Following the opening its first branch in Saudi Arabia last week, Qatar National Bank (QNB), the Middle East’s largest bank by assets, has revealed its next target in the kingdom: investment banking.
The lender has said that it will apply for a licence from the Capital Market Authority of the region’s biggest economy for its investment bank.
“One of the plans is to have an investment licence company,” Ali Ahmad Al Kuwari, QNB Group Chief Executive Officer, said on Thursday while speaking at the inauguration of the new branch in Riyadh.
The bank, however, has no plans to acquire banks in the kingdom.
While speaking to AMEinfo on the sidelines of the Top CEO Conference and Awards, held at King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) in Jeddah in April, Layth Saleh Al-Shaiban, Country General Manager of QNB, had said that branch will be located in Riyadh and it was proud to enter the largest market in the region.
“It is a major step for QNB and it shows the continuing solidarity between Saudi Arabia and Qatar. We have a lot of promises for this economy…and we have a lot of faith in this economy,” he added.
Al-Shaiban also said the bank will primarily cater to the corporate sector initially and will extend to other areas as it later expands its network in the country.
“With one branch, the bank will focus on serving the corporate sector and it will also focus on the network of QNB customers around the world and facilitating their needs in Saudi if they have businesses in the kingdom,” he said.
Q1 profits up
QNB reported a 12 per cent increase in first-quarter net profit early this week.
The lender, 50 per cent owned by the Qatar Investment Authority sovereign wealth fund, posted a net profit of QAR3.2 billion ($879.2 million) in the three months to March 31. This compares to QAR2.9bn in the corresponding period a year earlier.
When asked how the bank was keeping the growth figures up even as the world is reeling under economic pressure, Al-Shaiban said the depression that happens in a specific country doesn’t apply to all countries.
“If you remember the 2008 crash, it affected mainly Western Europe and the countries that invested in those (Western Europe) markets, but it did not affect Saudi that much. When the oil prices went down, it affected Saudi more than European countries.”
“Wherever there is a slowdown there is a growth somewhere. If you are positioned in the right number of markets there is always a balanced growth typically. So with depression, there is resurgence in another,” he said.
Al-Shaiban added that QNB’s extended operations in more than 30 countries gave it a cushion whenever growth was slow in a market.
Bad loans soar
Nonetheless, the bank’s Q1 growth was fuelled by a double-digit loan growth in the first quarter.
QNB’s non-performing loans ratio shot up to 1.8 per cent from 1.4 per cent a year ago as bad loans soared to QAR9.68bn in the quarter from QAR9.46bn in the same period in 2016.
The massive jump in bad loans was mainly due to QNB’s $2.86bn acquisition of Finansbank in Turkey, whose economy has been on a bumpy road after the failed coup last year.
Al Kuwari topped the list of the region’s 100 best performing CEOs in the third annual Top CEO Awards rankings by AMEinfo’s sister title TRENDS magazine and INSEAD – the leading international business school. You can find the full list of 100 CEOs here.
After a nearly 13-year long absence, Citigroup is returning to the kingdom after obtaining a licence to conduct capital markets business in April. The Zurich-based Credit Suisse Group AG is also planning to secure a full licence as part of its expansion in to the Arab country.