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Influx of Chinese banks good for Gulf region: Dubai-based bankers

Xinhua | Updated: 2018-10-10 11:05
An aerial wide-angle view of Dubai, United Arab Emirates at night. [Photo/IC]

DUBAI - The growing number of Chinese banks operating in the Gulf countries has helped spur investments and boost local financial market to benefit all participants, said Dubai-based bankers on Tuesday.

They made the remarks at a media roundtable held at the Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC), the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Tom Lind, senior executive officer for regional corporate finance at Al Ahli Bank of Kuwait's DIFC branch, praised the top four Chinese banks for opening branches in the DIFC since 2008, citing that they have "triggered more business and investments by Chinese firms" in the countries of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

The top four banks, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), Bank of China, China Construction Bank and Agricultural Bank of China, run major regional operations from their branches in the DIFC.

"They invest, partner up with government-related entities and this helps the whole banking market in the region," said Lind.

The GCC is the 1981-founded political union consisting of the six Gulf nations, including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman.

ICBC opened an office in Kuwait back in 2014 as the first Chinese lender. A year later, the biggest Chinese lender in relation to assets expanded its operation to Saudi Arabia.

Anwar Abu Sbaitan, senior executive officer of Kuwait-based asset management firm Kamco, said that the UAE and Saudi Arabia represent 75 percent of the GDP in the GCC countries, hence foreign banks have to run a presence here to bank on the region's prospects.

Naveed Aurakzai, CEO of Saudi Arabia's Alkhair Capital, said that it is important to have a growing number of market participants in the Nasdaq Dubai, a licensed market of the DIFC.

In 2014, Alkhair Capital was the first Saudi investment firm setting up operation in the DIFC and it has been managing Islamic bonds listed on the Nasdaq Dubai.

Chinese banks such as China Construction Bank and ICBC also have conventional bonds listed on the Nasdaq Dubai.

"It is important that international lenders list securities on the Nasdaq Dubai as this increases liquidity and market depth and raises the profile of the UAE as a financial hub linking east and west," said Aurakzai.

Firms with a presence in the DIFC do not pay corporate or income taxes and book assets in US dollars. There are a total of 634 regulated entities operating in the DIFC.

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