Al Rajhi plans major Jordan expansion
Riyadh, March 22, 2010
Saudi-based Al Rajhi Bank will have five branches in Jordan within one year, the first of which will start in 2010 along with another in Kuwait, in its biggest foreign expansion since 2006, Rajhi's CEO said.
Jordan presents the Gulf's largest Islamic lender by market value with 'promising growth opportunities' given the presence of 280,000 Jordanian expatriates in Saudi Arabia and growing trade and investment relations between the two nations, Abdullah Al-Rajhi said.
'Saudi Arabia is Jordan's fifth biggest trade partner with $3.5 billion in trade exchange ... The movement of passengers between the two countries has been growing at an annual rate of 12 per cent over the previous seven years,' he told Reuters in a telephone interview.
'Al Rajhi Bank can help boost trade and investment between the two countries,' he added.
Earlier on Monday, Al Rajhi Bank said it has obtained approval from Jordanian authorities to start banking business there.
'This is a fully fledged banking licence,' chief executive Rajhi said.
By the end of the first quarter of 2011, Jordan will be Al Rajhi Bank's second biggest foreign market after Malaysia, where the bank launched operations in 2006 with 12 branches which have grown to 19 currently.
Al Rajhi's financial statements showed financing in southeast Asia stood at SR5.8 billion out of a total SR148.7 billion in 2009, compared with SR4.6 billion out of SR140.7 billion in 2008. It did not give detailed breakdown for Malaysia.
'We plan to start the first (Jordanian) branch by the end of this year and we will add four other branches by the end of the first quarter of 2011,' Al-Rajhi said.
'We will then gradually increase the number of branches in Jordan,' he added.
Jordan will be Al Rajhi Bank's second expansion into an Arab market after Kuwait. The lender announced last month plans to open a branch in Kuwait.
The bank will start its first branch in Jordan and the other in Kuwait this year, said Al-Rajhi.
'We have not officially requested any banking licences in other countries,' Al-Rajhi said.-Reuters
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