NBO makes record profit on lending growth



National Bank of Oman (NBO) made a record profit in the fourth quarter as lending and customer deposits rose on the back of economic growth in the sultanate and the Gulf Arab region.

Oman's second largest lender by market value made a profit of OMR15.69 million (Dh149.6) in the three months to December 31, up 58 per cent from the year-earlier period and beating analysts' forecasts.

"Economic growth, both in Oman and in the wider Gulf Arab region... have driven positive performance from all of our core businesses," Chairman Suhail Bahwan said in a statement received by Reuters.

The bank's 2007 net loans and advances increased 29 per cent to OMR907 million compared to the year-earlier period and customer deposits increased 14 per cent to OMR936 million.

Non-performing loans were reduced to 6.2 per cent of total loans, of which 90 per cent are covered by provisions.

The bank, an affiliate of Commercial Bank of Qatar, posted profit of OMR44.6 rials in 2007, compared with OMR30.43 million in 2006, it said in a statement, without giving quarterly data.

Reuters calculated the fourth quarter based on earlier financial information.

Analysts' forecasts for National Bank of Oman's fourth-quarter profit ranged from OMR10 million to OMR12.59 million in a Reuters survey last month, with the average of five analysts at OMR11.22 million.

The bank made OMR9.93 million in the fourth quarter of 2006 and OMR28.91 million in the first nine months of 2007, according to financial statements posted on the stock market regulator's Web site.

NBO also said it is offering a cash dividend and a bonus share of 17.5 per cent each.

The bank's shares rallied 51.46 per cent last year, and closed 4.4 per cent higher on Sunday. 
(Reuters)

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