Daily Times
Saturday, January 10, 2004

HBL officials see three candidates for next CEO

By Arshad Hussain

KARACHI: Following the recent privatization of Habib Bank Limited (HBL), the bank’s top level executives are hot on the trail of finding out who the next CEO is likely to be.

In discussions with Daily Times, HBL executives say current President Zakir Mahmood is unlikely to stay on at the bank and instead Sultan Allana, a director of the recently formed NIB (NDLC-IFIC Bank), Shams Qasim Lakha, president Aga Khan University Hospital and Safar Ali Lakhani, president Soneri Bank limited, are in the running for the top slot.

“There are some other names but these three names are on top of the list of candidates,” a senior HBL official said.

HBL sources said Mr Allana and Mr Mahmood have held meetings during this week.

Sources at the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) say no application has been received by the central bank for the appointment of a new CEO.

“It is expected that Zakir Mehmood would continue as president of the bank, at least for the next few months,” he said.

He also said the board of the bank is expected to be reconstituted soon to reduce government seats. Sources also say Mr Mahmood’s contract has been extended until the privatization of the bank. His contract is said to have expired in September 2003.

They added the government has extended Mr Mehmood’s contract, which ended in September last year, till the privatisation of the bank.

Mr Allana could not be reached despite several attempts while the offices of Mr Lakha and Mr Lakhani said both were out of the city.

HBL was sold last month to the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED).

The Privatisation Commission accepted a bid of Rs 22.4 billion by AKFED for the sale of 51 percent shares of HBL. The top management of the bank has to be changed in 45 days from the date of the approval of the bid.

The bank’s privatisation has created a measure of panic amongst employees, especially the likes of cashiers, peons, dispatchers and others whose jobs are protected only for a year as per the agreement signed between the Privatization Commission and the AKFED.

Ahead of the privatization, more than 13,000 HBL’s employees were laid off through various golden handshake schemes while 500 branches were shuttered in the last eight years as part of the bank’s reform.

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