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Sat 4 Feb 2012 11:18 AM

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UAE's largest bank expects loan growth to slow

National Bank of Abu Dhabi CEO says he sees lower loan and deposit growth this year

UAE's largest bank expects loan growth to slow
National Bank of Abu Dhabi CEO Michael Tomalin

National Bank of Abu Dhabi, the UAE's largest lender by market value, expects slower loan and deposit growth this year with its overseas performance "tempered a bit" by Arab political unrest, its chief executive has said.

Michael Tomalin said the lender, whose fourth-quarter earnings fell shy of expectations this week, said the outlook for this year was solid.

"For 2012, we are cautiously optimistic. We will see strong growth in our wealth and private banking business and good growth in Islamic banking," he said in a telephone interview.

On Tuesday, NBAD reported a net profit of AED724m ($197.3m) for the final three months of 2011, slightly below the AED732m recorded in the year-ago period. Analysts had forecast an average profit of AED756.4m.

On the year, profit stood at AED3.71bn, edging up from AED3.68bn in 2010. Deposits grew 23.3 percent while loans rose by 16.6 percent in 2011.

"We expect to see continued growth of 10 to 15 percent in deposits and a slightly lower figure in loans over the year," Tomalin said, adding the bank expects strong growth in deposits internationally, where business will be "tempered" by the political upheaval in the Middle East and North Africa region.

NBAD has operations in 13 countries outside the UAE, including Oman, Bahrain, Egypt and Libya.

Tomalin said the bank will book provisions this year although it was too early to gauge how much.

"Obviously there will be provisions in 2012 to maintain the 1.5 percent Central Bank formula. Whether they will be high or as in 2011 is difficult to say," he said.

In 2011, net impairment charges were AED1.49bn in 2011 and AED482m in the fourth quarter.

NBAD made general provisions to performing credit risk-weighted assets to the 2014 Central Bank target of 1.5 percent, as well as specific provisions for non-performing loans.

The lender, which is 70.5 percent owned by the government of Abu Dhabi, could jump back into debt markets if a window opens.

"The markets are tricky now, prices are quite elevated. But markets change every day, so were are always on the lookout," he said.

It last printed a deal in July, with the 10 billion Yen ($131.4m) bond it completed the first time a Middle Eastern bank had issued a Samurai deal.

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