RIYADH, (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s central bank has frozen some bank accounts related to industrial group Ahmad Hamad Al Gosaibi Group & Brothers (AHAB), two bankers said, the second high profile Saudi account freezing action in just a few days.
AHAB owns Bahrain-based lender The International Banking Corporation (TIBC) which was downgraded to “selective default” last month by ratings agency Standard & Poor’s.
Earlier on Thursday, Bahrain paper Gulf Daily News reported that TIBC had asked its creditors for a standstill period. A TIBC spokesman declined to comment.
“SAMA (the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency) issued a circular freezing several accounts related to the Gosaibi group and some of its family members,” one of the two bankers said on Thursday.
The move comes just days after it emerged that the central bank froze accounts of the Saudi billionaire chairman of private firm Saad Group, Maan al-Sanea.
Ratings agencies Moody’s and S&P’s have cut ratings on Saad to default status.
Both moves highlight the delayed shock that has hit the Gulf Arab region since the onslaught of the financial crisis.
A spokesman for SAMA, the Saudi central bank, declined to comment, while Saud Abdulaziz al-Gosaibi, who is an AHAB board member according to the company’s website, could not be reached at his home.
Two bankers contacted by Reuters said that in total, 21 accounts had been frozen. They did not provide details.
Khaled Fawzi, an assistant to Saud Abdulaziz al-Gosaibi, declined to comment when contacted by telephone at AHAB headquarters.
AHAB is a trading and industrial empire launched in the 1940s that now makes everything from soft drink cans to pipe coatings.
“The (SAMA) decision follows a series of meetings between the central bank and Saudi banks over the past days which studied the exposure of Saudi banks to troubled family-owned businesses,” a second banker said.
Al-Sanea is married to a niece of recently deceased AHAB chairman Sulaiman Hamad al-Gosaibi and previously was a shareholder in TIBC.