By Hossam Mounir
The Arab Investment Bank (AIB)was one of the banks offered for sale more than once since 2006 because of its consecutive losses and huge solvency in the loans portfolio. However, the condition under which it was established prevented this from happening, as it is a joint-stock company between Egypt, Libya, and Syria.
“This is not the time to talk about selling the Arab Investment Bank after its loss turned into Profits; it is no longer a burden on the government,” said Hani Seif El-Nasr, Chairman of the Board of Directors and Executive Managing Director of AIB.
Seif El-Nasr disclosed to Daily News Egypt the bank’s future and the efforts in progress to improve its performance.
Is AIB still offered for sale?
It is not likely that our bank would be offered for sale after its situation has completely changed in the last few years. Its capital increased to EGP 1bn through the National Investment Bank as a representative for the Egyptian government. The loans portfolio in the bank also jumped to EGP 6.5bn within three years, a percentage of 300%. The loans portfolio was filtered and small clients exited the portfolio. Despite this, the loans portfolio increased by more than 50%, while solvency was settled at EGP 200m and the rest was covered with full allocations.
AIB is one of the middle-sized banks. Does this stand in the way of it competing in the banking sector?
Although our bank is considered small- or medium-sized, which stands in its way to compete in huge funds, it now competes with the leading banks in the Egyptian market in offering the best banking service. Through this, AIB attracted senior clients, individuals and companies from other banks. In terms of loans, the bank enters as a partner in syndicated loans with shares of roughly EGP 200m, which are organised from time to time for the different economic sectors. This is besides the regular loans, which are given to its customers.
What is the bank’s expansion plan?
The AIB plans to expand geographically, as we now have 18 branches inside and outside Cairo. We requested the approval of the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) to open another 17 branches, of which 12 would be small branches and five would be big ones, in order to utilise its initiative to open small banking units giving limited services. The new branches are expected to cover the northern part of Upper Egypt, Northern Egypt, Damietta, Mansoura, and Suez, which would serve the Suez Canal cities.
What about the technological development plan?
In light of the development plan of the bank, the best system in the Egyptian market was created with a cost of EGP 70m with the aim of linking all the bank’s branches, on one hand, and helping it to offer retail services, on the other, as well as strongly entering funds of small and medium-sized projects. The bank could not have started offering services without preparing and developing the infrastructure with the best technological systems.
What is the Egyptian market’s benefit of the bank?
The AIB’s position helped it attract many Arab clients, depositors and investors. The bank also helps Arab investors to enter the Egyptian market and Egyptian investors to enter Arab markets.
Are there any agreements with external institutions to enter the Egyptian market?
Our bank is already negotiating with Emirati and Saudi investors to support them when entering the Egyptian market to invest in projects. The bank can enter as a partner or a financier, depending on the project. The bank’s investment management conducted a study on the projects that were proposed in the Economic Summit in Sharm El-Sheikh, to discuss with Arab investors willing to invest in these projects.
What are the new activities the bank intends to launch in the upcoming period?
The bank will soon launch the first Islamic company for finance leasing in the Egyptian market with capital of EGP 100m, in partnership with the workers’ fund and the Islamic Institution, one of the entities affiliated to the Islamic Development Bank. We have finished preparations of the basic system of this company. Only 20% of the company was allocated for real estate, while the rest, 80%, was for machines and equipment.
Are there plans to increase the bank’s capital in the future?
This is not possible at least for now. The bank’s capital currently amounts to EGP 1bn. Most of this increase was covered by the National Investment Bank as the government’s representative until the situation in Libya and Syria gets better and they can pay their capital share. The Egyptian share will then decrease.
What is the bank’s role in funding small and medium-sized projects?
The bank’s portfolio for small and medium-sized projects amounts to EGP 500m, and we plan to raise it to EGP 1bn soon. A sector was established by the bank to fund these projects, and a programme named “Partners” was launched to prepare these projects and guarantee successful marketing for their products. An agreement was signed with the Social Fund for Development (SFD), through which it gained EGP 80m of funds as an initial step to be directed to small and medium-sized projects.
What role can AIB play in the major projects offered by the government, including the Suez Canal axis development project?
The bank’s size comes in the way of it entering direct huge funds on its own. However, it can take part in funding these projects through joint loans or through funding small projects, included in the major projects of the Suez Canal. The Suez Canal will have hundreds of small and medium-sized projects. A major project like the freight project, for example, can include small-sized projects within it, like refrigerators, freight, transport, and other projects that can employ thousands of workers and create tangible development.