By Saeed Azhar, Hadeel Al Sayegh and Katie Paul
RIYADH (Reuters) - Citigroup <C.N> wants to hire up to 20 bankers in Saudi Arabia, where it plans to formally begin operations in the first quarter after obtaining an investment banking license in the kingdom, a senior executive said.Saudi Arabia's economic reform program would create investment banking opportunities through privatizations and by encouraging more savings by the population, Carmen Haddad, chief executive officer of Citi Saudi Arabia, told Reuters
The bank obtained a license in April to conduct capital markets business in Saudi Arabia, a move enabling Citigroup to return to the kingdom to offer banking services after an absence of almost 13 years.
More than a dozen foreign banks have licenses to operate branches in Saudi Arabia. Several international lenders want to build a presence as opportunities emerge from the kingdom's reforms to wean the economy off a reliance on oil revenues.
The opportunities include an array of privatizations such as the government's plan to list up to 5 percent of Saudi Aramco [IPO-ARMO.SE] in an initial public share offering.
They also include steps such as raising the proportion of Saudis who own homes and encouraging more consumers to save.
Citi exited Saudi Arabia in 2004, when it sold a 20 percent stake in Samba Financial Group <1090.SE>. In 2015, it obtained permission from the Saudi regulator to invest directly in the country's stock market.
(Editing by Edmund Blair)