KUWAIT, (Reuters) - Kuwait's biggest commercial bank, National Bank of Kuwait, said on Wednesday, May 30, it had not made a bid to buy Egyptian American Bank (EAB) but reiterated its interest in entering the most populous Arab market.
"We have not made any fresh bids for any banks in Egypt," NBK's Chief Executive Ibrahim Dabdoub told Reuters when asked about the planned sale of EAB.
Bank of Alexandria and American Express Bank agreed on a plan this month to sell up to 100 percent of their shareholdings in EAB.
EAB Managing Director James Vaughan said on Wednesday there was no new information regarding the bank's planned sale.
Industry sources have identified Standard Chartered Bank as a possible buyer.
A Standard Chartered spokesman in London declined to comment on Wednesday. However a source close to the bank said Standard was looking at EAB, but no recommendation had yet gone to the board about making a bid. "There is nothing imminent," the source said.
The source said Standard Chartered had looked at other banks in Egypt but EAB appeared to be the front-runner.
Standard Chartered reaffirmed its interest in Egypt in a recent interview. Chief Executive Rana Talwar told Reuters the bank may look at possible deals in Egypt. "We feel if the right opportunity were to turn up in Egypt it would round off our presence in the Gulf," he said.
NBK was also seen as a likely interested party after recent statements indicating its desire once again to enter the Egyptian market.
Dabdoub said on Wednesday NBK "is still interested in entering the large Egyptian market" but stressed that NBK has not entered any race for EAB.
Earlier this month, he said that NBK was determined to expand by entering other Gulf markets and Syria and will also launch a fresh bid to buy a bank in Egypt.
NBK, which boasts the highest ratings in the Middle East by international agencies, is expecting continued growth in 2001 to make a record net profit of $350 million. Its assets stood at around $13 billion at end-2000.
Dabdoub sees great banking potential in Egypt with a population of 66 million people but where only 10 percent have bank accounts.
NBK almost achieved its target with the highest bid to buy Misr America International Bank (MAIB), but the deal fell through last year.
It is expected to bid for a bank in Egypt once a new state privatisation list is offered which could include MAIB.
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)