May 11, 2017 / 12:38 PM / 2 months ago

JPMorgan to add bankers in Saudi Arabia to reflect market growth

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View shows the King Abdullah Financial District, north of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, March 1, 2017.Faisal Al Nasser

DUBAI (Reuters) - JPMorgan (JPM.N) will increase the number of bankers it has in Saudi Arabia to around 80 by the end of the year to capitalise on the increase in equity market activity and mergers and acquisitions in the kingdom, a senior executive said.

Saudi Arabia has unveiled about $200 billion (£155.5 billion) of privatisation of state-owned companies over the next few years, selling stakes in everything from hospitals to airports. The kingdom is also listing oil company Saudi Aramco, which it expects will raise another $100 billion.

"We're invested in investment banking and our equities brokerage capabilities as we expect more activity in the equity market with all the changes that are going on," Sjoerd Leenart, head of JPMorgan's regional head for the Middle East, Turkey and Africa, told Reuters on Thursday.

"We have about 70 people now and will go to around 80 at year end."

Leenart said the bank can also draw on expertise from outside the region.

"There's a very important balance to maintain between having expertise on the ground and drawing on industry expertise sitting in the U.S. or UK," he said.

JPMorgan, which sources have told Reuters has been appointed as a financial adviser to help in the listing of Aramco, has been in kingdom for more than 80 years.

JPMorgan has declined to comment on its advisory role.

"From 2018 onwards, we expect a busy agenda in terms of IPO listings and trade sales to strategic and financial buyers," Leenart said.

The bank has had an active year so far in 2017, advising on M&A transactions and the sale of the sovereign's $9 billion sukuk.

Credit Agricole (CAGR.PA) picked it to advise it on a potential sale of the French bank's 31 percent stake in Banque Saudi Fransi 1050.SE, valued at nearly $2.4 billion, sources told Reuters on March 8.

JPMorgan is also advising Riyadh-based ACWA Power on a move by Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund (PIF), to buy a stake, sources close to the matter told Reuters in November.

Leenart said the firm is also investing in its Saudi custody business, but did not give specific details.

(The story was refiled to add Turkey to the job title of the JP Morgan banker)

Editing by Alexander Smith

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