First Abu Dhabi Bank Mulls Expanding to Saudi, CEO Tells Khaleej

(Bloomberg) -- First Abu Dhabi Bank is "seriously studying" expanding into Saudi Arabia, either through acquisitions or a new license, its chief executive officer told Al Khaleej newspaper.

All opportunities for local and foreign acquisitions are open to the bank, Abdulhamid Saeed, said in an interview with the Arabic daily. First Abu Dhabi Bank was created with the merger of National Bank of Abu Dhabi PJSC and First Gulf Bank PJSC, the United Arab Emirates’ two largest lenders by market value.

International and regional banks are seeking to expand in Saudi Arabia as the kingdom prepares to sell hundreds of state assets to help restructure its economy hurt by oil’s decline. Citigroup Inc. last week received an investment banking license from the country’s regulator after 13 years, while Emirates NBD PJSC, Dubai’s biggest bank, in January got approval to increase the number of branches to four from one.

As well as welcoming foreign lenders, Saudi Arabia’s banking sector is also facing consolidation. HSBC Holdings Plc and Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc’s Saudi Arabia ventures last week said they are exploring a potential merger to create the kingdom’s third-largest lender with $78 billion in assets.

The U.A.E.’s banking sector may also see more combinations, with Basel III requirements putting pressure on banks, Saeed said. First Abu Dhabi Bank is looking to fill 40 senior positions, he said. The bank’s network spans 19 countries, including Qatar, Bahrain, India, Singapore, the U.K. and U.S., according to its website.