30 May 2016* First new bank opening in Abu Dhabi's financial free zone
* ADFG raises stake in GFH to 11.74 pct from 10 pct
* ADFG sees assets doubling in 2016, trebling by 2020
By Stanley Carvalho
ABU DHABI, May 30 (Reuters) - Abu Dhabi Financial Group (ADFG) and Bahrain's GFH Financial Group are jointly setting up an Islamic bank in Abu Dhabi's new financial free zone with initial capital of $100 million, ADFG's chief executive told Reuters on Monday.
Privately-owned investment management firm ADFG and GFH have received preliminary approval to launch the bank at Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM), the second financial free zone in the United Arab Emirates after the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC).
It will be the first new bank set up at the recently-launched ADGM, which has so far attracted Aberdeen Asset Management and Macquarie Capital to open offices.
"The bank will be opening very soon, it will be run as a commercial bank accepting offshore deposits and dealing in dollars," ADFG Chief Executive Jassim Alseddiqi told Reuters in an interview.
He added ADFG plans to have its own presence in the financial free zone, declining to give further details.
ADFG recently raised its stake to 11.74 percent in Islamic investment bank GFH from 10 percent, and Alseddiqi said the two firms were seeking other joint opportunities.
ADFG is best known outside the emirate for its 370 million pound ($541 million) purchase in December 2014 of New Scotland Yard, the former headquarters of London's Metropolitan Police, as well as developing luxury flats at a plot next to Buckingham Palace in the British capital.
The firm, which has built up $3.5 billion of assets under management since it was set up in 2010, sees this figure doubling by the end of 2016 and trebling by 2020, according to Alseddiqi, as it pursues a number of new investments.
"There are several deals (real estate and financial services) in the pipeline we are working on, as when activities slow, we thrive," he said, adding, "expect the second half of 2016 to be more active".
The firm is eyeing acquisitions at home as well as abroad, including in eastern Europe where it already has investments. But it has no specific investment target in terms of value.
"We have the firepower. If we find opportunities for $2 billion we will invest, but if we don't find (anything), it will be zero investment," he said.
ADFG's capital markets arm, Integrated Capital, which acted as co-lead in the $500 million bond issued by Etihad Partners last week, will play a similar role on an upcoming regional sukuk offering for a financial group, Alseddiqi said, declining to name the firm as it is a listed entity. ($1 = 0.6839 pounds) (Editing by David French and Adrian Croft)
© Reuters 2016