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Mon 30 Jul 2007 12:14 AM

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Ahli shares surge on takeover bid

Bahraini lender sees biggest one day gain in two years following reports of a $6.1bn takeover offer.

Shares of Ahli United Bank, Bahrain's largest lender, had their biggest one-day gain in at least two years on Sunday after an owner asked to open its books to a $6.1 billion Qatar takeover offer.

The stock surged 15 % to $1.60 on their first day of trading in almost three weeks. The takeover would be the biggest by a foreign investor of a Gulf Arab company.

The Bahraini bourse suspended trading in Ahli United on July 11 after Kuwait's Tamdeen Investment Co. said it received an offer from a Gulf Arab bank to buy its 13 % stake in Ahli United, Bahrain's biggest lender by market value.

Tamdeen on Saturday asked Ahli, of which it is the second-largest shareholder, to open its books to International Bank of Qatar, an affiliate of National Bank of Kuwait (NBK).

"The main driver for the move up on the stock is the takeover news," said Fadhel Makhlooq, head of brokerage at SICO investment bank in Bahrain. "Some investors obviously wanted to get into the stock at that price."

The stock had already gained almost 30 % in the year to its close on July 10. In Kuwait, where the bank is also listed, the stock had climbed almost 50 % to that date.

Tamdeen and investors it represents have in principle accepted International Bank's offer to pay $2.25 per share for a 55 % stake in Ahli United, Ahli United said in a statement on Saturday.

International Bank has offered to buy the remaining 45 % in stock, the Bahraini lender said.

A spokesman for Ahli United could not immediately identify other shareholders willing to sell their stock. The takeover, if agreed, still needs regulatory approval, said the spokesman, who did not want to be identified.

Mike Williams, International Bank's general manager, and Tamdeen Chairman Neshal Jassim al-Marzouq declined to comment to Reuters on Sunday.

George Nasra, chief executive of NBK's investment banking unit, said the Kuwaiti lender was not involved in the transaction.

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