International bankers and regulators have welcomed reports that veteran Saudi Arabian banker Ahmed Abdullatif is to take over as president of Arab Banking Corporation (ABC). He replaces the Bahrain-based bank’s founder Abdulla A Saudi who stood down on 1 May.

The appointment has yet to be formally announced, but banking sources say most details have been finalised. Abdullatif is managing director of Saudi Arabia’s Riyad Bank.

Senior bankers told MEED that Abdullatif’s appointment ends a period of uncertainty since Saudi resigned on 28 February. The appointment of a well-known Saudi Arabian to head the largest Bahrain-based offshore bank boosts ABC’s international standing.

The resignation of Abdulla Saudi, a Libyan national, had given rise to questions over the bank’s future direction. It also raised further questions about the political problems posed by ABC’s Libyan shareholding during a period when the US was leading a campaign to isolate the Jamahiriya (MEED 19:8:94; 11:3:94).

According to a senior central banker, Abdullatif will help provide stability at the bank. ‘I would have thought that the US will find it very difficult to object to him. He is a senior financial figure who only just missed being governor of SAMA’ (Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency – central bank), he said.

ABC’s shares are divided into holdings of around 25 per cent each, held by the governments of Libya, Abu Dhabi and Kuwait, with the rest held by private investors. The bulk of the private shareholding is understood to be held by private Saudi investors.

Abdullatif was born in 1935. He joined SAMA in the early 1950s, becoming deputy governor in 1980. He was appointed Riyad Bank’s managing director after a 1983 reshuffle in SAMA, although he remained deputy governor of the central bank for several years thereafter.