Riyadh: Saudi Arabia's NCB Capital, the investment arm of the kingdom's biggest bank by assets, plans to launch four investment funds this year and target up to 15 per cent growth in assets under management, its chief executive said.
Jawdat Al Halabi said the National Commercial Bank unit, which has 44 billion Saudi riyals (Dh43 billion) in assets under management, will launch the funds in the second half of the year, with two aimed at foreign markets and two domestically focused.
"We will launch two new [international] funds... a mix between equities, commodities and sukuk. The initial target for these two open-ended funds would be around $30 million (Dh110.1 million) each and we hope we can raise more," Al Halabi told Reuters.
The domestic funds will invest in small- and medium-sized businesses in the kingdom, the world's biggest crude exporter, as well as real estate. Saudi Arabia has pledged to spend 250 billion riyals on building 500,000 new homes as part of a wider social package unveiled last year.
NCB Capital, which describes itself as the largest wealth and asset manager in Saudi Arabia, is aiming to boost assets under management sharply in 2012.
"We have ambitious growth targets, I would like us to grow [our assets under management] by 10 to 15 per cent this year," Al Halabi said.
Last week, NCB Capital linked up with French-owned asset managers TCW and Amundi to manage seven of its foreign funds, which currently hold assets totalling some $550 million.
Al Halabi said the alliance was a "perfect match" and would help the Saudi company spread its Islamic products in global markets and enable it to tap global markets as they recover.
"In Europe and the US there is a significant Muslim population and there is a fast growing demand [for Islamic products]," he said.
NCB Capital is helping arrange two domestic initial public offerings on the Saudi market this year, Al Halabi said, though he declined to give details except that they would be "small to medium in size".
In 2011, the Saudi bourse saw five IPOs but values were tiny in comparison to telecom operator Zain Saudi's 2008 debut, which raised 17.8 billion riyals.
The Saudi stock exchange is the largest market in the Middle East, with around 150 listed companies valued at $337 billion, dwarfing the Dubai bourse's $28.5 billion and Qatar's $97 billion, according to Thomson Reuters data.
Al Halabi said there is a strong demand for sukuk issuances in the kingdom and that NCB is keen to tap this market to boost its wealth management platform.
"There is a need for more sukuk issuances; the market is developing but still very nascent. This is an area we have a lot of interest in... to support our wealth management portfolios. The demand is more on the project side," he said referring to the need to finance huge investment in infrastructure and development projects.
Saudi Arabia announced a budget of 690 billion riyals for this year as it seeks to boost education, health and infrastructure, partly in response to the uprisings seen in other parts in the Middle East.