Bahrain's NBB, pension fund to buy 51.6 pct in Islamic lender

DUBAI Sun Mar 10, 2013 7:54am GMT

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DUBAI (Reuters) - National Bank of Bahrain NATB.BH (NBB) and a local pension fund will buy a 51.6-percent stake in Bahrain Islamic Bank BISB.BH from its Kuwaiti owner in the latest consolidation move in the island kingdom's banking sector.

Bahrain's central bank has encouraged its lenders to consolidate as it seeks to rebuild the sector which has been hit by two years of social unrest.

Central bank Governor Rasheed al-Maraj said last week that he expected to see at least one merger in the non-OPEC country without disclosing any names. Maraj, speaking at a conference, said the regulator would also require domestic banks to take more steps to ensure their soundness.

As part of the deal, NBB and Social Insurance Organization Asset Management Company, a unit of pension fund Social Insurance Organization, will each take a 25.8-percent stake in Bahrain Islamic for 72 fils per share, according to an NBB statement.

They are buying the stake from Kuwait's Investment Dar and associated companies. Dar is selling assets as part of its debt restructuring. It sold a 37.5 percent stake in luxury carmaker Aston Martin to Italian private equity fund Investindustrial late in December.

The deal is at a near 3-percent premium to Bahrain Islamic's closing share price of 70 fils on Thursday. There are 1000 fils in a Bahraini dinar. Based on Bahrain Islamic's total outstanding shares, the value of the deal is about 34.9 million dinars ($92.57 million).

The transaction will provide NBB, the second largest lender by market value in the country, an opportunity to expand into Islamic banking

"We have been looking for an appropriate opportunity to establish a footprint in the Islamic banking industry and BisB represents a suitable vehicle for us," Abdul Razak Hassan Al Qassim, NBB's chief executive said in a statement.

NBB operates 25 branches in the country. Bahrain Islamic is the oldest Islamic lender in the island kingdom.

Among other deals in the country's banking sector, Al Salam Bank SALAM.BH said in January it was in merger talks with an unnamed regional bank, while Gulf Finance House GFHB.BH said it was studying options to merge its unit, Khaleeji Commercial Bank, with other Bahraini banks.

(Reporting by Dinesh Nair and Bernardo Vizcaino; Editing by Amran Abocar and Robert Birsel)

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