SABB, Samba bank Q4 profit rises

Two more Saudi banks including Samba Financial Group posted higher fourth-quarter profit on Sunday as banks recover from provisions booked against bad loans.

Provisions for bad loans and lacklustre loan growth hit profits at lenders in the biggest Arab economy in previous quarters.

Profits at SABB, 40 per cent owned by HSBC Holdings, rebounded strongly to 397 million riyals ($106 million) in the fourth quarter, compared with 26 million in the year-earlier period when it booked high bad loan provisions.

This was above expectations of analysts surveyed by Reuters who forecast, on average, a net profit of 365 million riyals.

Samba Financial Group also posted on Sunday a 7.9 per cent increase in fourth-quarter net profit to 901 million riyals from 835 million in the year-earlier period.

This fell slightly short of analysts expectations of 1.04 billion.

Neither bank disclosed the provisions they booked against bad loans, but analysts have said that lower provisions would help Saudi banks to boost profit in 2011.

SABB said its loan portfolio declined by 2.9 per cent to 74.2 billion riyals compared with 76.4 billion in the same period a year earlier as loan growth has not yet kicked in again.

Analysts say Saudi banks are yet to feel the full impact of a $400 billion stimulus programme set up by the top oil exporter, as the government transfers funds directly to corporates who will seek more additional financing from banks later on.

Three Saudi lenders including Banque Saudi France posted fourth-quarter earnings above forecast on Saturday.

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