The biggest lender in the emirate, National Bank Kuwait (NBK) has faced strong headwinds in recent months. Fourth quarter earnings declined by 78 percent as the bank took provisions to offset the impact of the global financial crisis. NBK also announced that its full-year profit dropped to $884.3m from $938m in 2007.
NBK chief executive Ibrahim Dabdoub, however, has said he believes the bank has seen the worst of the downturn on its earnings. The Kuwait lender is reportedly on track to match last year’s first quarter net profit.
NBK has slowed down the pace of its foreign expansion amid the downturn but, according to Dabdoub, still plans to set up an Islamic lender in Switzerland aimed at Gulf investors.
The bank has been expanding abroad to offset rising competition at home, buying Al Watany Bank of Egypt and a 40 percent stake in an unlisted Istanbul-based Turkish bank in 2007. NBK is also eyeing investment opportunities in Syria and North Africa, and is active in Qatar through its affiliate International Bank of Qatar (IBQ).
Earlier this year the bank was ranked by Global Finance magazine to be among the world’s 50 safest banks. NBK, the only GCC-based bank to make the grade, was deemed to have shown a more prudent and sustainable approach to risk than its peers.