Qatar’s Al Khaliji Lifts Foreign Ownership Cap To 49%, No Bonds In 2014

Only 16.18 per cent of the firm is currently held by non-Qatari investors, according to bourse data.

Qatar’s Al Khaliji Commercial Bank said on Monday its shareholders had approved increasing its foreign ownership limit to 49 per cent, while its chief executive was quoted as saying it planned no public bond issues in 2014.

The ownership motion was agreed at the bank’s annual general meeting on Sunday, the statement said. The previous limit was 25 per cent; only 16.18 per cent of the firm is currently held by non-Qatari investors, according to bourse data.

“This change allows the bank to open up to international investors and increase the liquidity of the bank’s shares,” Al Khaliji said in a statement.

International equity index compiler MSCI will upgrade Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to emerging market status in May; before then, it will choose individual stocks from those countries for inclusion in its emerging market indexes.

Al Khaliji said it had raised its foreign ownership limit after reviewing criteria for inclusion.

Earlier on Monday, Dubai’s Union Properties said it was increasing its cap to 25 per cent from an unspecified previous level, the latest firm to hike its limit ahead of the MSCI upgrade.

CEO Robin McCall said after Sunday’s AGM that the bank planned no public debt issues in 2014 but could undertake privately placed deals to secure longer-term funding, according to local newspaper Gulf Times.

Al Khaliji printed a $500 million, five-year bond in October, its maiden debt capital markets transaction. The instrument was trading to yield 3.039 percent on the bid side at 0620 GMT, according to Thomson Reuters data.

The bank is targeting similar growth levels in 2014 as last year, McCall was also quoted as saying, adding the caveat that last year’s growth was a benchmark for this year, not a certainty.

Loans and advances jumped 58.8 per cent in 2013 while assets expanded 22.5 per cent, according to the bank’s financial statements.

However, net interest margins on lending remain under pressure, McCall was quoted as saying, adding that a pick-up in business levels could help bring some relief.