UPDATE 2-UAE banks agree merger to create largest Gulf lender

Mon Jul 2, 2007 2:33am EDT

(Adds capitalisation, details)

By Daliah Merzaban

DUBAI, July 2 (Reuters) - Emirates Bank International Ltd. EBIL.DU and National Bank of Dubai NBDD.DU said on Monday they had agreed a merger deal to create the Gulf's largest bank by assets and asked the bourse to halt trading in their shares.

The banks would have a combined capitalisation of $11.25 billion at Sunday's closing prices, topping that of National Bank of Abu Dhabi NBAD.AD, the largest bank by market value in the United Arab Emirates.

The stocks would remain suspended until the two lenders announced details of the deal after consulting regulators, the Dubai stock market chief said. The process could take 15 days, a spokesman for the banks said.

The two lenders said in March they would merge at the behest of Dubai's ruler to form a bank large enough to meet the demands of a rapidly growing economy and appointed Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS.N) to advise them on the deal.

The government of Dubai, part of the United Arab Emirates federation, owns 76 percent of Emirates Bank and 14 percent of National Bank.

"Both boards are going to go back to their shareholders and discuss with them the conditions," said Essa Kazim, chairman of the Dubai Financial Market. "The shares will be suspended until all that information becomes public."

Majority shareholders of National Bank, Dubai's fourth-largest by market value, would have little choice but to acquiesce to a deal blessed by the emirate's ruler, Standard & Poors' credit analyst Anouar Hassoune said when the merger was announced in March.

The banks had assets worth $48.7 billion at the end of the first quarter, allowing the new entity to surpass Saudi Arabia's National Commercial Bank as Gulf's largest lender by assets.

(Additional reporting by Will Rasmussen)

((Editing by Dayan Candappa, Quentin Bryar; Gulf newsroom +971 4 391 8301; dubai.newsroom@reuters.com)) Keywords: EMIRATES BANK/MERGER

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