Arab Banking Corporation (ABC), the Arab world’s largest bank in asset terms, has appointed international consultants Arthur Andersen to review its strategy.

‘As a result, the ABC Group will benefit from renewed focus on key niche markets and a refreshed organisation structure suited to the highly innovative and competitive international market place,’ the Bahrain-based bank said in a statement on 30 October.

ABC, which had assets of $21,265 million at the end of 1995, was founded 16 years ago by Libyan financier Abdullah Saudi. The bank has been headed by Ahmed Abdullatif since Saudi’s departure in 1994 which followed political pressure from the US. It made net profits of $116 million in 1995, though results for the first half of this year have shown a slight drop in profits.

ABC is active in trade finance in the Arab world and controls two sizeable banks abroad, Banco Atlantico in Spain and International Bank of Asia in Hong Kong. Abdullatif told MEED in July that he would like to see ABC focussing more on the Arab world, where it is currently setting up an Islamic investment bank (MEED 5:7:96).

‘In the past four to five years, ABC has passed through a phase of consolidation which has seen it make significant inroads in cleaning up its balance sheet,’ says Martin Gallagher, bank analyst with ratings agency Capital Intelligence in Cyprus.

‘Essentially, the bank is reviewing its operational structure and market focus. With its expansion programme in North Africa largely completed, the emerging markets of Southeast Asia offer potential for growth in its core trade-related activities. On a more fundamental level, I envisage that the development of closer customer relationships will be emphasised, as will greater co-operation between the bank’s subsidiaries.’