Bahrain's Ahli United nets $213 mln gain from bank stake sale

DUBAI Mon Feb 4, 2013 7:07am EST

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DUBAI Feb 4 (Reuters) - Ahli United Bank is seeking regional acquisition targets after making a total profit of $212.9 million on the sale of a 29.4 percent stake in Qatar's Ahli Bank, Bahrain's largest lender said on Monday.

Ahli United said last month it had agreed to sell the majority of its holding in Qatar's seventh-largest lender by market value to Qatar Foundation, a non-profit organisation wholly-owned by the Gulf state's royal family.

Completing the sale on Monday for a total price of $615.9 million, equivalent to 60 riyals ($16.48) per share, Ahli United said the move was forced upon it by regulatory considerations and didn't mark a reversal of its expansion strategy.

"The decision to sell our stake in Ahli Bank was triggered by our inability due to legal factors to maintain our minority shareholding above the minimum levels required for Ahli Bank to qualify as a strategic core investment," it said in a filing to the Bahrain stock exchange.

"Ahli United will continue to seek attractive opportunities to develop its banking franchise in the region and to enhance its shareholder value."

The sale price values the Qatari bank at 2.2-times book value, the statement added. The 60 riyals per share is a 5.3 percent premium to Ahli Bank's closing share price the day before Ahli United said it had put the stake up for sale.

Ahli United is due to report its 2012 earnings on Feb. 19. ($1 = 3.6403 Qatar riyals) (Reporting by David French; Editing by Dinesh Nair)

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