ABU DHABI: First Gulf Bank (FGB) the United Arab Emirates’ third-biggest bank, said it’s planning new hires for its investment banking business and is seeking to double the share of profit from its international unit in five years.
The Abu Dhabi-based lender, which has two mandates to arrange initial public offerings for local companies, will hire bankers in mergers and acquisitions, debt and equity capital markets, Chief Executive Officer Andre Sayegh said in an interview yesterday. The lender also plans new offices in South Korea, China and Indonesia over the next 18 months as it seeks to raise the contribution of international business to profit to the “teens or more” from 5 percent last year, he said.
First Gulf Bank in March hired Simon Penney, Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc’s CEO for the Middle East and Africa, as head of its wholesale banking business to boost growth. The lender is among several Abu Dhabi banks expanding overseas as a local population of 8.3 million restricts growth at home and local companies expand their trade and investments abroad.
First Gulf Bank aims to “provide more value” to companies through its investment banking services such as helping them access capital markets, risk-hedging and Islamic banking, Sayegh said. “I expect more listings to happen probably starting next year and to be even encouraged by the government.”
Abu Dhabi’s benchmark share index has jumped 48 percent this year and Dubai’s 64 percent, fueling expectations of a revival of local IPO activity after the financial crisis curbed investor appetite for offerings. Stock markets in the UAE and neighbouring Qatar were upgraded to emerging-market status in June by MSCI Inc., triggering speculation that foreign investors will channel more money into these oil-rich countries.
First Gulf Bank rose 0.6 per cent to close at Dhs17.1 in Abu Dhabi, bringing the surge for the year to 47 per cent.
First Gulf Bank in July reported second-quarter profit rose 15 percent to 1.17 billion dirhams ($319 million), the second- highest in the UAE after National Bank of Abu Dhabi.
Borrowings by companies and consumers helped boost lending 7.4 per cent in the first half and the bank expects to maintain the “same momentum of growth” over this year, Sayegh said.