British bank Standard Chartered received approval from Saudi Arabia's regulator to start operations in the kingdom, the biggest banking market in the Arabian Gulf.
"The council of ministers' approval today of the Standard Chartered Bank to operate in the kingdom confirms the kingdom's position on the international map and reflects the strength of the growing Saudi economy," said a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency. No details about the services the lender will offer in the country were provided.
Standard Chartered is the latest among international lenders to establish presence in Saudi Arabia, the largest Arab economy and the world's biggest oil exporting country that has undertaken an economic over haul.
Standard Chartered started talks for getting a banking licence with Saudi regulators in 2017 as it looked to add the market to the list of more than 70 countries where it already operates. The bank already has a licence from the Capital Markets Authority to offer securities services in the country.
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Saudi Arabia’s push to transform its economy, and it's plans to sell stakes in state-owned entities including Saudi Aramco, the world’s biggest oil producing company, has opened up new business avenues for banks.
Last year, Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, who is driving the economic reforms of the country, said about 20 state-controlled companies will be privatised.
The kingdom, which relies heavily on the sale of hydrocarbons for revenues, has turned to debt markets in the wake of a three-year oil price slump, and a low interest rate environment, making it the most attractive market for advisory business for banks.
Only a handful of international banks such as JP Morgan, Deutsche Bank and BNP Paribas, have licences to operate in the kingdom. Others including HSBC have maintained presence through minority stakes in local lenders.
Largest Japanese lender Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Abu Dhabi’s FAB and Dubai's Emirates NBD are among other international banks that received licences to launch operations in Saudi Arabia.