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Tue 17 Jul 2007 12:07 AM

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Ahli shareholders consider Qatar bid

Shareholders will make a coordinated response to a $6.1mn takeover bid by International Bank of Qatar.

Some shareholders of Bahrain's Ahli United Bank plan to make a coordinated response to a takeover bid worth as much as $6.1 billion from International Bank of Qatar, one shareholder said on Monday.

Kuwait's Tamdeen Investment Co., which has a 13 % stake in Bahrain's largest lender, said on Sunday it and other shareholders had been approached by the Qatari bank, which offered to pay up to $2.25 per share in cash and stock.

"Tamdeen Investment Co. will coordinate and arrange with other shareholders that are willing to sell, and then inform the market," the company said in a statement to the Kuwait bourse.

Ahli United's stock last traded at $1.39 on July 10, after which it was suspended because of takeover rumours. The shares have climbed 39 % since April 14, when Kuwaiti newspaper al-Qabas first reported a takeover bid.

International Bank of Qatar, an affiliate of National Bank of Kuwait, declined to comment on the bid, saying only it was looking at several "interesting opportunities" in the region.

"If anything changes, as they may well do, then I'd be happy to talk," said Mike Williams, the bank's general manager.

National Bank of Kuwait, which has a 20 % stake in the Qatari bank, also declined to comment.

More Gulf Arab banks are looking for mergers and acquisitions to gain the scale to cope with demand for credit, which has been spurred by economic growth and government investment of windfall oil revenue in infrastructure.

"I think it's a very sensitive situation, because it's the economy's largest bank. The central bank must take many factors into account in approving such a transaction," Ebrahim Aradi of the trading and members affairs dept at Bahrain Stock Exchange.

International Bank of Qatar is offering between $2.05 and $2.25 per share in cash for a 55 % stake and the rest in stock, Tamdeen said on Sunday.

At the top of the price range, the takeover would be largest ever of a Gulf Arab company by a foreign investor.

Tamdeen said it had reached an initial agreement to sell its stake at $2.25 per share and that it would make a profit of 221.4 million Kuwaiti dinars ($771.4 million) at that price.

The Kuwait bourse said trading would resume in shares of Tamdeen on Tuesday. Shares of Ahli United remain suspended in both Bahrain and Kuwait.

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