Qatar National Bank (QNB), the acquisitive Gulf Arab lender, on Sunday posted fourth-quarter net profits which were essentially flat compared with the previous year, meeting analysts' forecasts.
The Gulf state's largest lender, which agreed to buy a majority stake in the Egyptian arm of Societe Generale in December, posted a net profit of QAR2.1bn (US$577m) for the fourth-quarter, according to Reuters calculations, compared with the same amount a year earlier.
Reuters calculated the net profit from previous financial statements. Full-year net profit was QAR8.3bn, up 11.1 percent from a year ago, the company said in a statement Sunday.
Analysts on average forecast a net profit of QAR2.1bn in a Reuters poll.
The bank set a cash dividend at 60 percent of nominal earnings per share value, equivalent to 6 riyals per share, the statement said.
QNB, whose results are generally seen as an indicator for the sector's performance in the country, said total assets grew 21.5 percent to 367 billion riyals in 2012, the highest ever achieved, as a result of a 28.9 percent increase in loans and advances.
Deposits grew 34.9 percent to QAR270bn, with the loans-to-deposits ratio reaching 92.6 percent at the end of 2012, the statement said. The ratio of non-performing loans to total loans was 1.3 percent.
QNB, which has snapped up several banking stakes as part of a regional expansion strategy, said in December it was now looking at a majority stake in a top ten Turkish bank as a means to add value.
The bank, which already has stakes in lenders in countries such as Indonesia, Jordan and Tunisia, wants its international business to contribute around 40 percent of profit and 45 percent of total assets by 2017, Chief Financial Officer Ramzi Mari said in December, up from around 17 percent and 30 percent prior to the NSGB transaction.
The lender, which is 50-percent owned by sovereign wealth fund Qatar Investment Authority and has a market value of around US$26bn, raised its stake in Abu Dhabi-based Commercial Bank International to 39.9 percent from 16.5 percent last year.
It also boosted its stake in Iraq's Mansour Bank to 51 percent and bought a 49 percent stake in Libya's Bank of Commerce and Development in April.
In November QNB launched a US$1bn bond, its second debt markets foray of 2012.
QNB shares closed down 1.7 percent on Sunday before the results were announced.