The United Arab Emirates’ biggest bank, First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB), is reportedly set to renew its efforts to acquire UK lender Standard Chartered.
According to Bloomberg, FAB is exploring a bid of around $30-35 billion, with backers including Abu Dhabi sovereign fund Mubadala Investment Co. and the emirate’s ruling Al Nahyan family. This would represent a significant premium over Standard Chartered’s current valuation of $24 billion.
The news comes a little over a month after FAB said that it had considered – and subsequently abandoned – a takeover attempt of Standard Chartered. UK and Hong Jong rules mean that FAB cannot make another bid within six months of the previous potential bid’s termination without the approval of Standard Chartered’s board.
Due to its relatively cheap price and exposure to fast-growing markets across Asia, Africa and the Middle East, Standard Chartered has been subject of much interest from players such as JPMorgan and Barclays. However, after a period of higher crude oil prices, banks in Abu Dhabi are now even wealthier than previously and are eyeing ways to regenerate its financial sector which has fallen behind other sectors in the city like energy and tourism.
This, combined with the historically weak position of the British pound, has made a takeover of Standard Chartered more attractive. The report adds that Wall Street veteran Ken Moelis is working closely with FAB and key members of Abu Dhabi’s ruling family on the deal, while other bankers have covertly been ‘shuttling’ between New York and Abu Dhabi.
The report however does note that a deal would be complicated by multiple regulatory hurdles and the differences in scale between the two banks – FAB is worth almost double Standard Chartered at $43 billion. The report says that FAB would consider delisting Standard Chartered from exchanges in Hong Kong and London while moving the merged bank’s headquarters from London to Abu Dhabi, but this would likely face major opposition in the UK.