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Sun 22 Jul 2007 06:17 PM

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QNB buys $442mn stake in Jordanian bank

Qatar National Bank taps into Jordan's market with 20% stake in country's Housing Bank for Trade and Finance.

Qatar National Bank, the country's largest lender, said on Sunday it bought a 20.6% stake in Jordan's Housing Bank for Trade and Finance for $442 million to tap the country's economic growth.

"The acquisition of HBTF shares, the largest bank in Jordan that provides retail banking services, represents an opportunity for QNB to enter the Jordanian market, which has been witnessing exceptional growth," QNB said in a statement to Reuters.

Set up in 1973 initially to provide mortgages, Housing Bank is a commercial lender with 96 branches in Jordan, 11 in the Palestinian territories and one in Bahrain, according to the statement. It also has affiliates in Algeria and Syria.

QNB, which is 50% owned by the government of Qatar, has 42 branches in the Gulf Arab oil and gas producer, as well as outlets in Kuwait, Oman and Yemen, the bank said.

"So far it has been organic growth, but we are not ruling out acquisitions, depending on the right price," QNB Chief Executive Officer Ali Shareef al-Emadi said in an interview on July 10.

"We like the region and we will make sure we have a strong presence in the Gulf and Middle East ... we need big banks given the size of the projects in the region," Emadi said.

Gulf Arab banks, flush with profit during the last two years and facing tougher competition in their home markets, are looking to expand overseas to diversify their revenue.

National Bank of Kuwait in January said it agreed to buy a 52% stake in Jordan's Union Bank for Savings and Investment but then pulled out because the price was too high.

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