Qatar National Bank has reported a 10 per cent increase in its full-year 2016 net income and an asset growth of 34 per cent, making it the “best absolute result” in the history for the largest financial institution in Middle East and Africa (MEA)

For the twelve months ended 31 December, QNB Group bank reported a profit of QR12.4bn ($3.4bn) while the total assets reached QR720bn, the lender said in a statement.

The lender did not give the fourth quarter financial figures, although using calculations based of previous quarter’s results, the lenders profit for the last three months of 2016 was about QR2.7bn, an 8.3 per cent increase compared with QR2.54bn in the corresponding period of 2015.

The growth in assets was driven by loans and advances which climbed by 34 per cent to reach QR520bn, The group also increased its customer funding by 28 per cent to QR507bn, bringing the loans-to-deposit ratio to 103 per cent.

Controlling cost and non-performing loans have also helped the Doha-based lenders profitability. The bank maintained cost-to-income ratio of 30.4 per cent, one of the best among large financial institutions in the region. It also maintained the ratio of non-performing loans to gross loans at 1.8 per cent, and improved its provisioning coverage ratio to reach 114 per cent as of 31 December 2016.

This “is a level considered one of the lowest amongst banks in the Middle East and Africa region, reflecting the high quality of the Group’s loan book and the effective management of credit risk,” QNB said in the statement.

The lender’s board has recommended a cash dividend of 35 per cent of the nominal share value of QR3.5 per share and a bonus share of 10 per cent, subject to regulatory approval.

Total equity has increased by 14 per cent from December 2015 to reach QR71bn at the end of last year, while earnings per share advanced from QR13.4 to QR14.4 for the same period.

The QNB Group’s 2016 performance follows its 99.88 per cent stake acquisition in Finansbank, Turkey’s fifth-largest lender, which QNB said has helped it cement its position as a leading financial institution in MEA.

The bank has aspirations to further consolidate its position in the region and has aspirations to expand into Southeast Asia region.

“Building on QNB’s continued success, QNB Group has embarked on the aspiration of becoming a leading bank in the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia (MEASEA) by 2020,” it said in the statement.

The competition among regional lenders to expand beyond the crowded home markets is intensifying on the back of sluggish economy and limited growth opportunities.

In addition to Turkey, QNB, has a presence in more than 30 countries including Egypt. It also owns a 23.5 per cent stake in pan-African lender Ecobank International. It has limited presence in South East Asia, although reports suggested that it has received approval to open a branch in India offering banking services.