Qatar's Barwa Bank expects sharp rise in net profit

CEO says billions in infrastructure spending by Gulf state is driving improved performance
Qatar's Barwa Bank expects sharp rise in net profit
Barwa Bank CEO Steve Troop.
By Reuters
Mon 28 Oct 2013 02:09 PM

Barwa Bank, a sharia-compliant Qatari lender, expects a sharp increase in its 2013 net profit, driven mainly by billions in infrastructure spending by the Gulf state and growth in its debt advisory and asset management business.

"For the first half of 2013, we were 85 percent up on the same period last year. And for the full year we're moving along very strongly and expect a positive and material improvement in net profit over 2012," Chief Executive Steve Troop said in an interview as part of the Reuters Middle East Investment Summit.

The unlisted lender is awaiting regulators' approval a public floatation as part of two share sales planned to raise more than QR2.05bn. It posted a profit of QR345m ($94.75 million) for 2012, a 41 percent increase from the previous year.

The company's biggest shareholder, Barwa Real Estate , by contrast, on Monday reported a 40 percent drop in profits for the first nine months of 2013, having drawn on state aid earlier this year.

The four-year old bank, effectively controlled by an arm of the state's sovereign wealth fund Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), is seeing a pick-up in infrastructure development in the country after a slowdown in the last two years, Troop said.

The tiny gas-rich state of Qatar launched plans to spend about $140 billion over the next decade on a rail system, a new airport, a seaport, and hundreds of kilometres of major new roads, in addition to stadiums that will host the 2022 World Cup soccer tournament.

Barwa outlined a fundraising plan in April which includes the public issue and a similar sized rights issue to existing shareholders.

"We understand that stock market regulators want to manage the runway and make sure we're not all trying to go public on the same market at the same time so we're waiting for the appropriate time slot," Troop said.

"We are in contact with the authorities to liaise on the perfect timing," he added.

Barwa Bank is 37.3 percent owned by Barwa Real Estate Co, while Qatar Holding, the investment arm of the Gulf state's sovereign wealth fund, has a 12.1 percent stake.

The remaining shares are owned by several individuals and corporations, according to the bank's results statements.

Barwa Bank, through its fully-owned investment banking arm, The First Investor (TFI), plans to partner with local investors in Qatar to invest in the healthcare sector, TFI Chief Executive Khalid al-Subeai said in the interview.

"We're focused on Qatar and we are looking to replicate our venture in the education sector into the healthcare sector," al-Subeai said.

The bank in June set up an education company in Qatar and is now developing two private schools at a cost of QR230m, yielding 8 percent annually, he added.

The bank also manages a sharia- compliant Gulf equities fund, with QR113m in assets. The fund has returned 19 percent to investors since inception in late 2012.

"We continue to see AUMs (assets under management) grow as we see the Gulf equity markets are more attractive for investors compared to money market products and the sukuk space," al-Subeai, who previously ran Morgan Stanley Inc's business in Qatar, said.

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