts if revenues disappointed.

Clients have seen lenders “go through these cycles before and they want to see a strong European bank that can be a viable alternative to the U.S.,” Al Kishi said. We would be “looking at re-establishing certain product areas in a very focused way and we will compete against the U.S. firms in a very relevant way.”

Bond Deals

Deutsche Bank was ranked 39th among syndicated loan bookrunners in the Middle East and North Africa last year, according to Bloomberg League Tables, a list dominated by foreign lenders. It was the fifth-biggest arranger of bond sales in the region, ranking behind Citigroup Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co., the data show.

The German lender helped manage a $12 billion bond for the Qatar government, the region’s single biggest sale last year. It also arranged sales for Egypt and Lebanon and was part of a $2 billion loan refinancing for Dubai ports operator DP World Ltd.

Economic growth in the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council is expected to accelerate to 3 percent this year from an estimated 2.4 percent in 2018, according to forecasts by the International Monetary Fund. Governments from Saudi Arabia to the U.A.E. are stepping up investments after a period of low oil prices and budget cuts.

“The malaise that prevailed for the past few years is being replaced with a new normal, and that’s driving real reform in the region,” Al Kishi said. “We’re busy talking to clients in the public and private sectors about significant financing and M&A and corporate-finance deals."

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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