A view of the exterior of the Citibank Corporate headquarters in the Manhattan borough of New York City, May 20, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Segar
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Saudi Arabia and its ambitious reform plans are the focus of all the hype in Middle Eastern financial circles these days, but it's still in the United Arab Emirates where banks are earning most of their money. Investment banking fees paid to lenders in the UAE were 45 percent higher than in the kingdom last year, according to New York-based research firm Freeman & Co. Saudi Arabia has trailed the UAE for fees earned from merger and acquisitions, equity capital market and financing deals since 2011, and is off to a slower start this year, according to the data.Global banks are investing in Saudi Arabia in preparation for an expected fee bonanza. The bank's profit in Saudi Arabia rose to 279 million riyals ($74.4 million) in 2015, up from 229 million riyals a year earlier.Deutsche Bank AG has about 80 people in Saudi Arabia.Banks earned $237 million in investment banking fees in the UAE last year, compared with $164 million in Saudi Arabia, the Freeman data shows. Banks and advisers working on Saudi Arabia's $6 billion National Commercial Bank IPO, the world's second-largest IPO in 2014 after Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., received about $6.7 million in fees, or about 0.1 percent of the offering's value.
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