Bahrain's Ahli United Bank posts Q4 profit rise

Gulf state's largest lender records 11.8 percent gain in profit on higher income

Ahli United Bank, Bahrain's largest lender by market value, posted on Tuesday an 11.8 percent gain in its fourth-quarter net profit, boosted by an increase in net interest income.

The bank made a net profit of US$78.6m for the three months to December 31, compared with US$70.3m in the corresponding period of 2011.

Arqaam Capital had forecast the bank would make a quarterly profit of US$118m.

Full-year profit came in at US$335.7m, up from US$310.6m in 2011.

The rise in profit came despite "continuing uncertain and challenging business and operating environment", which will continue into 2013, said Fahad al-Rajaan, chairman of Ahli United Bank.

Bahrain has seen two years of political turmoil since Arab Spring-inspired protests erupted in February 2011. There have been almost daily skirmishes between security forces and majority Shi'ites demanding an end to the monarchy's political domination and full powers for parliament.

Net interest income jumped 12.3 percent in 2012, the bank said, to US$636.4m. There was a slight rise in provisioning for bad loans compared to 2011, with the bank setting aside US$209.9m in 2012 against the previous year's US$203.2m.

Loans and advances stood at US$15.97bn at the end of 2012, up 3.1 percent from the end of 2011. Customer deposits grew 5.1 percent over the course to 2012 to US$18.2bn.

Ahli United's board recommended a cash dividend of US$0.04 per share and a 5 percent bonus share issue for 2012, versus a US$0.03 cash dividend and 5 percent share dividend in the previous year, the bank added.

The bank said earlier this month that it was seeking regional acquisition targets after making a total profit of US$212.9m on the sale of a 29.4 percent stake in Qatar's Ahli Bank to sovereign fund Qatar Foundation.

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