Citi applies for capital markets license in Saudi Arabia: sources

Tue Mar 28, 2017 5:33am EDT
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By Reem Shamseddine, Saeed Azhar and Tom Arnold

KHOBAR/DUBAI (Reuters) - Citigroup has formally applied for a license to conduct capital markets business in Saudi Arabia, two sources familiar with the matter said, in a move to return to the country after an absence of nearly 13 years.

The application has been made with Saudi Arabia's Capital Market Authority (CMA), whose primary role is to regulate and develop the capital market in the oil-rich kingdom, the sources said.

Investment opportunities in the kingdom are opening up as the government diversifies its economy away from oil under its National Transformation Plan. The government is also preparing to list up to 5 percent of oil giant Saudi Aramco [IPO-ARMO.SE] in an initial public share offering that could raise as much as $100 billion.

Citi declined to comment on its Saudi plans. No one at the CMA was immediately available to comment.

Citi is "positive" that it will gain a license this year, a third source said.

If successful, Citi could also pursue with the Saudi central bank permission for a full bank branch license, potentially joining other banks such as JPMorgan and Deutsche Bank.

After operating in the oil-rich kingdom for five decades, Citigroup pulled out of Saudi Arabia in 2004 when it sold its 20-percent stake in Samba Financial Group, saying then it was reallocating capital to core investments.

In 2015 it won permission from the Saudi Arabian regulator to invest directly in the local stock market, the first step towards returning to the country.   Continued...

A view of the exterior of the Citibank corporate headquarters in New York, New York, U.S. May 20, 2015.   REUTERS/Mike Segar/Files - RTSS8TD