The exception is Al-Rajhi Banking & Investment Corporation, where profits fell by 16.8 per cent to SR 1,540 million ($411 million). It is not clear whether the fall is connected to the bank’s $101 million exposure to the collapse of the US’ Enron Corporation. However, the bank secured a healthy 3 per cent return on its assets, which rose by 6.2 per cent to SR 51,742 million ($13,798 million).

Saudi American Bank, the largest financial institution in the kingdom, recorded a 12.3 per cent rise in profits to SR 2,251 million ($600 million). Despite a 4.3 per cent drop in total assets, this lifted the bank’s returns to a respectable 2.9 per cent. Loans rose by 6.7 per cent to reach SR 33,649 million ($8,973 million).

Al-Bank Al-Saudi Al-Fransienjoyed the strongest growth in profits, which rose by 29 per cent to SR 844 million ($225 million). Saudi Hollandi Bankalso recorded a significant 23.1 per cent rise in profits. Both medium-sized institutions were bolstered by large increases in customer deposits in the sector. A 14.6 per cent rise in loans helped to push Saudi Hollandi’s total assets up by 13.4 per cent to SR 25,169 million ($6,712 million).

The first institutions to release their results, Riyad Bank, Saudi British Bankand Arab National Bank all recorded strong profit growth last year. Results are still awaited from Bank al-Jaziraand the National Commercial Bank(MEED 25:1:01).