(Adds detail, context)
By Hadeel Al Sayegh, Saeed Azhar and Tom Arnold
DUBAI, March 8 French bank Credit Agricole
has picked JPMorgan to advise it on a
potential sale of its 31 percent stake in Banque Saudi Fransi
, valued at nearly $2.4 billion, sources familiar with
the deal said.
Credit Agricole has been selling assets and pulling out of
markets such as Greece to meet post-crisis regulations and
combat tougher economic conditions, while focusing on activities
in France and Italy.
The bank's chief executive Philippe Brassac has left room
for acquisitions for its asset manager Amundi but has said
Credit Agricole may further streamline its presence in other
countries if opportunities arise.
The French lender's move comes as banks around the world are
shedding minority stakes in other banks as new global rules mean
they now have to hold more capital against those holdings.
The sale would be an opportunity for a foreign buyer to gain
a foothold in the kingdom's banking sector, in which 12
commercial lenders share total assets worth around 2.22 trillion
riyals ($592 billion).
Banque Saudi Fransi, the kingdom's fourth largest bank by
assets, is among at least six banks that pitched for an advisory
role on the local mandate for Saudi oil giant Aramco's
IPO-ARMO.SE planned initial public share offering in the
kingdom, sources told Reuters last month.
This is the second potential sale of a lender in recent
months in Saudi Arabia.
Royal Bank of Scotland is seeking to sell its 40
percent stake in Alawwal Bank, previously called Saudi
Hollandi Bank, potentially a deal worth around $1.2 billion,
Reuters reported late last year.
Credit Agricole and Banque Saudi Fransi declined to comment,
while JPMorgan was not immediately available to comment.
The sources declined to be identified because the details of
the deal are not public.
Bloomberg earlier reported that Credit Agricole was weighing
the sale of its stake in the Saudi lender.
($1 = 3.7503 riyals)
(Additional reporting by Maya Nikolaeva in Paris; Editing by
Jason Neely and Alexander Smith)