Peregrine Investment Holdings, a Hong Kong-based investment bank, is closing its office in Bahrain and plans to serve its Middle East clients from offices outside the region. The company says it is still interested in doing business in the Middle East and hopes to take on more clients this year.

‘The Middle East regional office was set up at the end of 1994, but then Peregrine started a corporate reorganisation which led to more and more centralisation,’ says the chief executive of the Bahrain office, Pervaiz Baig. ‘We think we can handle clients more effectively from Hong Kong and London. We’ve managed to establish a very good client base and we intend to expand that in 1997.’ The decision, he adds, was not made on cost grounds.

Peregrine is not alone in deciding that its Middle East clients do not need it to maintain an office in Bahrain. Swiss Banking Corporation announced plans to close its offshore banking unit and Banque Indosuez its treasury unit in Bahrain at the end of last year, though both are keeping representative offices open in Manama.

The Peregrine office stopped doing business at the end of December, but will stay open for the next few weeks to wind down operations. Its Gulf clients, mainly institutions with assets to manage or brokerage accounts, will be served from London and Hong Kong. ‘We have plans to continue to cover the Middle East by fund manager or analyst visits,’ Baig says. He adds that local clients were informed in advance and accept the decision. Asked about his own future plans, Baig declines to comment.

Peregrine had already decided to scale down its Middle East operations in late 1995, when it abandoned plans to set up an investment bank in Bahrain with capital of $100 million. The decision was followed by the resignation of Baig’s predecessor, Asad Jamal, who took several staff with him to set up First Gulf Pacific Bank. The founders of the new bank, which will invest in Asia and North America, are a senior Saudi prince and a trio of US and Asian investors. A private equity placement is currently in progress (MEED 18:10:96).