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Saudi investment banks take the measure of the market

Saudi Arabia’s 2004 Capital Markets Law has brought something of a fresh start to all investment banks in the kingdom, whatever their size. But most of the smaller new entrants are aware that they need to develop niche businesses in the face of competition from larger rivals. Nigel Dudley reports.

COMPETITION FOR BANKING business in Saudi Arabia is set to become even more intense and cut-throat in the coming months as a new breed of financial institutions starts to compete aggressively for a share of a market that has until recently been dominated by a small group of commercial banks.

There are various approaches to developing investment banking businesses but those in the market agree that there will be casualties and that not all the new entrants will be able to survive a period in which customers are able to demand better-quality service at the tightest margins.

Some of the new entrants, such as the largest, Falcom, which has capital of SR1 billion ($266.7 million), are planning to take on the big banks head on; others, such as Jadwa Investment, are looking for niches in the high-net-worth business. A third group, including Forsa Investments, will be looking to provide services to small and medium-sized businesses.

Foreign banks – the global investment banks, including Deutsche Bank and Goldman Sachs, and regional institutions, such as EFG Hermes and Emirates NBD – are also opening up in the Kingdom and will provide competition that is just as tough.

The consequences of new local and international banks coming into the market are already evident.

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