International and domestic growth opportunities bode well for Qatar-based lenders
In 2006, Qatar National Bank (QNB) was ranked 17 out of the top regional banks by assets. Back then, it was a small bank focused on its domestic operations. Its total assets were just $19bn.
Many of the regions largest banks in 2006 were hit by the subsequent financial crisis. They have struggled with bad debts and slow growth while Qatari banks have accelerated their growth plans backed by strong state support.
QNB has now become the largest bank in the region by assets. Its ascent has been through a mixture of rapid domestic growth and canny international deal making, mirroring the rise to prominence of the state of the Qatar, which controls the bank.
The boom in Qatars economy has helped all the local banks and made the tiny peninsula an attractive place for international lenders to come and seek out lucrative investment banking mandates.
With all the government spending planned over the next decade before Qatar hosts the Fifa World Cup in 2022, there will continue to be ample opportunity for banks to grow.
Increasingly though, a focus on the domestic opportunities is not enough. In addition to being the biggest bank in the region and the Qatari states bank of choice, QNB makes up around half of the local banking sector by profits and assets. Expansion into new markets has become a new driving force, illustrated by its aggressive expansion into Egypt through the acquisition of National Societe General Bank.
Other Qatari banks are also prioritising regional and international expansion. Doha Bank has said it wants to triple profit for overseas operations by 2015. The challenge will be managing such rapid expansion at home and abroad.