Credit Agricole weighing $2.4 billion Saudi stake sale

Business Wednesday 08/March/2017 15:11 PM
By: Times News Service
Credit Agricole weighing $2.4 billion Saudi stake sale

London: Credit Agricole, France’s third-largest bank by market value, is considering a sale of its 31 per cent stake in Saudi Arabian lender Banque Saudi Fransi, in a deal that could potentially fetch about $2.4 billion, according to people familiar with the matter.
The bank is speaking to advisers to find buyers, the people said, asking not to be identified as the information is private. The stake may attract both international and regional lenders who are seeking an entry into the kingdom, one person said. A formal process hasn’t started and the bank may still decide against the sale, the people said.
Representatives for Credit Agricole and Riyadh-based Saudi Fransi declined to comment.
Credit Agricole has been cutting costs and refocusing on its main markets to propel growth. Chief Executive Officer Philippe Brassac last year completed a $19.6 billion deal to sell holdings in more than three dozen regional lenders, simplifying the structure and raising capital buffers.
International banks have been selling Middle East businesses to raise capital and focus on home markets. Barclays agreed to sell its Egyptian business to Morocco’s Attijariwafa Bank last year, while Royal Bank of Scotland Group is working with Credit Suisse Group to sell its 40 per cent stake in Saudi Arabia’s Alawwal Bank, Reuters reported in November.
Profit slump
Societe Generale sold its Egypt unit to Qatar National Bank in 2012 and BNP Paribas sold its business in the country to Dubai-based Emirates NBD.
Banque Saudi Fransi’s 29 billion-riyal ($7.7 billion) market value makes it the nation’s fifth-largest bank, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The company, which has assets of 203 billion riyals, reported fourth-quarter profit that slumped 61 per cent due to higher impairments for credit losses. The shares have fallen 7.4 per cent this year and closed at 24.1 riyals on Tuesday.