The Boards of Saudi British Bank and Alawwal (formerly Saudi Hollandi) have agreed to merge their banks. The new bank is expected to become the third largest in Saudi Arabia, behind National Commercial Bank and Al-Rajhi.
Samba to close branch in London
Samba Financial Group, one of the biggest banks in Saudi Arabia and in the Middle East, is to close its London branch. The decision was made on 8 June. The Board cited concerns over long term profitability as the reason for its closure.
Samba first received a branch license in 1987. Since then, the branch has focussed on private banking, serving corporate clients in the UK and in Saudi Arabia, and deploying through its treasury excess liquidity accumulated at head office.
Arab banks in London have become increasingly concerned about the high costs of regulation and compliance in London and some have complained that the amount of time and expense that they have to devote to these issues is disproportionate to their role within the UK banking system and the UK economy. Many Arab bank branches are funded by deposits collected in their home markets and have little need to collect deposits in the UK. Furthermore, their risk profiles are low and their activities have minimal impact on the British economy.
Commenting on Samba's decision, George Kanaan, the CEO of the Arab Bankers Association, said, "Regulation of Arab banks in London has been relentless and disproportional and it needs to be examined and reviewed before more Arab banks reconsider their positions in London. I will be seeking a meeting with the UK banking authorities to consider what we can do to ensure that London remains an attractive and profitable city in which Arab banks can do business"
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