Doha Bank, Centrum in tie-up to scale up ops in India, Gulf

Doha Bank will use Centrum's expertise to expand its footprint in India and Centrum will leverage the banks network and strengths in GCC countries

Doha Bank, one of the largest commercial banks in Qatar, and Mumbai-based Centrum Group have signed a strategic tie-up to leverage each other’s network and scale up their respective operations in India and GCC countries in the areas of banking, wealth management and foreign exchange.

GCC refers to the Gulf Cooperation Council, a political and economic alliance of six West Asian countries—Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman.

The memorandum of understanding, or MoU, will enable a mutually beneficial collaboration wherein Doha Bank will use Centrum’s expertise to expand its footprint in India and Centrum will leverage the Qatar partner’s existing network and strengths to scale up its presence in the GCC countries, a Centrum statement said.

Asked whether this alliance is a prelude to an equity alliance, Jaspal Bindra, chairman of Centrum Group, declined to comment. “The alliance with Doha Bank will enable us to offer our services to international corporate clients as well as non-resident Indians (NRIs) based in GCC countries. Doha Bank can leverage our extensive high networth Indians and corporate client base to expand their operations here," said Bindra.

R. Seetharaman, group chief executive officer of Doha Bank, said the bank has recently launched a second branch in India and is keen to venture into the areas of wealth management and investment banking.

“We believe this partnership will enable us to introduce our prolific bouquet of products in India and, at the same time, give our GCC clients the opportunity of investing in Indian markets and being a part of the India growth story," Seetharaman said.

An email sent to Seetharaman enquiring about a potential equity investment in Centrum went unanswered.

The tie-up with Doha Bank comes just a few months after a major top management change at Centrum.

Bindra, a former Asia-Pacific CEO of Standard Chartered Bank, joined Centrum in April this year as its chairman, replacing Chandir Gidwani, who will continue to be the main promoter. Gidwani has divested around 25% of his personal holdings in the group he set up over 20 years ago to Bindra, who has spent three decades working at various global financial institutions, reported PTI.

The Centrum Group, set up in 1995 by Gidwani and Khushrooh Byramjee, has 125 branches spanning 48 cities and offers integrated financial services to corporate and retail clients with its investment banking (equity and debt), wealth management, institutional broking and forex services, serving over one million customers. The group also has a non-banking financial company for retail lending and has applied to the National Housing Bank for a licence to enter into housing finance.

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