Noor to sell up to 20% to bank

 

Kuwaiti investment firm Noor Financial said on Thursday it is interested in attracting a foreign partner to tap global markets and might sell up to 20 per cent to an international bank. Managing Director Naser Al Marri told Reuters Noor would start talks with potential partners in the third quarter and might conduct a capital hike next year to sell shares to a bank.

 

"We want an international bank to get access to international markets," Marri told Reuters in an interview, declining to identify the possible partner.

 

Based on Wednesday's closing price a 20 per cent stake would be worth $296 million, according to Reuters data.

 

He said Noor had already been approached by a "big" US bank to buy a minority stake but shareholders had not approved plans to sell shares to it via an existing $92m rights issue. He declined to identify the US bank.

 

"The subscription is ending today. If we get any unsubscribed shares, we will give it to the foreign bank."

 

He said Noor wanted to boost its shareholders equity to $2.5 billion by the end of 2010 from currently $1bn, but "cannot achieve this except by bringing a big player with us to help with a deal flow."

 

"So we are under pressure to get a real international partner," Marri added.

           

MIDEAST EXPANSION

 

Noor, the investment arm of Kuwaiti industrial conglomerate National Industries Group Holding, wants to expand to Saudi Arabia by setting up a financial service firm at the start of April to tap the Arab world's biggest economy. 

 

The Saudi firm with a capital of 300m riyals would offer financial services such as an online share trading platform, Marri said.

 

Elsewhere in the Gulf, it plans to launch a second investment firm in Dubai this year and mulls a real estate project in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates.

 

The Kuwaiti firm is also about to finalise setting up an Islamic bank in Syria with a capital of $200m, he said.

 

It is also about to start an Islamic insurance firm in Syria, of which 51 per cent would be sold to the public in over-the-counter deals as Syria has no regular stock market.

 

"Syria is a growth market, the population is young," he said.

 

He reiterated Noor was still interested bidding with others for Egyptian lender Banque du Caire but said a deal with a banking partner had to be reached by the end of next week.

 

"If we don't finalise by next week, we will not continue," he said, adding that otherwise too little time would be left to conduct due diligence on the Egyptian lender.

 

Egypt wants to sell as much as 67 per cent of the bank by the end of April.

 

The firm is also finalising plans to set up a real estate firm in Jordan with a capital of JDR50m.

 

"Fifty per cent of the firm will be sold to the public," he said, adding that Kuwaiti real estate firm Al Raya Real Estate was a partner in the project.

 

Marri said the firm was still optimistic about setting up a $1.7bn oil refinery in Syria with a capacity of 140,000 barrels per but had to wait for the result of a feasibility study within two weeks.

 

"So far what we are seeing is good," he said.

 

He said Noor was also looking at investing in European markets as Bulgaria, Hungary, Lithuania and Slovenia and a windpark-project in Germany. (Reuters)

 

 

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