The appointment of a replacement for Abdulla Saudi, who steps down as president of Arab Banking Corporation (ABC) on 1 May, is still pending despite rumours that an announcement was to have been made at the annual shareholders’ meeting.
Bankers say that the immediate future of the bank will be unclear until the new chief executive is in place. Speculation about possible candidates encompasses Abdallah al-Gabandi, the former managing director of Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA). Kuwait is a founding ABC shareholder.
At a press conference in Bahrain following the assembly and directors’ meeting on 3 April, Saudi made his first public statements about his decision to resign, announced on 28 February (MEED 11:3:94). Saudi elaborated on his reasons for leaving, widely seen as a result of pressure from the Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC), an arm of the US treasury. ‘When I saw that there was certain danger for ABC, I volunteered to resign,’ he said. Saudi is still ABC co-deputy chairman.
Questioning focused on the future of Libya’s shareholding in the bank, the largest in the Arab world. Saudi said it was possible for Libya to liquidate its stake in ABC despite UN sanctions against Tripoli. ‘They could sell and their money could be blocked,’ he said. ‘It could be done this way.’ Saudi said there was nothing in the sanctions resolution preventing an asset from being switched from one form to another.
The ABC assembly approved the 1993 accounts, which showed the bank had a net profit of $135 million, 71 per cent higher than a year earlier. A final dividend of $0.35 a share was endorsed. This brings the total dividend for 1993 to $0.60 a share, or $60 million in total.
Saudi expressed confidence in ABC’s future. ‘People come and go. Institutions stay,’ he said. ‘There is a very strong base (at ABC). All you need is the right management and we have it.’