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Wed 4 Jun 2008 04:31 PM

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Kuwait considering bigger Citi, Merrill stakes

KIA eyeing investments in financial sector, would invest in US banks if opportunity.

State-owned Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA) is looking at more investments in the financial sector and might consider raising its stakes in US banks Citigroup and Merrill Lynch, its managing director said on Wednesday.

"We are in Visa and we are already looking into other opportunities," Bader Al-Saad told newswire Reuters when asked whether KIA might be looking for opportunities in the financial industry where asset prices have fallen as a result of the credit crisis.

He said KIA might consider increasing its stake in US banks Merrill Lynch and Citigroup after it already invested $5 billion in the two banks' capital raising efforts in January.

"In Citi or Merrill, if there is good opportunity, we will look into it. Do we increase our stake? It all depends on the performance and strategy," said Al-Saad when asked whether KIA might raise its stakes in both troubled US banks.

Asset prices of banks and financial institution have fallen in industrialised economies as they grapple with the fallout of the credit crisis.

Gulf Arab states and companies, buoyed by record oil prices being paid to the world's largest oil-exporting region, spent about $60 billion on foreign assets last year, almost double the previous two years combined.

State-run Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (Adia) agreed in November to buy $7.5 billion of stock in Citigroup.

Saad confirmed KIA, which manages the Gulf Arab state's vast oil-generated assets, invested about $800 million in the initial public offering (IPO) of US credit card firm Visa.

KIA also reached a deal with British Land Co where it bought the Willis Building in London for 400 million pounds, said Saad.

"We bought the Willis Building for 400 million [sterling]. It is already concluded," he said.

KIA had at least $213 billion of assets under management on March 31, 2007, the latest published figure.

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