Abu Dhabi’s First Gulf Bank (FGB) has acquired finance company Dubai First for AED601m ($164m) from Dubai Group.
The sale of the business could help Dubai Group, a unit of Dubai Holding, pay off some of its $6bn debt that is being restructured.
FGB plans to use Dubai First, which specialises in liability and credit card products, to expand its products base, for instance by offering loans to small and medium enterprises through credit cards.
“When we looked at it from all angles, it made sense because it complements our existing business,” says Andre Sayegh, chief executive officer of the bank. “If an opportunity [for another acquisition] comes, we will look at it. At this stage, we’re not eyeing any other country in the region.
“We’re looking at expansion of [our] existing base in Libya. It remains a promising country because they have allocated funds for infrastructure. We believe we can play a role in infrastructure and bring in some of the international names such as Indian and Korean companies that want to operate there.”
First Gulf Libyan Bank is owned equally between FGB and and the Economic & Social Development Fund Libya. It resumed operations in 2012 after halting them a year earlier amid political uncertainty.
“Overseas operations today account for around 5 per cent of our total revenues. We’re looking towards the east for expansion,” says Sayegh.
FGB currently has representative offices in Hong Kong and India, and is planning to open offices in South Korea, China, and likely Indonesia within the next 18 months.
The bank is growing its business to offer more wholesale banking and investment banking services. It is targeting loan growth of between 10 to 15 per cent this year.
“You still have the vanilla kind of raising, which is the loans. Going forward some of the corporates will be in the position to tap the capital markets directly, so we’re building capability within the bank [to assist with that],” says Sayegh.
In March, the bank repaid AED4.5bn ($1.2bn) to the UAE Finance Ministry, which it had received in the wake of the financial crisis.