India's Axis Bank seeks Gulf expansion with branch in Sharjah

Axis Bank, India’s third largest private bank by assets, is aiming to open branches in Sharjah and Bahrain by March next year as part of plans of increasing its presence in the Arabian Gulf region, a senior executive said.

Axis Bank has nine overseas offices: branches at Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai-DIFC, Shanghai and Colombo; representative offices in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Dhaka; and an overseas subsidiary in London.

The lender wants to have a representative office in Sharjah and an office in Bahrain during the next financial year, from April to March next year.

“Sharjah has traditionally been a hub for NRIs [non-resident Indians] and has proximity to Dubai,” said Rajiv Anand, Axis Bank’s group executive and head of retail banking. “Bahrain has always been a very vibrant offshore banking centre, so for us to have a booking centre there for assets and therefore for liabilities as well makes sense.”

Axis Bank primarily serves Indian corporates and NRIs doing business in the Gulf region and would like to have a full branch in Dubai, but the number of lic­ences offered by the Central Bank for branches is limited, he said.

Remittances form a big part of its business and it had a 26 per cent compound annual growth rate of remittance volumes from the UAE over the past three years.

“Assuming the local economies here in the GCC are not impacted by the fall in oil prices, I do believe remittances should continue to be strong,” said Mr Anand.

The bank is also considering entry into East Africa in the next 18 to 24 months to tap the business links between Africa and India. Axis Bank works there through partnerships.

“In East Africa, there is a strong relationship with India and there is a large presence of Indian corporates in that area or NRIs within that space,” said Mr Anand.

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