Deposits at Gulf Investment Corporation (GIC), the regional investment bank owned by the Gulf Arab states, have been rated by Moody’s Investors Service at Baa2 long-term and Prime-3 short-term. The ratings, which are investment grade, are identical to those assigned by Moody’s to GIC’s subsidiary Gulf International Bank (GIB) at the end of last year. GIC has already been rated by Moody’s’ rival, Standard & Poor’s (MEED 24:1:97).
Moody’s also assigned GIC a bank financial strength rating of C, the highest grade given by the agency to date to banks in the Gulf. About 80 per cent of GIC’s assets of about $10,000 million are accounted for by its ownership of GIB, a commercial bank.
One of GIC’s main tasks is to take equity investments in businesses around the Gulf states, though this only accounts for about one-quarter of that portion of the bank’s capital which is not tied up in GIB. This line of business involves GIC in holding illiquid, low-yielding assets for long periods, Moody’s says, adding that the bank has a strong franchise in regional investment banking, but does not make substantial amounts of money from it.
Profits from GIC’s third core activity, trading, have been volatile in recent years – trading produced losses in 1994. ‘Despite the introduction of sophisticated risk-management techniques, GIC’s non-GIB business will remain vulnerable to swings in profitability although the bank’s current strategic plan aims to generate more stable income streams,’ Moody’s says. It adds that GIC relies heavily on interbank funding, though a large portion of its assets are also placed with banks and thus easy to liquidate. GIC has arrangements to draw on the unpaid-up portion of its capital from shareholder states, though this arrangement has not been tested.