National Commercial Bank (NCB), the largest Saudi bank by assets, almost doubled its profits from SR2.03bn in 2008 to SR4.04bn ($1.08bn) in 2009, a 98.9 per cent increase.  

“The increase in profits confirms the bank’s ability to efficiently manage its assets and diversify its sources of income in spite of global economic challenges,” said Abdullah Bahamdan, chairman of the bank, in a statement.

The value of the bank’s total assets grew by 16.1 per cent to SR257.4bn at the end of 2009, and shareholder’s equity increased by 12.1 per cent to SR29.3bn.

However, the bank has experienced a slowdown in lending and deposit growth.

The growth in the value of loans fell from 22.8 per cent in 2008 to just 4 per cent in 2009, reaching SR112.2bn by the end of December.  

Meanwhile, customer deposits were SR202.6bn at the end of the period, after growth levels fell from 20.3 per cent in 2008 to 17.9 per cent in 2009.  

NCB reported a net profit of SR770m for the fourth quarter of 2009, its lowest quarterly profit in the year, but a favourable result compared to the net loss of SR2.55bn in the same period of 2008.

NCB’s results are particularly impressive when compared with the majority of Saudi banks which have posted poorer earnings for the fourth quarter and the year as a whole.

Saudi banks more than tripled provisions against loan losses over the first nine months of 2009 to SR6.04bn. NCB itself raised its provisions for loan losses nine-fold over the same period to SR1.87bn.