Savola profits surge as Gulf shoppers fill their freezers

Savola profits surge as Gulf shoppers fill their freezers
Savola profits surge as Gulf shoppers fill their freezers

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - JEDDAH: The merger of National Commercial Bank (NCB) and Samba Financial Group (Samba) will involve the relocation of some branches currently located close to each other, said the chairman of the enlarged lender.

The new Saudi National Bank will have 503 branches in the Kingdom, around a quarter of all bank branches in the country, said Ammar Al-Khudairy, board chairman of the new bank.

He was speaking at a webinar organized by the Saudi Ministry of Finance’s Communication and Financial Knowledge Center and moderated by Talat Hafiz, a member of the Saudi Financial Association and an Arab News columnist.

Al-Khudairy noted that as part of the new bank’s expansion plans some branches would be relocated and more would be added.

“Some people are asking whether some branches could be closed. We have, in fact, conducted a study on all the branches of both banks and found out that some 21 branches were very close to each other,” he said.

“These will be relocated to better serve our customers in different areas. In another expansion plan, we will add nine more branches before the end of 2021,” he added.

Al-Khudairy said that all SNB branches would “be fully Islamic on the retail level” when the rebranded outlets opened on April 1.

“In corporate banking, more than 70 percent of the loans will be Shariah compliant. There is still a challenge in the treasury, but, as for the retail, it is going to be wholly Islamic,” he said, adding that SNB would be headquartered in Riyadh, with some operations and logistics departments in Jeddah.

He also revealed that SNB was planning to develop additional Shariah-compliant banking programs and products as part of its “ambition to have a globally leading position in providing Islamic banking services.”

The combination of the two banks will result in major savings.

“We expect the merger to help us get an estimated annual saving amount of SR800 million, and I am personally hopeful that we would go beyond that number,” Al-Khudairy said.

NCB entered into a merger agreement with Samba in October. The Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) and the General Authority for Competition (GAC) approved the linkup earlier this year and it was given the final green light by Samba and NCB shareholders this month.

Al-Khudairy said the merger came about when the chairman of NCB, Saeed Al-Ghamdi, called for a meeting and the idea was suggested. He added that in mid-2019, Samba had formed a strategic expansion and transformation plan to increase its profits and acquisitions.

“We started enhancing and diversifying our services so that we could get more shares and profitability. We also conducted a study on more than 10 global markets and 100 to 120 financial entities before we could agree on the merger,” he said.

On the speed of the merger process, he noted that had it dragged on too long it would have had a negative impact on staff and the relationship between banks and their customers.

“The faster you go with this process and the more transparent you are with the stakeholders, the better it is. The board of directors in the two banks were keen to complete the merging process as fast as we could.

“We signed the initial agreement in July 2020, while the final merger agreement was inked late in October. The final agreement was endorsed after extensive studies with the most experienced financial houses on Wall Street. Two of the three biggest financial houses were advisers for the two banks,” Al-Khudairy added.

According to Argaam, the merged bank will have assets of SR896 billion and during the full year 2020 the two banks made a combined net profit of SR15.65 billion.

Al-Khudairy said the goal of the new entity was to maximize opportunities for its customers, employees, local communities, and shareholders. “Together, Samba and NCB could truly become a bank for all,” Al-Khudairy was quoted as saying on its official website.

Al-Ghamdi said that the NCB and Samba merger would create a clear national champion that would transform the local banking sector and catalyze the delivery of the Saudi Vision 2030 reform plan.

Upon completion, NCB’s shareholders will own 67.4 percent of the merged bank with Samba holding the remainder. Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund – the Public Investment Fund – will be the largest stakeholder.

Al-Khudairy said during the webinar that after negotiations, the two sides agreed on a fair ownership percentage before signing the final agreement.

“Before that, there were also discussions between the two sides on governance, how the board of directors would be formed, and on what basis senior managers should be appointed. All these issues were discussed before the final agreement was officially approved,” he added.

After penning the deal, Al-Khudairy said the parties sought the assistance of six financial, administrative, media, and technical advisers to ensure a smooth merger process, without any interruption to services.

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