Abu Dhabi-listed Bank of Sharjah said on Wednesday its Lebanese unit Banque de la Beqaa is considering buying the assets of the Lebanese subsidiary of BNP Paribas, France's biggest listed bank.
Bank of Sharjah has appointed Deloitte and Touche to begin due diligence on Banque Nationale de Paris Intercontinentale (BNPI) "to assess the feasibility of acquiring the assets, liabilities and general banking business of BNPI," it said in a statement.
Gulf Arab banks, buoyed by the economic windfall of record oil prices to the Gulf states, are increasingly looking outside their home markets, where greater competition is encouraging them to grow through acquisitions and branch expansion.
Bank of Sharjah completed a $25 million acquisition of Lebanese Banque de la Beqaa in July as it looks to expand overseas.
"We hope to finalise this [due diligence] within the next few months," a bank spokeswoman said. "It is part of our plan of expansion."
BNPI, established in 1944, has five branches in Lebanon, according to BNP's website.
Lebanon's Western-backed ruling coalition and the pro-Syria Hezbollah-led opposition have been locked in a dispute over sharing power, virtually paralysing the country.
Arab foreign ministers agreed in Cairo on Sunday to end Lebanon's constitutional crisis, calling for the election of army chief Michel Suleiman as next president and the formation of a national unity government.
Other Gulf Arab businesses have also said they are looking at investing in Lebanon. (Reuters)
UAE lender eyes BNP Lebanon assets