He also says the bank’s plans for a $1bn sukuk have been postponed to 2009 and there have been delays in a carbons credit exchange it wants to help establish in Doha.
“The total amount at our disposal for acquisitions comprises the AED1.1bn ($300m) raised in our recent rights issue plus $500m which will come from global deposit receipts (GDRs),” says Seetharaman.
“I can go up to $800m if I can find the right opportunity. We are looking to buy a bank, an insurance business, brokerage houses or an asset management firm. Our first choice is to look at the region to see if we can find synergistic opportunities.”
Doha Bank reported net profits of QR274m ($74m) for the first quarter of the year. This was 23 per cent higher than the figure for the same period in 2007.
The decision to expand overseas was prompted by evidence that the Qatar domestic market was becoming saturated. Doha Bank’s UAE branch is already operating and a Kuwait branch will be formally opened in June.
“We are looking at other GCC markets so we can be the bank of first choice in the region,” says Seetharaman.
Outside the Middle East, Doha Bank plans to invest $100m in Doha Brokerage & Financial Services, which has more than 130 offices in India. Doha Bank took a strategic stake in the firm in 2007.
The bank also has ambitious plans for the US. “We want to open in Houston and in Washington,” says Seetharaman.
A London representative office opens in June and a Seoul office in July, adding to its existing network of representative offices in Bucharest, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore.
Plans for the sukuk are still active and it could be floated in 2009. “We were planning to issue it this year but I am holding off,” he says.
The bank has announced plans to set up the GCC’s first carbon credits exchange. “Plans for carbon trading are a bit slow,” says Seetharaman. “I am waiting for regulatory approvals. Our plan is to synergise with QP and the central bank.”
He said the exchange is planned to be in Energy City, in Lusail north of Doha.