Citigroup says Middle East driver of growth as Europe slows

Investment bank is working on about seven M&A deals in the Middle East and North Africa

Citigroup believes this region will take up the slack as Europe falters. Reuters
Citigroup believes this region will take up the slack as Europe falters. Reuters

Citigroup’s Ray McGuire, who was promoted to vice chairman last year, said the Middle East will continue to be a “driver of growth” as deals slow across Europe.

The bank was among the financial institutions selected by Saudi Aramco in a landmark bond sale to fund the acquisition of petrochemical giant Sabic, people with knowledge of the matter have said. The $69.1 billion transaction, the Middle East’s largest, “gives us confidence that the activity is there, so we expect to see continued investment out of the Middle East”, Mr McGuire said.

Global deal makers have been concerned about a slowdown in large takeovers, with many banks staffing up to work on smaller transactions. In Europe, political uncertainties such as Brexit have slowed the pace of acquisitions. Mr McGuire also cited changes in leadership in top governing bodies such as the Bank of England.

“You still see a large pool of capital in Europe. It’s just that people are being really disciplined in how they deploy their capital,” Mr McGuire said. “Having said that, Europe remains a critical geography when it comes to capital flows.”

Citigroup is working on about seven M&A deals in the Middle East and North Africa as a rebound in oil prices pushes transactions to record levels.

The deals are “mainly in Saudi Arabia and the UAE", said Naveed Kamal, the head of corporate banking in Mena. “Depending on how many of those are successful, it could be one of the best years for us; it could also be one of the best years for the market.”

Some of transactions are “sizeable” and involve companies looking at acquisitions outside the region to build networks and diversify geographically, Mr Kamal said. “Fundamentally, the increase in M&A activity is a sign of renewed confidence in the business environment.”

Acquisitions involving targets in Mena are already at their highest level for at least six years, as far back as data compiled by Bloomberg goes. An increase of about 30 per cent in oil prices since the start of the year is helping.

Citigroup is the sixth-most active M&A adviser in the Mena region over the past 12 months, according to Bloomberg League Tables, a list led by Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs. Citigroup’s deals over the past year have also included working with Baker Hughes’ in its purchase of a 5 per cent stake in Adnoc's drilling unit, according to the data.

Updated: April 30, 2019 12:48 PM

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