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By Suleiman Al-Khalidi
AMMAN, Dec 6 (Reuters) - Arab Bank Group Chairman Sabih al Masri is joining other Jordanian and Arab investors in a bid to buy Oger Middle East Holding’s 20 percent stake in Arab Bank, an Amman bourse statement said on Tuesday.
The stock exchange disclosure included a letter signed by Masri confirming a Reuters story on Monday that he was leading a consortium to buy the stake after the family of Saudi Arabia’s Fawaz Alhokair dropped its $1.1 billion offer.
Masri said Oger Middle East Holding had agreed to sell the 20 percent stake and both sides were working on finalising a deal.
Banking sources said the Masri-led consortium was offering to pay a similar amount to the Alhokair offer but the statement gave no figure.
The Alhokair family had been trying to secure financing to buy the stake in the Jordan-based bank, one of the Arab world’s largest privately owned banks, after construction giant Saudi Oger began seeking buyers to help ease cashflow problems brought on by difficulties in the Saudi building sector..
Oger Middle East Holding is owned by the family of Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri and the Arab Bank stake sale was expected to help it repay a $1.03 billion loan from regional and international banks due to mature in February.
Jordanian banking sources said Masri, a prominent businessman with extensive holdings in banking and hotels in Jordan and the region, had not been bidding with Alhokair and there was no auction.
It was not clear what had ended an Alhokair deal, but Jordanian authorities, who consider Arab Bank a pillar of the country’s economy, had resisted any non-Jordanian investor becoming the single largest shareholder in the bank.
Senior banking sources said some board members had questioned why a foreign investor should buy the stake at a fire sale price. Other local investors were angry that Alhokair was not seeking to buy the stake with its own money but mostly with cash raised from a banking syndicate, with the shares as collateral. (Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; editing by David Clarke and Adrian Croft)