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Ruanne, Cunniff & Goldfarb, RWC in talks to buy Meezan bank's stake - sources

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By Saeed Azhar and Bernardo Vizcaino

DUBAI/SYDNEY (Reuters) – Six institutional investors from the United States and Europe are in talks with Kuwait’s Noor Financial Investment <NOOR.KW> to buy a combined 9.59 percent stake in Pakistan’s top Islamic lender Meezan Bank <AMZN.KA> from the Gulf company, sources familiar with the matter said.

The investors include New York-based Ruane, Cunniff & Goldfarb, London-based RWC Partners and Swedish asset manager Tundra Fonder, they said. Tundra Fonder has a Pakistan-themed fund which already holds some shares in Meezan.

Noor Financial owns 49.1 percent of Meezan Bank, according to the bank’s last annual report. Its total stake is valued at about $330 million based on Meezan’s market capitalisation.

None of the six investors would buy more than 5 percent of the lender, to facilitate a quick approval from the banking regulator, one of the sources said.

Last week Noor said it is in preliminary non-binding discussions with foreign institutional investors to sell part of its stake in the Pakistani lender.

Noor declined to comment on the names of the bidders. The potential bidders either declined to comment or were not available to comment.

Meezan said in a statement to the Karachi bourse last week that Noor had requested Meezan approach Pakistan’s central bank to allow the share sale to proceed. It did not name the investors.

Last year Noor said it was continuously looking for strategic alternatives for its investment in Meezan.

The other major shareholders in Meezan are Islamic Development Bank and Pakistan Kuwait Investment Co.

Meezan is Pakistan’s biggest Islamic bank with a retail banking network of more than 600 branches in more than 150 cities in the country.

Noor Financial Investment Co, established in Kuwait in 1996, is engaged in investment activities and financial services primarily in Kuwait, the Middle East, Asia and other emerging markets, according to its website.

(Additional reporting by Ahmed Hagagy in Kuwait; Editing by Ghaida Ghantous/Keith Weir)

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