Impressive returns

01 February 2006

The GCC bank reporting season has begun with a flurry of institutions posting another year of soaring profits on the back of rampant economic growth.

Regional heavyweight National Bank of Kuwait on 25 January became the first Kuwaiti bank to issue headline figures, reporting another record year. Net profit rose by 37 per cent to KD 206 million ($705 million), while total assets climbed by 12 per cent to $21,200 million. 'We are very pleased with the strong results coming from our new markets in Qatar and Jordan, alongside our established network in major financial centres,' says chief executive officer Ibrahim Dabdoub. 'This year, we have added four branches to our network of 47 in Kuwait, opened a representative office in Shanghai and started operations in Iraq through the newly acquired Credit Bank of Iraq.'

Another regional big-hitter - Arab Banking Corporation - reported on the same day, announcing an 18 per cent rise in net profits to $129 million. Assets climbed by 18.1 per cent to $17,600 million. The bank said that its focus for the year ahead would be on building its existing project and structured finance operations and expanding cautiously on the retail side, both through existing units and through greenfield operations or acquisitions.

Several UAE banks published results in late January. First Gulf Bank posted a massive 331 per cent increase in net profits to AED 1,060 million ($288.6 million), while the bank's assets doubled to AED 26,300 million ($7,160 million). 'The profitability of financial institutions is in line with the market. The figures are reasonable for the region,' says chief operating officer Andre Sayegh. 'Our three major businesses pushed profits equally. In corporate banking, we're involved in public sector mega projects; in treasury and investment, we took advantage of investment opportunities. And for retail, it's the right time to grow.' The bank is planning to expand its sharia-compliant retail services and move into Islamic corporate finance.

Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank's net profit also almost tripled to AED 344.7 million ($93.8 million), while assets rose to AED 22,189 million ($6,040 million). Dubai Islamic Bank's net profits passed the billion-dirham mark for the first time, up by 130 per cent to AED 1,061 million ($288.8 million). Total assets increased by 40 per cent to AED 43,000 million ($11,706 million). The bank has announced plans to increase its paid-up capital by AED 1,000 million ($272.3 million) to AED 2,500 million ($680.6 million).

Net profit at Bank of Sharjah reached AED 602.8 million ($164.1 million) in 2005, up 340 per cent from 2004 partly as a result of the rising price of Sharjah-based Dana Gas shares owned by the bank. 'It's been a very active year,' says general manager Varouj Nerguizian. 'Bank of Sharjah will become a very big player. We plan to expand through the acquisition of local institutions and the establishment of new ventures.' The bank plans toissue a convertible bond to shareholders as part of its plans to raise its capital to AED 4,000 million ($1,089 million) by 2008.

Net profits at Union National Bank rose by 155 per cent to AED 1,154 million ($314.2 million). Total assets rose to AED 34,932 million ($9,510 million). Profits at Qatar National Bank (QNB) were up by a hefty 85 per cent to reach QR 1,537 million ($410 million), while total assets climbed by 26.6 per cent to QR 50,100 million ($13,396 million). 'The bank has benefited from various initiatives over the course of the year, such as our first DSM [Doha Securities Market] funds for local and foreign investors and the launch of our Islamic subsidiary, which has performed very well,' says a QNB official. 'It is also the first year that the earnings of Ansbacher [the wealth management business acquired in 2004] have been included.'

National Bank of Oman (NBO) demonstrated the fruits of its turnaround in its 2005 result. Net profit increased

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