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UAE 2018 | ABU DHABI | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Antoun Sehnaoui, Chairman & CEO of SGBL, on the acquisition of KBL Richelieu bank in France and KBL bank Monaco, launching a new bank in Abu Dhabi, and priorities for 2018.

SGBL announced in late 2017 the acquisition of KBL Richelieu bank in France and KBL bank Monaco. How does this acquisition fit into SGBL's strategy and how was it funded?

We are very excited about this latest acquisition because it enables SGBL Group to offer a complete suite of wealth management and private banking services. It forms part of SGBL's ambitious yet selective international expansion strategy developed by the Board of Directors with the aim of delivering more world-class services and unrivalled connectivity to the leading regional and global financial hubs. Through this acquisition, SGBL is launching a full platform for private banking, wealth management, and asset management that is integrated between France, Monaco, and Abu Dhabi. The platform leverages the valuable experience at our newly acquired entities and the unparalleled access to global markets they provide to bring world-class investment solutions and advice to our Lebanese, European, Gulf, and regional markets. France is a major global financial center and Europe's largest asset management market, with a superb track record of success in managing private wealth, so we are excited to be launching our platform from there. We expect the acquisition of KBL Richelieu bank in France, its subsidiary Richelieu Gestion, and KBL bank Monaco to be finalized in the first half of 2018, subject to approval from the Lebanese, French, European, and Monegasque regulatory authorities. They have a combined equity of around EUR150 million and over EUR3 billion in assets under management, and will operate as part of a newly established entity, Compagnie Financière Richelieu (Richelieu group), a wholly-owned subsidiary of SGBL group. We see immense potential synergies between Compagnie Financière Richelieu's product offering and SGBL's banking services and extensive network in Lebanon, Jordan, Cyprus, and the UAE. In particular, Richelieu Gestion will offer global products that are designed specifically to answer to the unique needs of our clients across the region. Furthermore, we are proud to be opening a new era of development in France and Monaco through our commitment to developing a long-term industrial project for the Richelieu Bank and all of its employees. In terms of financing, SGBL is a highly liquid and well-capitalized bank with a total equity of USD1.8 billion and a capital adequacy ratio of 17.75% as of September 30, 2017, considerably higher than Basel III and Central Bank requirements, so we have significant internal resources we can leverage to fund the acquisition.

SGBL also recently launched a new bank in Abu Dhabi. What role does it play within the SGBL network and what services does it offer?

SGBL Group's expansion into the Gulf marks another milestone in the group's growth strategy and follows similar moves in the past into Cyprus and Jordan. Liberty International Bank Limited (LIB), which is wholly owned by SGBL, is the first bank to launch operations at the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) financial center. Following the acquisitions in France and Monaco, LIB will operate as Banque Richelieu Abu Dhabi within our new private banking, wealth management, and asset management platform. It will offer corporate, institutional, and private management products and services designed by Richelieu Gestion exclusively for professional clients and market counterparties in the region. We take pride in having received approvals in record time, thanks to our full compliance with the requirements set by supervisory authorities in Lebanon and the UAE. SGBL's impeccable track record and excellent reputation helped us quickly earn the confidence of the Financial Services Regulatory Authority, the regulator of ADGM, and contributed to the development of a close collaborative relationship between us.

What are your key priorities for 2018?

Domestically, we are committed to supporting economic development across all Lebanese territories through our extensive branch network and our plethora of innovative products. At the regional and international levels, we are constantly on the lookout for growth opportunities, whether in new markets, new market segments, or new business lines. To that end, we are focused on implementing a prudent domestic and international expansion strategy that leverages SGBL's strong reputation and financial strength. This strategy is designed to help our clients seamlessly connect to global financial markets and more effectively respond to emerging opportunities and risk. The launch of LIB in Abu Dhabi and the acquisition of KBL Richelieu bank in France and KBL bank Monaco thus serve as testaments to SGBL's unrelenting drive to provide its clients an unrivalled banking experience backed by a complete and competitive product lineup.