Non-NCB banking sources say the move is designed to reduce still further the share in the bank held by the family of former chairman Khaled bin Mahfouz and that, combined with a listing on the local stock market, it will enhance the likelihood of an initial public offering (IPO) of NCB shares. The timing of this is still unclear, says NCB chairman Abdullah Bahamdan in an exclusive interview with MEED (see Cover Story).

‘It is entirely up to the shareholders if they wish to sell their shares and when they choose to do so,’ he said. ‘However, an IPO cannot be staged until the bank is listed and that cannot take place until two years of full financial figures have been published.’

The publication of the necessary figures is expected in May, clearing the path for a possible listing this year and an IPO in 2003, senior bankers say.

‘The government has done a fantastic job in restructuring the bank, which is one of the most important institutions in Saudi Arabia,’ says Loay Nazer, chief executive of the Nazer Groupof Jeddah and a member of the Jeddah Marketing Board. ‘The performance of the bank is now better than it ever was. The next step is to completely privatise it, not just part of it. The government needs to come up with a plan and announce it.’