Commercial Bank Group has committed to put in another $300mn of capital to “support the growth and development” of its 100%-owned subsidiary, Alternatif Bank in Turkey, CEO Joseph Abraham has said.
“Already, our investment in Alternatif Bank that amounts to nearly $1bn marks the Qatari private sector’s highest investment in Turkey,” Abraham told Gulf Times in an interview at the Four Seasons Bosphorus in Istanbul.
“We are confident that our investment in Turkey will continue growing and add value to the economy of both our countries. Alternatif Bank has the full support of Commercial Bank and we have made a lot of progress in the last year in terms of greater collaboration and integration.
“Our intention is to continue to align our businesses closer together and transfer our international know-how to take Alternatif Bank to a new phase of sustainable growth supported by strong corporate governance principles.”
Abraham said, “This is a logical follow up to our taking over 100% ownership of the bank, which happened in late 2016. Commercial Bank became the majority shareholder of the bank with 75% ownership in 2013. Following the share transfer of 2016, we became the sole owner of Alternatif Bank.”
He said, "Turkey and Qatar enjoy a close strategic relationship with economic ties growing ever stronger. The opportunities for trade and investment flows between Qatar and Turkey have increased significantly and Commercial Bank and Alternatif Bank are the natural conduits for that.
“We have already put in place a new management team; we are very happy to have experienced professionals like Kaan Gur and other board directors, who are leading practitioners of the banking and corporate world. We believe this team will help to take Alternatif Bank to the next stage. The branding brings into focus the full ownership by Commercial Bank, and also a commitment and the launch of a new era.”
On Qatar-Turkey bilateral relationship, Abraham said, “We see trade and investment flows increasing as Qatar continues to diversify and build its economy and infrastructure, especially in view of the FIFA World Cup 2022. Turkey has a lot of capabilities and expertise in agriculture and industry. So, there is a great opportunity for Turkish companies to come (to Qatar). In fact, we hosted a Turkish delegation some three weeks ago. About 80 Turkish businesses came… and they were all signing contracts.”
Abraham noted, “Commercial Bank in Qatar and Alternatif Bank in Turkey are very well established players and we will be the natural conduits to encourage trade and investment flows. And similarly, we will see Qatari investments going into Turkey. We should be the natural conduit for that too.”
Asked about the focus areas for the rebranded Alternatif Bank, the Group CEO said, “Alternatif Bank has all-round capabilities, but obviously, it will be focusing initially on what we call “commercial plans”. We see a lot of opportunities for growth, especially on the corporate side. Turkey has a large and diverse economy with a significant number of Turkish companies looking to export even as they have banking needs. We believe we can effectively serve them.”
He emphasised that the “relationship between Turkey and Qatar has grown even stronger” following the blockade. And therefore, he said, there are tremendous opportunities on the business side.
“And having well-established banks on both sides will be a benefit for our customers, both in Qatar and Turkey,” Abraham said.
On the prospects of Alternatif Bank expanding and growing beyond Turkey, he said, “At this stage, we are focusing on Turkey. This is because, there is enough potential for Alternatif Bank to grow and develop in Turkey. Once it reaches a certain stage of maturity, we can possibly look at other opportunities. Right now, the opportunities are so great here, we remain focused on Turkey. Turkey has a bright future ahead, with huge potential for economic growth in the mid to long term.”
On the Alternatif Bank roadmap, Abraham said, “We have a strategic roadmap. This is what the new management team has actually developed and been approved. This shows that we will continue to invest.
“We are committing additional $300mn of capital to support Alternatif Bank’s growth and development, which is envisaged in the five-year strategic plan. So, we should be seeing a lot of significant growth and development of the Alternatif Bank business,” Abraham added.
Commercial Bank Group CEO Joseph Abraham