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Wed 30 May 2007 12:58 AM

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Mashreqbank denies Alwatany bid speculation

Dubai lender says it is not considering bidding for Egypt's Alwatany Bank.

Mashreqbank, Dubai's third-largest lender by market value, said on Tuesday it was not considering bidding for Alwatany Bank of Egypt after a newspaper reported it had received approval to study the lender.

"We are not looking at it; we are not involved," a spokesman for the Dubai, United Arab Emirates-based bank said. The spokesman declined to be identified.

Dubai's al-Bayan newspaper reported on Monday Mashreqbank was one of five Greek and Arab lenders to receive Egyptian central bank approval to do due diligence on Cairo-based Alwatany.

The other banks were National Bank of Kuwait, National Bank of Greece, Jordan-based Arab Bank and Greece's EFG Eurobank, Bayan reported, citing unidentified banking sources.

A spokesman for NBK declined to comment on Tuesday. The bank has said it is interested in making an acquisition in Egypt, the most populous Arab nation, and has been in talks with two lenders, including Egyptian Gulf Bank.

Officials at Arab Bank and the Egyptian central bank could not immediately be reached for comment. Alwatany investor relations official Laila Fahmy was also not immediately available for comment.

A Mashreqbank consortium made an unsuccessful bid for Egypt's state-owned Bank of Alexandria, which was privatised last year. Chief Executive Abdul Aziz al-Ghurair said in March Mashreqbank was considering other targets in Egypt.

Banque Saudi Fransi, Kuwait Finance House and Qatar Islamic Bank had also expressed interest in the Alwatany, Bayan said.

Egyptian financial newspaper Al Alam Al Youm said on May 21 five financial institutions had the central bank's permission to do due diligence on Alwatany.

The report, which cited Alwatany Chairman Ayman Fathi Hussein, did not identify the bidders.

Shares of Alwatany have soared 40 percent this year, according to Reuters data. They fell 0.5 percent on Tuesday to 46.75 Egyptian pounds ($8.21).

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