First Abu Dhabi Bank negotiating to buy Lebanon Bank Audi’s Egypt unit

First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB), the largest lender in the United Arab Emirates, is negotiating to potentially buy the Egyptian unit of Lebanon’s Bank Audi, told sources familiar with the matter told Reuters on Wednesday.

The negotiations are still at an early stage, the sources said, speaking on conditions of anonymity because the matter is not public yet.

Bank Audi Egypt has grown from a three-branch operation acquired by Bank Audi in 2005 to 50 branches to date with total assets of $4.4 billion by the end of September, said chief financial officer Tamer Ghazaleh last week.

The Egyptian bank was a “very profitable operation” and had received interest from lenders, Ghazaleh added, when he told Reuters about Bank Audi’s intention to sell the unit.

Earlier this month, Bank Audi’s chief executive Samir Hanna held meetings with FAB’s group chief executive Abdulhamid Saeed to discuss the sale, and a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) had been signed, the sources further told Reuters.

Since heavy protests directed at Lebanon’s elite erupted on October 17, commercial banks have been partly blamed by demonstrators for causing the economic crisis, the worst in decades.

A dollar shortage has driven Lebanon’s commercial banks to impose strict caps on withdrawing dollars and a block on most transfers abroad, leaving Lebanese, many of whom are paid in dollars, strapped for cash.

FAB has recently named Mohamed Abbas Fayed as chief executive for its Egypt operation, hiring him from Bank Audi’s Egyptian unit, where he served as chief executive and managing director.