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Doha, Jun 14:  Keen to enter the booming Qatari market, India's Bank of Baroda (BoB) said yesterday it was studying all possible options to set up a full-fledged branch here.

Two of the bank's top officials were here on a brief visit on Monday and called upon the Governor of the Qatar Central Bank (QCB).

"We are only on an exploratory visit. A team from BoB will be here shortly to study the various options to set up operations locally," Dr Anil Khandelwal, BoB's Chairman and Managing Director, told reporters here last evening.

With him was V J Santhanam, Chief Executive of BoB's UAE and Oman operations. Asked about the options, Khandelwal said, one way to seek entry is through the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC), while the other option is to have an alliance with a local bank or finally, apply for a licence from the QCB for independent operations.

All these options are open and a BoB team will study each of them in detail, he said. BoB is India's fourth largest bank in terms of turnover. Its business stands at a whopping $35bn and net profits last fiscal totaled $188m. It has 27 million customers and 40,000 staff.

BoB has 2,700 branches all over India and some 59 spread across 20 countries around the world. Over the next three years, 10 more countries will be added to the bank's expanding overseas network, disclosed Khandelwal.

BoB is the only Indian bank to have so many overseas branches. It first established operations overseas in 1953 in Mombassa, Kenya. BoB entered the GCC in 1974 by setting up a branch in Dubai. Today, it has six branches in the UAE.

In Oman, the bank has three branches.

"Qatar is a happening place in the GCC and a lot of Indian corporates are coming here. We want our presence here to provide synergy," said the BoB chief.

BoB, according to Khandelwal, can act as an economic bridge between India and Qatar since trade ties between the two countries are growing at a rapid pace.

From Dubai, BoB has already provided project financing to Larsen & Toubro (L&T) for a project in Qatar, said Santhanam.

Asked if he had already identified any local bank for a possible tie-up, Khandelwal replied in the negative, but said he had met R Seetharaman of Doha Bank. It was a courtesy call, he maintained. 


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