DUBAI (Reuters) – Standard Chartered Bank is considering buying Royal Bank of Scotland’s 40 percent stake in Saudi Hollandi Bank 1040.SE in a bid to secure a presence in the world’s largest oil exporter, a magazine reported.
Middle East Economic Digest (MEED) said Standard Chartered wanted to buy into Hollandi because its application for a full banking license in the kingdom was rejected.
The stake would be worth 5.72 billion riyals ($1.53 billion) at Saudi Hollandi’s latest closing price of 54 riyals.
“Standard Chartered wants its own brand in Saudi Arabia, but (the central bank) is reluctant to award any more commercial banking licenses,” the London-based weekly magazine quoted a source as saying.
“So it is looking at Saudi Hollandi as an option,” the source said.
A Saudi-based source said RBS was “prepared to accept whichever bidder” the central bank recommended in order to achieve a quick sale, MEED reported.
Standard Chartered said last year it was in talks to establish a presence in Saudi Arabia, the largest Arab economy, and had applied for a banking license.
RBS took control of the Hollandi stake when it acquired Dutch bank ABN Amro last year and said in its offer letter for ABN that the Saudi assets would be sold.
ABN had been looking to sell the Hollandi stake, National Bank of Kuwait’s Chief Executive Ibrahim Dabdoub said in 2006. The Kuwaiti lender and Standard Chartered were competing for the stake, Dabdoub had said.
The Saudi government is opening up financial services to competition after forcing foreign lenders to give up majority stakes in their operations in the 1970s.
HSBC operates in the kingdom through an affiliate, SABB Bank.
Hollandi shares might not rally on news of the offer because investors have been expecting a stake sale for years, said Hesham Abou-Jamee, head of asset management at Saudi-based Bakheet Investment Group.