StanChart gets approval to open unit in Saudi Arabia

Pedro Gonçalves
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StanChart gets approval to open unit in Saudi Arabia

Standard Chartered has received a licence to launch banking operations in Saudi Arabia, one of the global bank's strongest markets.

"The council of ministers' approval this Wednesday of the Standard Chartered Bank to operate in the kingdom confirms the kingdom's position on the international map and reflects the strength of the growing Saudi economy," said a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency. No details about the services the lender will offer in the country were provided.

The 150-year-old lender has been operating in the kingdom through Standard Chartered Capital Saudi Arabia since 2009.

This will help provide modern banking technology, create more jobs and meet the increasing financing needs in the sector, especially in light of the ambitious plans of Vision 2030"

It began talks with Saudi regulators to obtain a banking licence in the kingdom in 2017.

"After viewing what had been presented by His Excellency the Minister of Finance, the Cabinet has decided to approve the licence for Standard Chartered Bank allowing it to open a branch in the Kingdom," said a statement by the Saudi Press Agency.

"The decision also delegates the Minister of Finance to decide on any subsequent request to open other branches of the bank in the Kingdom."

Under its strategy to wean economy off oil, the Saudi government is seeking to boost private sector participation and is reforming its financial sector to allow more foreign banks to access the kingdom to meet the private sector's financing needs.

"This will help provide modern banking technology, create more jobs and meet the increasing financing needs in the sector, especially in light of the ambitious plans of Vision 2030," central bank chief Ahmed al-Kholifey told state TV, Reuters reports.

Only a handful of international banks such as JP Morgan, Deutsche Bank and BNP Paribas, have licences to operate in the kingdom. Others including HSBC have maintained presence through minority stakes in local lenders.

Largest Japanese lender Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Abu Dhabi's FAB and Dubai's Emirates NBD are among other international banks that received licences to launch operations in Saudi Arabia.

The lender announced plans earlier to double returns and dividends in three years by cutting $700m in costs and boosting income.