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Saudi Arabia: Banks seek political help

"Foreign banks feel strongly that Saudi creditors were preferred by this procedure"

Thomas Harris, BBA

The multi-billion dollar debt troubles of the Saad and Al Gosaibi groups have prompted growing international pressure on the Saudi authorities amid concerns that foreign creditors will be discriminated against in a restructuring. Mervyn Davies, the UK minister for trade and investment, travelled to Saudi Arabia in December to raise the matter of the two groups’ debt with central bank governor Muhammad Al-Jasser and finance minister Ibrahim Al Assaf.

Among UK banks, HSBC is one of the biggest creditors to the groups. RBS and Standard Chartered are also creditors (Davies is former chief executive and chairman of Standard Chartered).

Overall, France’s BNP Paribas has the biggest exposure to the two Saudi groups alongside Citi. French president Nicolas Sarkozy is understood to have raised the matter during his visit to Saudi Arabia in November, when he held talks with King Abdullah.

In his capacity as chairman of the trade policy committee at the British Bankers’ Association, Thomas Harris wrote to Davies at the end of November, in anticipation of Davies’ visit.

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