4 Min Read
* Wants to buy majority stake in Turkish bank
* Won't bid for BNP, Credit Agricole assets in Egypt (Adds detail, comments)
By Dinesh Nair and David French
DUBAI, Dec 13 (Reuters) - Qatar National Bank, which is buying Societe Generale's Egyptian unit for $2 billion as part of a regional expansion strategy, now has control of a top Turkish bank in its sights.
"We are looking at a majority stake in a top 10 Turkish bank as a means to add value," chief financial officer Ramzi Mari said on a conference call on Thursday, adding QNB would not apply for its own licence in Turkey.
QNB, which lost out to Russian group Sberbank in the bidding for Turkish lender Denizbank earlier this year, is also interested in expanding in Morocco and Saudi Arabia, where it plans to open branches going forward, he said.
QNB, 50-percent owned by the Gulf state's sovereign wealth fund, has been on an expansion spree, snapping up stakes in regional lenders to build an emerging market franchise with the backing of its gas-rich government.
On Wednesday, it agreed to pay $2 billion for a majority stake in National Societe Generale Bank from its French parent. The deal valued the Egyptian lender at $2.6 billion and QNB now plans to make a mandatory offer to minority shareholders.
QNB, which already has stakes in lenders in countries such as Indonesia, Jordan and Tunisia, wants its international business to contribute around 40 percent of profit and 45 percent of total assets by 2017, Mari said, up from around 17 percent and 30 percent prior to the NSGB transaction.
Building a presence in Turkey, one of the world's fastest-growing emerging markets, will be a key part of that plan, analysts and bankers say. Turkey's banking index has risen nearly two thirds this year.
The country's top banks include Garanti Bank - the largest bank by market value and 25 percent-owned by Spanish company BBVA, and Akbank - partly owned by U.S. group Citigroup.
Turkey raised $2.5 billion last month selling a 24 percent stake in Halkbank in what was the country's biggest ever share sale, attracting heavy foreign interest.
"Some of the main banks in Turkey are owned by western institutions and you would expect they would be seeking to divest at some point, given issues back home. QNB will be looking for that opportunity," a banking source said, declining to be identified due to fear of losing business with the bank.
In April, Greek bank EFG Eurobank sold its Turkish arm to Kuwaiti group Burgan Bank in a $355 million deal.
Bankers are also awaiting the announcement of a mandate for the sale of National Bank of Greece's Turkish arm Finansbank, one of the best-run banks in the country, despite the Greek lender saying it was no rush to sell.
QNB's Egypt deal completed its expansion plans in the North African country, Mari said, and QNB will not bid for other banking assets put on the block by European lenders there.
BNP Paribas, the largest French lender, was also seeking bids for its Egyptian retail arm, expected to generate around $400-$500 million, sources aware of the matter said in August.
Dubai bank Emirates NBD and Moroccan peer Attijariwafabank have bid for BNP assets, banking sources told Reuters in October.
French lender Credit Agricole has an Egyptian unit in which it owns a majority stake.
QNB raised its stake in Abu Dhabi-based Commercial Bank International to 39.9 percent from 16.5 percent recently. It also boosted its stake in Iraqi firm Mansour Bank to 51 percent and bought a 49 percent stake in Libya's Bank of Commerce and Development in April. (Editing by Dan Lalor and Amran Abocar)