Abu Dhabi Government-owned Al Hilal Bank plans to expand its credit and retail business in the UAE as high oil prices fuel growth in the Arab World's second largest economy, the bank's chief executive officer said.
In an interview yesterday, Mohamed Berro said the Islamic lender is also keen to expand in former Soviet markets after it opens the region's first Islamic bank in Kazakhstan this April. Hilal was launched in June 2008 before the global financial crisis swept the Gulf and has 14 branches in the UAE.
"We contributed 20 per cent to net growth of credit in the UAE last year, the equivalent of 80 per cent of net growth of Islamic banks' credit in the country," Berro said. "That would continue this year. We expect at least the same levels of credit growth."
The bank plans to add at least six new branches in the UAE this year as the economy continues to grow. "Oil prices are still holding up, we didn't have the problems of the West. We are running a period of tight liquidity, debt restructuring, but our core economy is sound," he said.
Oil broke a five-day rally yesterday but still hovers around $80 a barrel.
Al Hilal plans to open a new Islamic bank in Kazakhstan by April after delaying its original December start date as it awaits final clearances. Initially the Al Hilal Islamic Bank Kazakhstan will start with two branches, one in Almaty and one in Astana. "Kazakhstan is our first entry into that region with a high Muslim population," said Berro.
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