ENBD forecasts 5-7% loan growth in 2015: CEO

Emirates NBD (ENBD) expects its loan growth to be between 5 and 7 per cent in 2015. (Reuters)

Emirates NBD (ENBD), Dubai's largest bank, expects its loan growth to be between 5 and 7 per cent in 2015 and for the coming year to be ‘very profitable’ despite the falling oil price, its chief executive said on Wednesday.

UAE lenders have enjoyed bumper earnings growth in recent quarters, aided by buoyant economic conditions locally, strong credit growth and the reduction in levels of cash set aside to cover bad debts.

However, some analysts have pointed to lower earnings growth this year as the oil price fall tempers economic growth in the Gulf, with Standard & Poor's also citing UAE banks not receiving the same boost to their earnings of improving asset quality into 2015.

ENBD has been helped by this latter factor in particular in recent quarters-- its fourth-quarter profit jumped 82 percent, helped by its reclassification of its Dubai World debt as performing.

"Given our concentration on Dubai and it's very little reliance on oil, we would expect good growth for ENBD and the banking sector as a whole," Shayne Nelson told reporters on the sidelines of a media event.

Nelson declined to give a specific forecast for profit growth this year, but noted if no new problem loans materialise, the bank "should have a very profitable year this year".

While banks have to be careful about managing their liquidity in a lower oil price environment, Nelson expected loan growth to be around the 5-7 per cent range this year. This would put it ahead of the 3 per cent increase in total loans recorded by the bank in 2014.

ENBD, which bought the Egyptian business of BNP Paribas  in 2013, is hoping to expand into India, although its ambitions may be hampered by regulatory issues which link the granting of licences in a target country to reciprocal licences being granted in the UAE -- an already highly-competitive market with 49 lenders servicing around eight million people.

However, Nelson declined to comment on whether the bank would like to expand further in Egypt. ENBD is one of 10 lenders who have bid for Citigroup's consumer banking business in the North African country, sources told Reuters last month.   


 

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