HSBC's history in the Middle East dates back to 1959, when it acquired The British Bank of the Middle East. Founded in London in 1889, it pioneered banking in the region and for decades was the only bank committed to supporting the area.
The 1940s saw a period of great change, the decline and closure of operations in Iran (in 1952) and expansion into the Arabian Peninsula and the Levant.
The Bank pioneered banking in the states that are now referred to as the GCC, opening branches in Kuwait (1942), Bahrain (1944), Dubai (1946), Muscat (1948), Saudi Arabia (Alkhobar and Jeddah 1950). Similarly, branches were opened in the cities of the 'fertile crescent' - Beirut (1946), Damascus (1947), Tripoli (1948), Amman (1949) and Aleppo (1951)
The change in focus was reflected in 1949 when the bank changed its name to The British Bank of Iran and the Middle East and again in 1952 to The British Bank of the Middle East.
By 1959, when the bank was acquired by the Group, it had added more offices in Saudi Arabia, Aden, Libya, Sharjah, Qatar, Tunisia, Morocco and Abu Dhabi. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, nationalisation of the banking sector saw the bank end its presence in Syria, Iraq, Aden and Libya. The bank also entered into local alliances. In 1978, the bank's business in Saudi Arabia was transferred to a new bank, the Saudi British Bank, in which the Group took a 40% shareholding. The Group also took a 40% share in the Hong Kong Egyptian Bank S.A.E, when it was established in 1982.