New CEO of Kuwait's NBK backs regional strategy

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The new chief executive of National Bank of Kuwait has endorsed its strategies of regional expansion and developing an Islamic finance business in his first public comments since he took over at the country's biggest bank.

Isam al-Sager took over as CEO on Sunday from Ibrahim Dabdoub, who ran NBK for three decades and helped transform it from a local lender into the Gulf's fifth largest bank by assets.

"Our regional and international strategy remains on track," Sager said in a statement after a general assembly meeting at the bank.

"We are focusing our efforts on (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries to leverage NBK's strong franchise there and to benefit from the strong economic outlook and the growth opportunities available."

He also singled out NBK's Islamic banking business as having helped to boost profits.

"Our expansion into Islamic banking through the acquisition of 58.4 percent of Boubyan Bank continues to pay off as Boubyan's contribution to the group's profitability and balance sheet increases over time," he said.

As the new CEO of the bank, Sager will face a slow home market, the bank's largest, and competition from dynamic Gulf rivals. Sager, who was long considered a CEO in-waiting, had served as Dabdoub's deputy since 2010 and has worked at the bank for more than 30 years.

NBK's vice chairman Nasser al-Sayer said Kuwait's domestic operating environment was improving.

"We have started witnessing some acceleration in the tendering, award and execution of some of the large projects as the government proves determined to advance the execution of the development plan," he said.

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