Malta-based Fimbank is set to double its equity after giving the Middle East-based Kipco Group a controlling interest.

Fimbank has agreed to let the investment holding firm, represented by Burgan Bank of Kuwait and United Gulf Bank of Bahrain, take over the 37% share held by its founders, the Al Massaleh family.

The bank’s president, Margrith Lütschg-Emmenegger, explains to GTR: “It is a majority shareholding but not a controlling interest. However, the next step that was also approved at the extraordinary general meeting was that the Kipco Group would do two convertible loans and undertake a rights issue, which altogether should give us between US$130mn and US$160mn more equity.

“Principally, over the next nine to 12 months, they will double our equity, which is obviously a very exciting situation for us. Not only will we get a shareholder which is rated three notches above investment rate, but also we’ll get substantially more equity and therefore we can grow much faster and be much stronger.”

She adds that the decision is subject to regulatory approval in Malta, Bahrain and Kuwait, but that Fimbank doesn’t foresee any problems there.

“Kuwait has approved in principle but we obviously want confirmation from all regulators so if there is more needed from Kuwait that will also be obtained before we proceed. In principle our regulator in Malta is welcoming this move, which makes a Maltese bank much stronger and safer, and even brings Malta on the map as it’s a substantial investment,” she says.

Fimbank chairman John Grech adds: “This is an important milestone for Fimbank, not least because it opens up new horizons and will allow us to expand and pursue opportunities which to date were effectively out of our reach.”