Doha Bank to open 1st branch in India

MUMBAI: The second largest Qatari lender Doha Bank will be opening its first branch in India here next month and has set a target of USD 5-billion balance-sheet by the third year of operations.
The Qatari lender is the third Arab lender to have operations in the country after Bank of Bahrain and, Kuwait and Abu Dhabi Bank.
“We got the permission from the Reserve Bank to open the branch last December, and we will be launching the operations as early as next month as a full-fledged bank,” Doha Bank Group Chief Executive R Sitharaman told PTI here today.
Doha Bank already runs a brokerage in the country (Doha Brokerage) with 41 per cent stake, the rest of the holding being held by local brokers of Kochi. Sitharaman said the bank has no plan to scale it up, nor does it have any exit plans.
When asked about whether the bank is ready for incorporation as a local subsidiary once operations reach a critical scale, he said, “We have no issues with RBI norms of becoming a wholly-owned subsidiary”.
On what could be the differentiation for his bank, as there are close to 50 foreign banks in the country, Sitharaman said differentiated pricing and focused corporate banking will be the focus.
When asked how much he will be investing in the branch, he said capital won’t be any constraint and whatever is the minimum required amount (which is USD 25 million) will be brought in as the parent bank has deep pockets and high tier I capital (16 per cent).
Sitharaman said he would finalise the location for the branch in the tony south Mumbai CBD Nariman Point and it will be a 50-people branch to begin with, offering retail and corporate banking solutions with emphasis on off-branch banking.
Stating that his objective is to be profitable by the end of first year of operations, he said, already the bank has an asset of over USD 1 billion to domestic corporates by way trade finance and the target is to have a USD 5-billion balance-sheet by the end of the third year.
Doha Bank nets 17 per cent of its business from overseas operations and is a major player in the remittances market to the country with Rs 8,000 crore in volume last year.
About expansion plan, he said, “Our next branch will be Kerala, considering our long association with that market,” but added that since foreign bank licences come as bilateral reciprocity, it depends on when the RBI allows it to open the next branch.
Qatari government holds 16 per cent stake in the bank and the bank has a market capitalisation of USD 5 billion and an asset of USD18.4 billion as of December 2013 (loan book of USD 11.3 billion and deposits of USD 11.7 billion).
Doha Bank has branches in Kuwait, Dubai and Abu Dhabi and representative offices in Singapore, Turkey, Japan, China, Britain, Canada, Germany, Australia, Hong Kong, South Korea and Sharjah. —PTI