Bahrain-based, Dubai-listed Gulf Finance House (GFH) is exploring a second merger with a Bahraini bank, its CEO Hisham al-Rayes told Reuters.

GFH expects to complete the acquisition of local Bank Al-Khair in the first quarter of 2017.

No agreements have been signed with the other bank, which Al-Rayes declined to name.

GFH is also planning to list Manama-based subsidiary Khaleeji Commercial Bank on the Dubai Financial Market in the first quarter of 2017, according to Reuters. It is awaiting approval from the Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB).

The CBB is encouraging the merger of smaller Islamic banks in the country. There are 21 Islamic banks based in Bahrain, and competition is high in the overbanked market. Return on assets was just 0.1 per cent for retail banks and 0.5 per cent for wholesale banks in the year ending March 2016, according to CBB figures.