Bloomberg News

Kuwait Finance Mulls Stake in Rashid Hussain, Banks

December 01, 2006

Kuwait Finance House, the Persian Gulf's largest Islamic investment bank, said it's considering buying a stake in Rashid Hussain Bhd. and other Malaysian banking groups, the latest overseas suitor to size up lenders in the Asian nation.

``We actually look at both organic and MNA as an opportunity for us and with the recent relaxation in the rules, we are talking to various people, not just RHB, for us to acquire a stake or actually increase our stake,'' Jamelah Jamaluddin, deputy chief executive officer of Kuwait Finance's local unit, said today in Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysian lenders have become targets after the country's central bank last month said it will allow domestic banks to enter merger talks with more than one company at the same time. Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. this week agreed to pay A$833 million ($658 million) for 24.9 percent of AMMB Holdings Bhd. (AMM), Malaysia's fifth-biggest bank.

While Rashid Hussain is ``one that we look at,'' Kuwait Finance isn't in talks with the banking group, Jamelah said, declining to say whether the Middle Eastern bank will seek central bank approval to start talks. Kuwait Finance is ``looking at the numbers. That's about it. We did our own analysis and assessment.''

Shares of Rashid Hussain, which controls the country's fourth-largest lender, jumped as much as 8 sen, or 5.5 percent, to 1.53 ringgit and traded at 1.51 ringgit at 12:29 p.m. in Kuala Lumpur, giving the bank a market value of 1.1 billion ringgit ($306 million).

Kuwait Finance is considering acquiring assets or a stake in certain banking groups in Malaysia, Jamelah told reporters.

``We are talking to a few,'' she said, declining to name them. ``There are banks which we find'' could be ''a potential partner for us.''

The group is also interested in acquiring assets in countries like Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam, she said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Angus Whitley in Kuala Lumpur at awhitley1@bloomberg.net; Stephanie Phang in Kuala Lumpur at +60- sphang@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tony Jordan at tjordan3@bloomberg.net.


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