Bank Muscat offers $204 mln for Oman’s Alliance

MUSCAT - Bank Muscat BMAO.OM, Oman’s largest lender by market value, offered to buy the local Alliance Housing Bank AHBK.OM for 78.8 million rials ($204.7 million) to increase its share of the mortgage market.

By (Reuters)

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Published: Tue 8 May 2007, 7:28 PM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 10:58 PM

Bank Muscat said on Tuesday on the Omani bourse Web site that it offered to merge with Alliance, a 10-year-old mortgage company whose profit last year declined 11.4 percent. It did not give more details.

Bank Muscat offered 0.375 rials for each Alliance share, it said in May 7 fax to the bourse obtained by Reuters. That is 36 percent more than Alliance’s closing share price on Monday.

As payment, Bank Muscat offered one of its shares for every 3.13 Alliance shares, it said in the fax signed by the bank’s chairman, AbdulMalik bin Abdullah al-Khalili.

“This is a fantastic deal for shareholders of Alliance and ONIC,” said Sankar Kailasam, head of research at Muscat-based Gulf Investment Services brokerage and asset manager. “This will be a good barrier to entry for competitors.”

Oman National Investment Corp. Holding ONIC.OM is the largest shareholder in Alliance. Its shares surged the maximum 10 percent allowed in early trading, before falling back to 8.6 percent at 0706 GMT.

Shares of Alliance were not trading because the asking price exceeded the 10 percent limit, Saqar al-Khalili, director of the operations at the Omani bourse, told Reuters.

”Tomorrow, we will increase the threshold to 20 percent” to allow the stock to trade, Khalili said.

Officials at Bank Muscat, including Chief Executive Officer AbdulRazak Ali Issa, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Akbar Habib, ONIC’s chief executive, said it was too early to comment on the bid. “The board of Alliance has to study the proposal,” he told Reuters. HSBC Holdings Plc HSBA.L is Alliance’s fourth-largest shareholder, according to Alliance’s Web site.

Full 2006 profit at Alliance, which had total assets of 175.2 million rials at year-end, declined to 3.9 million rials, compared with 4.4 million rials the year before, according to Alliance’s Web site. Its share price is up 1.85 percent this year.

Bank Muscat is expanding at home and abroad as competition intensifies. Bank Sohar BKSB.OM, which raised 20 million rials in an initial public offering in January, started operations last month as Oman’s sixth local bank.

Dubai-based investment bank Gulf Merchant Group said in March it would set up Oman’s seventh lender.

Banks across the Gulf region are considering acquisitions as economies grow on the back of a tripling in oil prices since 2001. Oman’s economy may grow 6.5 percent this year, the second-fastest pace in the last six years, according to HSBC.

Dubai’s Emirates Bank International EBIL.DU and National Bank of Dubai NBDD.DU said in March they plan to merge to crate the Gulf’s largest lender by assets.

Shares of Commercial Bank of Kuwait CBKK.KW fell for the first time in five trading days on Monday after rallying 24 percent on speculation that Qatar National Bank QNBK.QA is in talks to buy the lender.

Bank Muscat, a part government-owned lender, opened its first branch in Saudi Arabia last month and plans to seek licences in the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Qatar, Issa has told Reuters.

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