First Abu Dhabi Bank
UAE's First Abu Dhabi Bank has confirmed talks with Israeli banks for potential cooperation while Emirates NBD is reportedly in talks with Bank Leumi of Israel. Image Credit: Gulf News archive

Dubai: The heads of Israel’s two biggest banks will travel to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) this month, the first such visits since the two countries agreed to normalise relations, Reuters reported on Sunday.

One delegation led by Bank Hapoalim will leave on Sept. 8 and visit Abu Dhabi and Dubai, where it will meet with government and trade officials as well as the heads of the largest banks in the UAE.

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According to Reuters Hapoalim CEO Dov Kotler on Sunday called it “a unique opportunity to establish economic relations and cooperation between our countries and their financial systems, which will yield economic growth for both parties.” He added there was an “immediate bilateral desire” to establish strong economic ties.

The chairman and CEO of Bank Leumi will head a second delegation on Sept. 14.

Bank Leumi said it hoped to build on the diplomatic accord by kick-starting cooperation in finance, technology, health, tourism, agriculture and industry.

Israel and the UAE announced in August they would normalise diplomatic ties and forge a broad new relationship in a U.S.-brokered deal. Last week, they agreed to set up a joint committee to cooperate on financial services, aiming to promote investment between the two countries.

UAE banks in partnership talks

First Abu Dhabi Bank, the UAE’s largest lender, said last week it would open discussions with Hapoalim and Leumi.

Earlier there were reports of potential business partnership between Dubai’s leading bank Emirates NBD and Bank Leumi of Israel, although Emirates NBD is yet to officially confirm the move.

Analysts expect, over the medium term, the infusion of Israeli foreign investment, human capital and intellectual property could support the development of the knowledge economy in the UAE. On the other hand Israel is also likely to benefit from the improving ties, particularly in sectors in which it can export expertise to the UAE such as IT, desalination technology, architecture, further medical cooperation and advanced agriculture.

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According to Israel’s Economy Ministry, the normalisation of ties could increase exports to the UAE to $300-$500 million annually (0.3%-0.4% of Israeli exports), and UAE investments in Israel could reach $350 million a year (1.9% of inbound foreign direct investment). Israel will also benefit from access to more secure oil supplies, Moody’s said in a recent note.