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01 October 2023

RBS to exit corporate debt, DCM business in Mideast

Royal Bank of Scotland has offices in Qatar and the UAE. (Reuters)

By Reuters

Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) plans to sell or close its corporate debt and debt capital markets business in the Middle East and Africa, the latest pullback by the state-controlled lender from emerging markets to focus on its domestic business.

The lender, 81-percent owned by the British government, has been reviewing its global footprint as it seeks to rebuild its reputation after one of the biggest bailouts in British history during the global financial crisis.

Earlier this month, media reports indicated most of its Asian corporate banking business was up for sale. This came on top of confirmation in November it was reviewing its options across its Central and Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa (CEEMEA) network.

"Part of the strategy set out by (chief executive) Ross McEwan in February 2014 was to make RBS a smaller, more focused bank. As part of that strategy, we have taken the decision to exit our corporate debt and debt capital markets business in the Middle East and Africa," RBS said in a statement on Thursday.

Banking sources told Reuters that RBS was attempting to sell its corporate banking business across the Middle East but had been unable to offload it in one chunk.

Two of the sources, speaking on condition of anonymity as the information isn't public, said the bank was now selling off its assets piecemeal to different buyers. A third source said news about sales was expected in the coming weeks.

"There will be different asset sales and, if the people aren't taken, they will be made redundant," said one of the sources, a Dubai-based banker.

RBS's credit exposure to the CEEMEA region, as well as Central Asia and supranationals such as the World Bank, was 19.1 billion pounds ($28.9 billion) in 2013, representing 3.4 percent of its 573 billion pounds of credit risk assets, its annual report said.

In the Middle East, RBS has offices in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, offering services to corporate and institutional clients such as financing, risk management and transactions, according to its website.

It also provides private banking to clients through its Coutts International subsidiary. Coutts is being sold separately and has attracted about 10 bidders in the initial round, Reuters reported earlier this month.

As recently as last year, RBS had around 200 staff across eight countries in the Middle East and Africa.