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Qatar’s banks eye consolidation as blockade and Covid pressures ease


The tie up between Masraf Al Rayan and Al Khalij Commercial Bank could be the first of many as cost cutting and profitability top the banking agenda.

For many people outside Qatar interest in the tiny Gulf emirate over the last year has focused on its preparations for the football World Cup tournament that is, somewhat controversially, being hosted there at the end of 2022. But for the resource-rich nation’s banking community – where local lenders have long processed the petrodollars that flow plentifully into national coffers from the country’s oil and gas pipelines – 2021 has been an exciting year.

It kicked off with that rarest of things in Qatar: a bank merger. In January, relative newcomers to the Qatari market, Islamic bank Masraf Al Rayan, which was founded in 2006, and Al Khalij Commercial Bank (known locally as Al Khaliji), founded in 2007, announced plans to joined forces to create Qatar’s biggest Islamic bank.

The new entity would have over QR182 billion ($49.9 billion) in total assets.

The $2.2 billion deal was finally sealed in December and was the only the second-ever bank merger in Qatar, a small state that many Gulf banking observers agree is overbanked. The first was the 2018 union of International Bank of Qatar (IBQ) and Islamic Barwa Bank, which created Dukhan Bank.

There needs to be at least one more merger.

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Eric Ellis
Eric Ellis has covered Asia for Euromoney since 2006. He is a former southeast Asia-correspondent for Fortune Magazine and Time, and an ex-Asia correspondent for Australia’s economic and business newspaper the Australian Financial Review.