The expansion will add to the bank’s existing international network, which includes offices in Dubai and Saudi Arabia and a hedge fund based in London.

Kuwait is likely to be the first of the two markets which the bank enters. Beltone is hoping to set up an office in the country later this year or in early 2009, according to Ali el-Tahry, co-founder and managing director of the bank.

The move could be made through a partnership with an existing bank or by Beltone applying for its own banking licence.

“We are looking very aggressively at expansion into Kuwait. All options are open,” he says.

Beltone has also agreed on a memorandum of understanding with a partner in Libya, although it is unlikely that the bank will formally establish a presence in the market this year. El-Tahry declines to name the partner but confirms “we are establishing an investment banking operation there.”

“Definitely we look at ourselves as a regional bank,” he adds.

Beltone was set up in 2002. Along with investment banking services, it offers equity research, securities trading and asset management services. It also operates a private equity fund which El-Tahry says now has a portfolio worth close to $2bn.