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Tue 25 Dec 2007 06:08 PM

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CBQ ups United Arab Bank stake

Qatari lender now owns 34.7% of Sharjah-based United Arab, stake worth around $503.8mn.

Commercial Bank of Qatar (CBQ) said on Tuesday it had raised its stake in Sharjah-based United Arab Bank to 34.7%, giving it exposure to the second-largest Arab economy.

Qatar Commercial, the country's second-biggest lender by market value, owned 246.91 million shares in the UAE bank after a series of share purchases, it said in a statement on the Doha bourse website, without saying how much it paid for the shares.

At the closing share price on Monday, 34.7% is worth 1.85 billion dirhams ($503.8 million), according to Reuters calculations. The stock closed at 7.4 dirhams on Monday.

United Arab, which operates nine branches in the UAE, said in September it won initial central bank approval to sell 40% to Qatar Commercial at 7.75 dirhams a share, indicating a cost of 1.91 billion dirhams for the 35% stake.

Qatar Commercial Bank's chief executive Andrew Stevens and bank director Omar Al-Fardan will sit on United Arab Bank's board, the lender said.

Gulf Arab banks, buoyed by the economic windfall of record oil prices to Gulf oil producers, are looking outside their home markets where greater competition is encouraging them to expand through acquisitions and branch expansion.

The UAE's population is about 4.5 million, compared with Qatar's about 900,000.

Qatar Commercial Bank bought 34% of National Bank of Oman in 2005.

The Qatari lender said on December 13 it owned 14.7% of United Arab Bank and would acquire as much as 40% of the bank. (Reuters)

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