Barclays, the UK banking group, has appointed a former vice governor of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) to advise the bank on its strategy to develop new business in Saudi Arabia and throughout the Middle East. The appointment of Ahmed Abdullah al-Malik, who worked at SAMA since 1980, as a senior advisor to Barclays was announced during a January visit to the Gulf by a Barclays management team, including the chairman of the group Andrew Buxton.

‘We are actively doing business in the area, and we felt that as soon as (AI-Malik) became available to the private sector that he would make a significant contribution to our knowl edge of the area,’ says Elie Khourie, Barclays’ Middle East Group director, who accompanied the chairman.

Khourie says the bank is keen to capitalise on the growing number of project finance deals in the Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. ‘In particular, at the moment, we are very interested in energy and power related development,’ he says. Barclays is already involved in raising financing for Qatar’s gas production ambitions, and is also active in Oman. ‘We think Saudi Arabia will go the same route, and there will be new opportunities for project finance,’ Khourie says.

Outside the Gulf, the investment banking arm BZW is taking a stake in Middle East Capital Group, an investment bank being set up Beirut. Initially, the new venture will focus on the Levant, but will gradually increase its scope to the whole region. The other founding shareholders include Saudi Arabia’s National Commercial Bank and the International Finance Corporation (MEED 22:12:95).

In Egypt, Barclays has a 49 per cent stake in Banque du Caire Barclays, which it hopes to increase once the government approves a new law that will remove the 49 per cent ceiling on foreign shareholders. ‘We are actively pursuing that route, and as soon as the People’s Assembly meets and allows us to take a stake of more than 49 per cent, we will acquire a majority,’ says Khourie.