Regional cash bears fruit

24 February 2006

Growing regional investment is leading to the significant expansion of the Sudanese banking sector. Banks are expanding their branch networks across the country and looking beyond its borders. The latest entrant, Emirates & Sudan Bank (ESB), will start operations in late February. ESB already plans to expand within Africa and is looking at retail banking opportunities in Algeria. An initial public offering (IPO) of shares last May raised the bank's capital to $115 million. The IPO followed a private placement, which saw Sharjah Islamic Bank, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, Dubai Islamic Bank (DIB) and the Islamic Development Bank acquire stakes in ESB. ESB was established in 2004 and is managed by DIB.

DIB also holds a 55 per cent stake in Bank of Khartoum, which will relaunch its retail business by mid-2006. The bank has 54 branches across Sudan and has undergone a complete restructuring since DIB acquired the government's stake in mid-2005. Dubai-based GODO Research & Marketing Consultants (GRMC) conducted market analysis for DIB. Lebanese investment is also fuelling growth in the sector. Byblos Bank Africa, Byblos Bank's Sudanese subsidiary, is increasing its presence in the country, with two new branches planned for Greater Khartoum, in addition to its headquarters in the city, and representative offices in Port Sudan and Juba. The bank, which was established in 2003, focuses on small businesses and offers trade and capital expenditure finance, as well as loans to the industrial sector. Byblos Bank Africa is also considering opportunities in West Africa.

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