Citi gets capital markets license to operate in Saudi Arabia

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Citigroup has obtained a license to conduct capital markets business in Saudi Arabia, a move that will allow the US bank to return to the kingdom to offer banking services after an absence of almost 13 years.

The business, which will be branded Citigroup Saudi Arabia, will provide a full range of investment banking services including debt and equity capital markets operations, according to a Citi statement.

The license comes as the Gulf country seeks to diversify its funding resources away from oil revenues under its National Transformation Plan.

“Saudi Arabia has embarked on a profound economic transformation journey and we are excited and committed to contributing to this endeavor,” said Jim Cowles, Citi’s CEO for Europe Middle East and Africa.

Citi, which had formally applied for a license, is not the only international bank seeking to expand in Saudi Arabia.

Global lenders such as Credit Suisse are also exploring the possibility of obtaining banking licenses as a number of investment opportunities open up in the kingdom.

The most notable is the government’s plan to list up to 5 percent of oil giant Saudi Aramco in an initial public share offering that could raise as much as $100 billion.

Citi exited Saudi Arabia in 2004, when it sold a 20 percent stake in Samba Financial Group. In 2015, it obtained permission from the Saudi regulator to invest directly in the country’s stock market.

On April 17, the bank appointed Carmen Haddad as head of the bank’s Saudi Arabia business, with the mandate to lead the bank’s strategy and business development in the kingdom.

There are over a dozen licensed foreign bank branches in Saudi Arabia, including Deutsche Bank, BNP Paribas, JPMorgan Chase and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, according to the Saudi central bank’s website.

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