Profits at Saudi banks fell dramatically in the fourth quarter of 2009, according to a series of financial statements released on 10 January.

Banque Saudi Fransi reported a 43 per cent decline in profits to SR324m ($86m), while Saudi Hollandi reported a loss of SR439m compared to profits of SR308.9m in the same period of 2008.

Samba reported fourth quarter profits of SR835m, 1.1 per cent up on the same period last year but 31 per cent lower than the figure for the previous quarter.

Saudi Hollandi says its loss was due to “the bank’s conservative policy aimed at continuing to boost provisions”.

Analysts say that high provisions for bad debts were the main cause of the worse than expected profitability levels at all three banks.