The boards of two of Abu Dhabi’s biggest lenders agreed for the two banks to merge, a move that will create one of the region’s biggest banks, with assets of about $175 billion. The merger between First Gulf Bank (FGB) and National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD) will operate under the latter’s brand name, and will have a combined market cap of over $29 billion, the two banks announced Sunday.
Abu Dhabi is the capital of the United Arab Emirates, and with six percent of global crude oil reserves, it has traditionally depended in large part on oil exports. As crude prices have fallen, the emirate is increasingly exploring options to diversify its economy and strengthen its assets, like neighboring Dubai started doing years ago.
The proposed merger will create an entity with a bigger market cap than Standard Chartered, Royal Bank of Scotland and France’s Credit Agricole. A larger bank will also allow Abu Dhabi to compete with other banking giants in the region, such as the Qatar National Bank, which recently bought Turkey’s Finansbank for $3 billion.
The merger is expected to be complete by the first quarter of 2017, subject to approval by regulatory authorities and shareholders. The combined entity will have operations in 19 countries, giving it an international presence outside its immediate neighborhood in places such as London, Singapore, Hong Kong, Geneva and Washington, D.C.
Abdulhamid M. Saeed, the CEO-designate for the merged bank, said both the banks “are highly complementary businesses, each with strong and experienced leadership teams. The new bank will draw on these strengths to provide excellent service to our customers and take advantage of the opportunities we see in our home market and internationally.”
This is the second big-ticket merger to be announced in Abu Dhabi in the last few days, as it tries to deal with fallout from lower crude oil prices. Last week, the emirate said it was also trying to merge two of its largest state investment funds, International Petroleum Investment Co. and Mubadala Development Co.
In a note, Arqaam Capital said: “Synergies should be very substantial, making the deal very attractive for shareholders of NBAD and FGB.”