Qatar Weighs Proposal on Combining Three Banks, Masraf Head Says

(Bloomberg) -- Qatar Central Bank is evaluating a proposal on the three-way combination of Masraf Al Rayan QSC, Barwa Bank QSC and International Bank of Qatar QSC that will pave the way for the creation of the country’s largest shariah-compliant bank, according to the chairman of Masraf.

The tie-up will be completed once regulators approve the deal, Hussain Al-Abdulla said at Masraf’s annual general meeting on Tuesday, without giving a time frame.

Al-Abdulla said in April that Masraf would issues new shares to acquire the other two banks, helping to form a lender with about 178 billion riyals ($49 billion) of assets. Talks to pull together the companies, which started in December 2016, come amid a standoff by Arab states including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt that resulted in diplomatic relations and transport routes being severed since June, with the countries accusing Qatar of funding terrorism, a charge it denies.

The central bank hired JPMorgan Chase & Co. to advise on the transaction, Al-Abdulla said at the AGM. The New York-based lender was appointed to assist the central bank in early 2017, according to a person familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because the details are private. 

A spokesman for Qatar Central Bank didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment, while a spokesman from JPMorgan declined to comment.

Qatar, a country of 2.5 million people, has about 20 local and international banks competing for a share of business. The country’s Qatar National Bank SAQ is the Middle East’s largest lender with about $221 billion of assets, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

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