January 25, 2018 / 1:26 PM / a year ago

Saudi bank merger outlook to be clear by end-Q1 -central bank chief

RIYADH, Jan 25 (Reuters) - The outlook for a proposed merger of Saudi British Bank (SABB) and Alawwal Bank will become clear by the end of the first quarter of 2018, Saudi central bank governor, Ahmed al-Kholifey, told Al Arabiya television on Thursday.

SABB, 40 percent owned by HSBC Holdings, and Alawwal, 40 percent owned by Royal Bank of Scotland, said in April that they had agreed to start merger talks, but progress has been slow.

Kholifey had told Al Arabiya in October the outlook for the merger would be clear by the end of 2017, but on Thursday, he said the banks needed more time to finalise their discussions.

“We expect things to become clear before the end of the first quarter of 2018,” Kholifey said.

Earlier this month, sources told Reuters the merger had been delayed but not derailed in part because the Saudi regulatory environment for bank acquisitions was relatively untested.

A merged Alawwal and SABB would rank as the third-largest bank in Saudi Arabia with assets of $77.6 billion, behind National Commercial Bank and Al Rajhi Bank, Thomson Reuters data shows.

Kholifey said Saudi banks’ liquidity position was very solid and they were able to lend to private and public sectors and invest in Saudi bonds. (Reporting by Marwa Rashad; Editing by Saeed Azhar and David Evans)

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