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Thu 21 Jan 2010 12:21 PM

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Bank chief sees lending still tight in 2010

Union National Bank CEO also says he is eyeing expansion in the UAE, Egypt.

Bank chief sees lending still tight in 2010

The UAE’s Union National Bank (UNB) will continue to expand its operations in the UAE and Egypt despite saying it will continue to lend conservatively, its CEO has told Arabian Business.

The Abu Dhabi-based lender will open 12 new branches across the emirates next week and aims to be present in 29 governorates in Egypt by the end of the year, Mohammad Nasr Abdeen said.

The lender, which acquired the Alexandria Commercial and Maritime Bank in 2006, (now known as Union National Bank Egypt) plans to expand “aggressively” in Egypt. Last year it was forced to scale back its expansion plans from 20 to ten branches a year due to Central Bank restrictions.

“I think we have big potential there because you are talking about 80 million population compared to four million or less here [in the UAE]. Our plan is to be in 29 governorates by early next year if possible. It is aggressive expansion,” said Abdeen.

Other expansion plans outside of the UAE and Egypt have been put on hold amid the downturn, said Abdeen. “We were very optimistic three to four years ago and our plan was to have a presence in every GCC country,” he said. “I don’t think we will [be] that aggressive, at least in 2010, for our presence in different countries.

Abdeen said Gulf banks will continue to lend conservatively amid the downturn. “2009 was a very difficult year…I think we have to still be conservative,” he said.

“Banks will continue with their conservative approach but the good thing is that governments like Abu Dhabi are going about their projects the right way, which will bring the [total value of] projects in the billions in the emirate...Here we are very open to go and finance such projects,” he said.

Last week, the lender received a $40m credit line from the Arab Trade Financing Program to fund foreign trade.

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