Mashreqbank, Dubai's second-largest lender by market value, plans to open 30 branches in Egypt over the next three years to tap growth in the most-populous Arab country, Forbes Arabia reported.
"We will open 30 branches in Egypt during the first three years," Mashreqbank Chief Executive Abdul-Aziz al-Ghurair is quoted as saying in the December 16 issue of Forbes Arabia.
"Ten branches will open in 2008 at an average cost of half a million dollars per branch," he said.
The lender, which lost a bid to acquire a stake in Bank of Alexandria last year, has signalled its intent to bid for a stake in Banque du Caire, which has 215 branches and about 2 million clients in the North African state.
The Egyptian government has given potential buyers until Wednesday to bid for the 67 percent stake.
Mashreqbank's Egypt branch expansion will happen in addition to any acquisition of Banque du Caire, Ghurair said.
The bank was also looking to add five branches to its existing four in Qatar and was in interested in expanding into Syria, although no firm plans were in place, he said.
Egypt is the lender's priority, Ghurair added. "The economy is growing extremely quickly," he said.
Gulf Arab banks, buoyed by the economic windfall from a near five-fold increase in oil prices since 2002, are increasingly expanding outside their home markets as competition intensifies at home.
Ghurair said he expected revenues in 2007 to grow by 30 per cent with net profits to increase by 25 to 30 per cent. (Reuters)