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Sat 26 May 2007 11:50 PM

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CBK eyes stake in regional lender

Newspaper says CBK is in advanced talks to buy 51% of regional lender.

Commercial Bank of Kuwait, the country's fourth-largest lender by market value, is in advanced talks to buy 51 % of a regional lender for nearly $1.5 billion, a newspaper reported on Saturday.

Commercial Bank also plans to buy 51 % of an unnamed Gulf Arab lender in the coming month for up to $150 million, al-Rai daily reported, citing sources that it did not name.

Commercial Bank officials could not be reached for comment on Saturday, when banks are closed in the Gulf state.

The lender had itself been an acquisition target this year. It said this month talks with local and international investors about taking a significant stake in the lender had ended without agreement over differences on price.

The bank left then the door open for new talks, saying it was ready to receive new offers of "cooperation".

Local newspapers had named Qatar National Bank and Commercial Bank of Qatar as possible suitors. Neither bank confirmed its interest.

Like other Gulf lenders, Commercial Bank has expanded abroad as competition increases in its home market. It has started operations Iraq and Syria, and is the largest shareholder in Bank of Bahrain & Kuwait.

Shares of Commercial Bank closed unchanged on Saturday, having rallied earlier in the session.

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