Alokozay to buy Afghan institution

Alokozay Group, a little-known but major economic player in Afghanistan, is buying BRAC Bank in the latest shake-up in the country's banking sector.

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The Dubai conglomerate Alokozay Group is in the final stages of acquiring Afghanistan'sBrac Bank as it seeks to take a major step into the financial sector.

Brac Bank, founded in 2006, is owned by the non-governmental organisation Brac, which works to alleviate poverty, the International Finance Corporation, Triodos Bank of the Netherlands and the US non-profit company ShoreCap International. Brac Bank focuses on small and medium-sized enterprises and has lent more than US$35 million (Dh128.5m) to 6,000 companies, according to its website.

Jalil Alokozay, the chief executive of Alokozay Group, confirmed the transaction but declined to comment about the details, saying only that he saw "great potential" in the Afghan banking sector.

Najia Sherzad, the treasury manager of Brac Bank, said yesterday details of Alokozay's acquisition of the bank were "confidential".

Any deal would be announced after the Alokozay Group was given authorisation to buy the bank, she said.

Alokozay Group, founded by Abdul Rehman Alokozay and with headquarters in Dubai's Jebel Ali Free Zone, is not well known but is thought to be a major economic player in Afghanistan.

This week it struck a $60m deal to produce and distribute PepsiCo products in Afghanistan. The company is building a plant, which is expected to come into operation next March.

Alokozay Group, which says it has 5,000 employees, is also involved in property development in Afghanistan, logistics, petroleum and the distribution of consumer products. It is the sole distributor of Esse cigarettes, made by the South Korean company KT&G.

Afghanistan's financial world was shaken last year by revelations of insider dealing and improper loans at Kabul Bank, the country's largest lender. It handles most of the payroll for soldiers, police officers and teachers.

There is speculation that an investor or group of investors may take over part of Kabul Bank. International organisations have put pressure on Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, to put the bank into receivership.

The bank lent as much as $850m, or 94 per cent of its total assets, to shareholders and politically connected people, according to a report from the inspector general of the US Agency for International Development.