Kuwait, London

Kuwait Finance House is considering offering a premium of about 35 per cent to buy Bahrain’s Ahli United Bank in a share swap deal that could create the Gulf’s sixth-biggest lender with $92 billion of assets.

The Kuwaiti lender may offer one share for every 2.1 in Ahli United Bank, sources familiar with the matter said. That would value the deal at about $8 billion, according Bloomberg calculations.

The premium is based on the companies’ closing share prices on Wednesday. Ahli United Bank has advanced about 11 per cent since the banks started talks in July, while Kuwait Finance House has gained around 0.5 per cent. The Bahraini bank may not accept the offer and the final terms of the deal could change, the people said.

Lower oil prices over the past four years are forcing Gulf lenders to consolidate for scale and to better compete in a crowded market. Subdued credit growth, a squeeze on deposits, higher cost of funds and deteriorating asset qualities are driving consolidation in the regional banking sector. Three of Abu Dhabi’s state-linked banks are in talks to combine, while Saudi Arabia’s National Commercial Bank and Riyad Bank are exploring a merger.

When asked for comment, Kuwait Finance House said it has already made a disclosure and referred to its statement on January 22. Kuwait Finance House and Ahli United Bank in July said they’d started renewed discussions for a potential merger. Initial talks between the banks faltered over price, people familiar with the matter said last January.