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Mon 31 Dec 2007 11:41 AM

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Al-Rajhi Bank plans Kuwait expansion

Saudi lender submits application to open branch in neighbouring Gulf Arab state, official says.

Saudi Arabia's Al-Rajhi Bank wants to open a branch in Kuwait, the Gulf state's central bank governor said in remarks published on Monday.

"Al-Rajhi Bank has submitted a letter expressing its wish to open a branch in Kuwait," Sheikh Salem Abdul-Aziz Al-Sabah told Al-Hayat newspaper, adding that no other Saudi bank had applied to operate in the Middle East's fourth-largest oil exporter.

Al-Rajhi was expected to present documents that show it meets the requirements for operating in Kuwait upon the request of the central bank, Sheikh Salem said without giving further details.

On Sunday, Doha Bank, Qatar's fourth-largest lender by market value, said it had won Kuwait's approval to open its first branch in the Gulf state.

Sheikh Salem also told the paper Gulf Arab banks should consider mergers to help fend off competition from larger international banks.

"It's important that our national banks in the Gulf look seriously into mergers among each others... Such mergers are appropriate tools to form strong financial bodies," he said.

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