Qatar's biggest bank looks to double foreign ownership


Doha (AFP)

Qatar National Bank, the Middle East's biggest bank, on Monday said it aimed to almost double its foreign ownership limit, nine months into a regional crisis with Doha at its centre.

"QNB Group intends to recommend to the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Bank, to approve increasing the percentage of non-Qatari ownership in the Company's capital to 49 percent instead of 25 percent," read a statement released by QNB.

The bank said it would announce the date for the EGA "in due course".

The proposed move comes at a time of political and economic crisis for Qatar, which has seen neighbouring former allies led by Saudi Arabia implement an ongoing trade boycott of Doha over accusations of ties to Iran and Islamist groups. Qatar denies the allegations.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut all ties with Qatar last June, closing its only land border and banning all flights to and from the emirate.

The International Monetary Fund this month reported that Qatar had pumped $43 billion (35 billion euros) into its banks throughout the crisis, in a bid to offset plummeting deposits and foreign financing.

The economic and financial impact of the crisis is now fading but remains a threat for the football World Cup 2022 host, according to IMF.

Among QNB's current shareholders is the Qatar Investment Authority, the state wealth fund which has large property holdings in London and stakes in various companies including Germany's Volkswagen.

Some 7.0 percent of QNB is currently owned by foreign investors, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.