Bahrain's Unicorn CEO to leave over strategy

The bank's board wanted the company to shift its focus towards Saudi Arabia.
BOARD CONFLICT: The CEO of Bahrains Unicorn investment bank is set to leave due to conflict with the banks board. (Getty Images)
By Frederik Richter
Mon 02 Aug 2010 07:31 PM

The chief executive pushing Bahrain's Unicorn investment bank as a global Islamic finance player is set to leave after the board demanded more focus on Saudi Arabia, two sources familiar with the matter said.

A source familiar with Unicorn said: "There's been a conflict with the board," adding that this was the reason chief executive Majid Al Refai was set to depart.

The source said that the board wants the company to focus on Saudi Arabia, where board members of the al Shelash family also own stakes in Dar Al Arkan, the country's largest real estate developer.

Unicorn was founded in 2004 and had assets of $974 million at the end of March.

Under Al Refai, it has sought to become an international Islamic financial services group with a presence in the United States, Malaysia and Turkey.

A Bahrain based banker said there had also been disagreements over some investments. A spokeswoman for Unicorn declined to comment.

Al Refai is a key figure in Islamic banking in Bahrain where he was a founder of Islamic investment house Arcapita before founding Unicorn.

The industry has been hard hit by a regional property crash in 2008, after which its main revenue sources of raising funds for private equity and property projects dried up.

Unicorn's business is slightly more diversified than that of other Bahraini investment houses, but its net profit still fell to $2.2 million in 2009 from $35 million in 2008. (Reuters)

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