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Gulf Finance House Bahrain to Go Global

Gulf Finance House (GFH) plans to focus on opening offices around the globe and infrastructure investment. The Bahrain-based investment bank yesterday announced that a review of its business and future prospects has been completed and a five-year strategic plan is ready to be presented to the investment bank's shareholders during investor relations road shows starting in Kuwait on Tuesday.

Chairman Dr Fuad Al Omar announced the news in a Press conference at the Kuwait Stock Exchange.

"We undertook recently a strategic review of all aspects of our business with a view to positioning the investment bank to deliver excellent returns to clients while continuing to grow in the future," he said. "From that review, we have prepared a very exciting business plan for the next five years, which we will unveil to our shareholders in greater detail at the road shows."

The plan includes identifying profitable opportunities in the field of development infrastructure, particularly in countries with an appetite for economic growth.

"We have more opportunities than we can currently service and we see an opportunity to increase both the size and number of projects we undertake," said Dr Al Omar. "To do so, we should expand our sources of funding. That expansion can come from expanding our existing private client base to countries outside the GCC, working with a core group of strategic partners and from tapping both the local and the international financial markets."

GFH, the first Islamic investment bank in the world to be rated investment grade by Standard & Poor's (S&P) last year, is expected to help in achieving its objectives.

"We are informed by S&P that our rating attracted the greatest interest amongst international banks and investors," he said. "We are already capitalising on this by working with the world's leading investment banks to expand our sources of funding to include the international finance and equity markets, particularly for our development infrastructure projects.

"As part of this trend towards the internationalisation of our business we are building our presence in London and have plans to open branch offices in Singapore and other parts of the world in due course.

"The result of this work should give GFH scope to increase the number or size of the projects it currently undertakes and this should increase earnings significantly."

He added that the plan had received the backing of the board. "The board has not changed radically since the bank began its operations and remains strongly supportive of the efforts of management to build the business within the board's strategic direction," he said.

Meanwhile, chief executive officer and board member Esam Janahi said more high-profile appointments within the company are expected.

"One of the main developments taking place in our business is the initiative to build a world-class asset management business around Alan Durrant, who will be with us by the end of the month," he said.

"Another main development is the initiative to build a European private equity business around Joe McGrane.

"Perhaps the main constraint we face in this part of the world is finding investment banking and development infrastructure professionals with the right experience and leadership qualities to join the GFH team and take the business forward.

"Fortunately, over the last six months and as a direct result of our increasing exposure to and reputation within international markets, we have been able to recruit senior people from world-class organisations. "Our recruitment drive both within Bahrain, the GCC and beyond will continue to at least the end of the year." -TradeArabia News Service

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