Dubai’s Mashreq Bank could sell its payments business – and it may not be the only one

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Deliberations are ongoing and no final decision has yet been made, according to the people. Representatives of Mashreq and Goldman Sachs declined to comment.

Traditional lenders are increasingly putting their payment processors on the block against competition from non-bank practitioners. In Europe, Banco de Sabadell SA and Italy’s BPER Banca SpA have explored deals for similar ventures, Bloomberg previously reported.

The Middle East could be the “next frontier” for mergers and acquisitions in a consolidating industry, according to McKinsey & Co.

Meanwhile, private equity groups have emerged as major investors in payments businesses by bringing the financial clout and technological prowess needed to gain momentum in a market recently disrupted by the pandemic.

Mashreq competitors have already capitalized on the interest.

First Abu Dhabi Bank is in talks with Brookfield Asset Management to sell its payment unit called Magnati. In 2015, Warburg Pincus and General Atlantic bought a stake in Network International Holdings, a payments provider backed by Emirates NBD Bank PJSC, before listing the company in London less than four years later.

Mashreq has recently turned to digital banking in an effort to fend off non-traditional financial services startups. It is one of the oldest banks in the United Arab Emirates, with origins dating back to 1967, four years before the founding of the country.

The bank has reduced its branch network in the United Arab Emirates. Mashreq CEO Ahmed Abdelaal predicted that traditional sites “will cease to exist very soon”.

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