National Bank of Kuwait (NBK), the emirate’s largest lender, reported profits of KD76.3m ($264m) for the first quarter of 2010, an increase of 20 per cent from the KD63.5m for the same period in 2009.

“The 20 per cent growth achieved in net profits is another strong indicator of our ability to consistently manage our operations both inside and outside Kuwait profitably,” said Ibrahim Dabdoub, NBK’s chief executive, announcing the results on 17 April.

Dabdoub added that NBK continues to benefit from its successful expansionary strategy and has been granted approval to increase its capital by 10 per cent during the second half of this year. The subscription will be through a rights issue for shareholders at a nominal value of 100 fils and a premium of 400 fils per share.

On 22 March, the bank obtained approval from the Central Bank of Kuwait to increase its stake in Kuwait’s Islamic lender Boubyan Bank to as much as 60 per cent. In mid-April, NBK raised its stake in Boubyan to 46.6 per cent.  

NBK also said on 6 April that it was considering buying a stake in Turkey’s Garanti Bank, citing the country as having one of the most attractive banking sectors. It is also looking to launch operations in Syria through a new lender within one year.

As of the end of March this year, NBK total assets reached KD12.7bn, while total shareholders’ equity stood at KD1.8bn.

Profitability indicators remained strong, with return on assets reaching 2.4 per cent and return on equity reaching 18.1 per cent.

NBK’s strategy in 2010 is to focus on core business. It is targeting a 10-15 per cent increase in net profit this year.