UniCredit has opened a new corporate and investment banking (CIB) branch in Abu Dhabi to better service its European clients doing business in the GCC region.

The branch upgrades the bank’s local representative office, which was first established in 2001. Its new operations will be based in the Abu Dhabi Global Market financial free zone and initially focus on transaction banking and financing, predominantly in euro and US dollar.

UniCredit says in a statement the branch is intended to act as a hub for its activities in the GCC as well as the wider Middle East and Africa (MEA) region. It will deliver increased support to the bank’s European clients, as well as support local and regional companies, financial institutions and sovereign wealth funds.

The new offering, the bank adds, will “build on the well-established business with MEA counterparties, whom the bank has supported on transactions valued in the region of €6.5bn in 2016”.

UniCredit sees good growth opportunities in the region, emphasising the fact that the GCC is the fifth-largest export market for the EU and that it is increasing its position as a key emerging markets trade hub for Asia and Africa.

“The GCC represents an important destination for UniCredit’s clients, with more than 1,000 European organisations already established in the market operating in industries critical to the GCC’s development such as trading, manufacturing, construction, utilities and oil and gas,” says Jean Pierre Mustier, UniCredit’s CEO. “These market characteristics, combined with a knowledge of the region built on our long-term presence in Abu Dhabi will allow UniCredit to capitalise on opportunities for our customers.”

UniCredit will offer commercial lending products including working capital and term loans, commodity trade finance and structured loans. In transaction banking, the bank will provide documentary credits (import and export letter of credit), documentary collections, guarantees and cash management services.

Markets activities will be performed mainly from Milan and London.

The branch will be led by Yahia El Assadi, head of MEA and Abu Dhabi branch manager. He will report directly to the co-heads of UniCredit corporate and investment banking, Olivier Khayat and Gianfranco Bisagni.