* Plans to expand presence in Qatar * Sees more sukuk issuances in 2011 and 2012 * Expects growth in Middle East business
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DOHA, Feb 8 (Reuters) - Citigroup (C.N) plans to beef up its operations in Qatar as the U.S. bank seeks to tap into the tiny Gulf Arab state’s rapid economic growth and immense wealth, a top executive said.
Foreign investors have scrambled to set up shop in Qatar -- the best performing Gulf Arab stock market in 2010 with a 25 percent gain -- lured by the Gulf state’s growth prospects.
“Qatar is uniquely positioned with the amount of liquidity, to tap opportunities,” said Alberto Verme, Citi’s chief executive for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA).
The executive, however, did not specify if the bank plans to hire new employees or open new branches in Qatar.
Verme, a Peruvian national who was previously Citi’s co-head of investment banking, said he expects further developments in local capital markets in the region and forecast sale of Islamic bonds to increase in 2011 and 2012.
“We have seen great interest from investors, as well as issuers. We see more companies in the region using that to diversify their funding source, both local and international,” he said on the sidelines of a conference in Doha.
While Verme declined to specify details about the bank’s business in Middle East, the executive said he expected the business to grow.
“When we highlight growth areas in the world, the Middle East is an area where you will see more coming from Citi,” he said.
A steep drop in bond trading revenue pushed Citigroup Inc’s (C.N) fourth-quarter profit far below expectations in January, casting doubt over Chief Executive Vikram Pandit’s claim that the bank had “turned the corner.” [ID:nN18118584] (Reporting by Regan E Doherty, Writing by Dinesh Nair, Editing by Reed Stevenson)