Qatar National Bank to open Cuba office in expansion drive
Foreign banks have been reluctant to enter Cuba partly because of the risk of being found in violation of US economic sanctions
The Gulf’s largest listed lender, Qatar National Bank (QNB), said on Sunday it would open a representative office in Cuba, becoming the first bank from the rich energy-exporting countries of the Gulf to do so.
Government-controlled QNB has obtained regulatory approvals needed to open the office, in line with its strategy of expanding in selected countries, the bank said without elaborating.
Foreign banks have been reluctant to enter Cuba partly because of the risk of being found in violation of US economic sanctions, which can bring heavy fines. The Cuban central bank’s website lists only 10 representative offices of foreign banks in the country.
But in March, as part of a US opening to Cuba, Washington removed a barrier to business by making it legal for US banks to participate in so-called U-turn transactions, in which dollar payments can pass through a US bank as long as the two parties on either end of the deal are non-US entities.
With economic growth in the Gulf slowing because of low oil and gas prices, big banks in the region are keen to grow abroad. Last week QNB, which has a presence in over 30 countries across Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia, said it had obtained approval to open a branch in India.
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