Merrill Lynch to Expand in Middle East, Thain Says (Update1)

By Arif Sharif


Oct. 20 (Bloomberg) — Merrill Lynch & Co. is aiming to boost its Middle East business even as it expects the region’s economic growth to slow because of the global credit crisis and a U.S. recession, Chief Executive Officer John Thain said.

The U.S. investment bank, being taken over by Bank of America Corp., is “committed” to expanding its wealth management, investment banking, sales and trading activities and has applied for licenses to enter Qatar and Kuwait, Thain, 53, told a news conference in Dubai today. “We have consistently said, we see opportunities in Brazil, Russia, India, China and the Middle East,” he added.

Global investment banks including Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley have expanded their Middle East offices in the past three years to tap into rising wealth and rapid economic growth. Merrill’s main business in the region is wealth management although it has expanded its investment banking unit and was one of four managers of port operator DP World Ltd.‘s record initial share sale in November.

Merrill Lynch recently added five new financial advisers to its wealth management unit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and expects to begin operations in Qatar and Kuwait before the end of the year, Fares D. Noujaim, Merrill’s president for the Middle East and North Africa, told the conference.

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