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Tue 16 Aug 2011 06:38 PM

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National Bank of Oman sees profit growth slowing

Sultanate's second largest lender by assets says increased competition may hit bottom line

National Bank of Oman sees profit growth slowing

National Bank of Oman, the sultanate's second-largest lender by assets, may see its profit growth slow for the full year amid uncertainty in global markets and increased competition in the local banking sector, its chief executive said on Tuesday.

Salaam bin Said al-Shaksy said the company posted a 14 percent rise in second-quarter net profit due to a combination of new products and grabbing more market share. But that level of growth may be difficult to sustain.

"We have done exceptionally well in the first half of the year, mainly in the second quarter. We probably don't expect such acceleration that we experienced in the second quarter," he said in an interview with Reuters. "The international financial markets have affected all of us."

Al-Shaksy said the lender is considering applying for an Islamic banking licence, given that Oman's central bank has opened the doors to the Islamic finance industry, in an effort to be even more competitive in a tough environment.

"We are looking at that very seriously. We put a team together to work on that," he said. "We hope, as management, to seek board approval within this year."

The executive said conventional banks in Oman will need to develop Islamic capabilities quickly in order to compete with Islamic banks that may open in the sultanate.

Oman is the only Gulf Arab state which has not set up a bank specifically offering products and services complying with Islamic law. Its central bank head said in 2007 that Oman believed that "banks should be universal".

The central bank reversed that stance in May in an effort to keep investment funds in the Gulf state and grab a share of the roughly $1 trillion industry.

So far, the central bank has approved Bank Nizwa as Oman's first standalone Islamic Bank.

NBO has an advantage in opening an Islamic branch, al-Shaksy added, due to its relationship with majority shareholder Commercial Bank of Qatar (CBQ), which has operated an Islamic branch in Qatar. CBQ holds a 35-percent stake in the lender, according to Reuters data.

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