"We are not talking to any bank for merger. There is no talk with Invest Bank as well. But we are ready for [merger] opportunities. It is not a matter if we want to merge or don't want to. There are situations that force opportunities upon you and you move to take advantage of that. Consolidation started in Abu Dhabi, then moved to Dubai and now it will move to Sharjah and other emirates," said Varouj Nerguizian, general manager, Bank of Sharjah.
Commenting on what kind of a partner suits the Bank of Sharjah for a merger, he said the bank is a corporate and investment bank and the natural way of considering the opportunity is to go towards a retail bank.
In October, the Bank of Sharjah, Invest Bank and United Arab Bank denied media reports of three-way merger talks, dismissing it as a rumour. The UAE's banking sector is believed to be overbanked as around 50 banks are operating here with a population of 9.4 million. Growing competition in the banking sector has led to consolidation, resulting in the merger of the National Bank of Abu Dhabi with First Gulf Bank. Later, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, Union National Bank and Al Hilal Bank announced a merger with around Dh418 billion worth of assets.
Nerguizian noted that the UAE banking sector is a moving into a consolidation phase and this trend will continue.
"The world doesn't have enough opportunities for the smaller banks, therefore they will have to come together and form bigger banks. It is essential for their future. There are a lot of foreign banks that will soon consider exiting emerging markets because of Basel III requirements. Capital requirements under Basel III for these banks to have full-fledged branches might be very costly. So, they will be moving out of commercial banking and moving to more sophisticated transactions like syndications and bonds; they will leave the market for commercial banking to local players," said the veteran banker.
However, Nerguizian sees consolidation not just among local banks but also foreign banks.
"If a bank is not generating 10 to 15 per cent on equity, you need to look at opportunities and merge with entities that gives strength so you can move forward," he added.
The Bank of Sharjah's 9-month profits grew 13 per cent to Dh301 million, already surpassing 2017's full-year profit of Dh265 million.
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