[WATCH] Banif Malta to be sold to Qatari billionaire royal’s company Al Faisal Holding

Reported book value of Portuguese’s bank’s Malta subsidiary tagged at €18.4 million

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani at Auberge de Castille
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani at Auberge de Castille
Al Faisal Holding acquires Banif Bank (Malta) • Video by Chris Mangion

Banif Bank Portugal is to sell its 78.5% stake in Banif Bank Malta to a private Qatari investment group, the Al Faisal group.

The news was confirmed in a press statement at Auberge de Castille, addressed by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Sheikh Faisal Qassim Al Thani.

Al Faisal Holding is one of Qatar’s leading private companies, having played a significant role in the development of the Qatar economy and infrastructure attracting many foreign investments and creating immense career opportunities.

Its chairman is Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani, who has a net worth of at least $2.2 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Al Faisal group completed the acquisition of the 78.46% stake from Oitante, S.A., following receipt of regulatory approval by the European Central Bank and the Malta Financial Services Authority. 

Sheik Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani
Sheik Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani

The remaining 21.52% of Banif Bank (Malta)’s shares are held equally by four Maltese shareholders.  AFII will appoint three Non-Executive Directors to the Bank’s 11 person Board.

In his address aided by a translator, the Sheikh praised the government for the support given, noting that it was “the welcoming nature of the Maltese” that convinced the Group to carry out its first European financial investment in Malta.

“We are quite sure that Malta will take on a very strong position in the market,” Al Thani said, adding that the Group intended to continue expanding its investment in Malta.

The bank acquisition was green lighted by the European Central Bank after Al Faisal Holding carried out a rigorous due diligence of the bank.

Muscat, who described the group’s vision as being in sync with the government’s business strategy, said Malta was on the path to opening new avenues of investment attraction from the Gulf Region.

The Prime Minister went on to point out the ‘platform’ given to Malta by the investment carried out by the Al Thani family – one of the strongest families in the Gulf Region and the world. Al Thani is part of Qatar’s ruling family, whose royalty income is generated by oil and gas sales before trickling down through government spending and subsidies that encourage foreign investment and trade.

The investment in the private sector, Muscat said, was made possible thanks to the input of the Chamber of Commerce, Economy Minister Chris Cardona and his chief of staff, Keith Schembri. Once again, the Prime Minister noted that his right-hand man “made sure that things get done on time”.

Banif Bank was forced to put all its foreign investments up for sale after it benefited from an EU bailout in 2013, setting 2017 deadline for selling its majority stake in its Maltese bank. 

“The outcome of this sale transaction will take place after all the conditions set out in the contractual documentation signed in December 2015 and subsequently amended in June 2016, are verified, including obtaining authorisation by the Directorate General for Competition of the European Commission and the European Central Bank,” a press statement read.

Banif Bank Malta made a profit of €1.5 million before tax in 2015, and has around 150 employees. Maltese minority shareholders will be retaining their shares. 

The sale of the bank will ensure that a state corporation created to absorb Banif’s assets and liabilities, is repaid a €5 million subordinated loan. “This operation allows the capitalisation of Banif Malta with a view to strengthening prudential requirements, as well as creating conditions for the sustainability of this entity and therefore the preservation of jobs,” Oitante – a Portuguese Central Bank entity to support credit institutions – said.

The sale amount has not been disclosed.

But on 18 December 2015, Banif – which at the time was led by George Thomas – informed the Portuguese Securities Market Commission (CMVM) that it had reached an agreement with an unidentified entity to dispose Banif Bank (Malta) at its book value of €18.4 million.

It was back in June 2016 during one of the hearings of a Portuguese parliamentary commission of inquiry that Banif’s former president Jorge Tomé revealed the buyer’s name was the Al Faisal Group of Qatar.

On 20 December 2015, the Portuguese government and the Bank of Portugal announced a resolution that Banif – Banco Internacional do Funchal, would sell part of its operation Santander for €150 million, and the transfer of toxic assets it held into a special purpose vehicle.