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Dubai Bank weighs up floatation option

DUBAI Bank is seriously considering floating on the emirate’s financial market, Arabian Business can reveal. The move is expected to be approved by the bank’s shareholders later this year.

DUBAI Bank is seriously considering floating on the emirate’s financial market, Arabian Business can reveal. The move is expected to be approved by the bank’s shareholders later this year.

The bank, which launched in September 2002 is keen to go public in order to push on with its aggressive growth plans. Some of which include the introduction of new lines of business such as Islamic banking, asset management and investment banking.

“[Going public] is definitely something we are contemplating,” Ziad Makkawi, CEO, Dubai Bank told Arabian Business. “It obviously has to go back to the shareholders and the Board of Directors in terms of what is the best timing. There’s no doubt that somewhere down the road, and probably not too far down the road, Dubai will... end up opening up its shareholding to a broader public audience,” he added.

Rumours have been rife that Dubai Holding, the emirate’s government owned investment vehicle would buy part or all of Dubai Bank. However, Makkawi is quick to quash those stories.

“The media has repeatedly reported interest by Dubai Holding in the bank. I think the story behind all of this is that Dubai Bank was established to be an important bank in the UAE,” said Makkawi. “Within that context, various scenarios were floated around — IPOs, Islamic conversion, and Dubai Holding. Rather than commenting on a specific transaction, Dubai Bank must become one of the leading banks in the UAE because of what the bank stands for,” he added.

Dubai Bank is fully owned by GCC real estate heavyweight, Emaar Properties. But with Emaar being partially owned by the Dubai government, any sale would have to be approved by the state.

“This is absolutely a private company, although being 100% owned by Emaar and Emaar itself having a 30% ownership by the government, one could argue, that’s where you get some blurred lines,” explained Makkawi. “But this is absolutely a private entity and our flotation is a private one. Ultimately the one theme is that Dubai Bank needs to grow to become one of leading banks in Dubai and the UAE and needs to carry Dubai’s name to the region and maybe the larger region,” he added.

The bank is also in the midst of deciding whether to become completely Sharia compliant. The company may convert fully or set up separate off-shoot Islamic-focused financial instritiutions, according to Makkawi.

“I’ve spent quite a bit of time looking at a strategic move into Islamic banking and we’ve looked at the various businesses — retail, corporate and investment and asset management — and tried to identify the opportunities available on the Islamic banking side,” he said. “We are convinced that there are tremendous business opportunities in most if not all of these areas. How we tackle the market — whether we fully convert the bank to an Islamic banking institution or set up individual companies to deal with these opportunities is something that has been studied and the board of directors and shareholders are deliberating. No final decision has been taken on that, but definitely this is one area we want to be very active in,” he added.

Meanwhile, the bank last week appointed Samir Safa as its chief information officer. Samir’s first task will be to set up a state-of-the-art IT infrastructure to improve the bank’s services.

“We are extremely pleased to have Safa on board,” said Makkawi. “He comes to us with unique qualifications and experience that will help Dubai Bank achieve its objectives in the UAE financial sector, and I’m confident that together we will achieve new levels of success in region.”

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