Mar 27, 2023
Saudi National Bank Chairman Resigns After Credit Suisse Comment
Ammar Al Khudairy, the chairman of Credit Suisse Group AG’s largest shareholder, has resigned just days after his comments helped trigger a slump in the stock and bonds that prompted the Swiss government to step in and arrange its takeover.
Al Khudairy, who became chairman of Saudi National Bank in 2021 when it was created via a merger of National Commercial Bank and Samba Financial Group, is leaving “due to personal reasons,” according to a statement on Monday.
His departure comes twelve days after he said in a Bloomberg TV interview that Saudi National Bank would “absolutely not” be open to further investments in Credit Suisse if there was another call for additional liquidity.
The Swiss bank’s stock plunged to the lowest level on record and its credit spreads surged following his comments. That helped drag all European banks lower as investors shied away from risk following the collapse of three lenders in the US.
“The SNB Chairman was a victim of giving his honest opinion at such a tense time for Credit Suisse,” said Mohammed Ali Yasin, capital markets specialist and investment advisor. “In hindsight, seeing the buyout rate of CS by UBS, his answer was the right course of action: awaiting for the crisis to be clearer.”
In the days after his comments to Bloomberg TV, Al Khudairy sought to calm the market, telling CNBC that the panic surrounding Credit Suisse’s share slide was “completely unwarranted.”
While his remarks were consistent with the Saudi firm’s previous stance, Al Khudairy’s remarks were largely seen as the tipping point for Credit Suisse’s chances of survival. Days later, UBS Group AG agreed to buy Credit Suisse in a historic, government-brokered deal aimed at containing a crisis of confidence that had started to spread across global financial markets. UBS offered to pay 3 billion francs ($3.3 billion) for its rival in an all-share deal that includes extensive government guarantees and liquidity provisions.
Saudi National Bank, which is 37% owned by the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund, saw the value of its investment in Credit Suisse plummet by about $1 billion in a matter of months after it acquired a roughly 9.9% stake for 1.4 billion francs last year. During that time, shares in Saudi National Bank had slumped by about a third, wiping more than $25 billion off its market value before Credit Suisse’s deal with UBS. The stock was trading up 1% in Riyadh on Monday.
Al Khudairy said in October that he “likes” Credit Suisse’s new leadership and their resolve to execute on its turnaround plan, but that any additional equity for the moment was “out of the question.”
Middle East Backing
Deep-pocketed Middle Eastern investors have been backing global banks such as Credit Suisse for many years. During the financial crisis, sovereign funds in Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Kuwait plowed about $69 billion into firms such as Barclays Plc, Merrill Lynch and Citigroup Inc., according to boutique adviser and data firm Global SWF.
The most recent losses on Credit Suisse are a stark reminder of a series of investments made by Gulf investors during the 2008 financial crisis - many of which ended in financial loss or legal battles. Regional investors are becoming more cautious of making fresh investments in global banks after emerging as some of the hardest hit in the Credit Suisse crisis.
Born in 1963, Al Khudairy spent his career in Saudi Arabia’s financial sector running some of the kingdom’s top institutions. He’d been chairman of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley in Saudi Arabia.
Al Khudairy also founded alternative assets management business Amwal AlKhaleej and Amwal Capital Partners, based in Riyadh and Dubai.
He will be replaced by SNB Chief Executive Officer Saeed Mohammed Al Ghamdi. The bank also appointed Talal Ahmed Al Khereiji as acting CEO. He was previously deputy CEO and head of wholesale banking at the Saudi lender.
--With assistance from Dana Khraiche.
(Adds comment and details on Al Khudairy throughout.)
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