MANAMA Dec 6 GFH Financial Group hopes to
largely complete the acquisition of Bahrain's Bank Al Khair in
the first quarter of next year and is at an advanced stage of
exploring a merger with another Bahraini bank, its chief
executive said on Tuesday.
"The recent merger we announced was Bank Al Khair - we hope
during the first quarter of 2017 to finish most of our
acquisition," Hisham al-Rayes told Reuters on the sidelines of a
He did not name the second bank and said a memorandum of
understanding for this merger had not been signed yet, but
added: "The majority of owners are interested in merging with
GFH and I expect this to happen also in the coming period."
GFH, which is listed in Dubai's stock market and is
often the most heavily traded stock there, is an Islamic bank
that was hit hard by the global financial crisis in 2008. It
went through several debt restructurings but is now bulking up
again by acquiring assets.
Rayes said Al Khair's balance sheet size was $250 million
while it had liabilities of $200 million. GFH is also increasing
its size by recovering assets on which it has claims, he noted.
"With the merger and recoveries, we are creating a $1
billion-plus bank in Bahrain," he said.
Bahrain's central bank has been encouraging smaller lenders
to merge to strengthen themselves after a local real estate
crash and fall-out from the island kingdom's political unrest.
Rayes said in May that GFH planned to list its Bahraini
subsidiary Khaleeji Commercial Bank on Dubai's stock
market, and he said on Tuesday that the listing was likely to
take place soon.
"We are waiting for the final approval of the Central Bank
of Bahrain. Once we have it, I expect during the first quarter
the listing will take place."
Among assets obtained by GFH this year are the British
School of Bahrain, Rayes said.
(Writing by Andrew Torchia)