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Emirates Islamic Bank to open 10 branches and recruit more staff

Emirates Islamic Bank resumes ambitious expansion plans which were put on hold by its forced merger last year with Dubai Bank, the failed Islamic lender.

Emirates Islamic Bank (EIB) plans to open 10 extra branches this year and increase its retail banking loan book by a third, its deputy chief executive said.

The UAE's third-largest Islamic bank, which is almost completely controlled by Emirates NBD, said it planned to raise its total branches to 58 this year as it pressed ahead after its merger with Dubai Bank, the failed Islamic lender.

The bank would embark upon a "huge recruitment" of about 70 to 80 staff in the coming months as it seeks new graduates to fill its branches, said Faisal Aqil, EIB's deputy chief executive and head of consumer wealth management.

"We kept ourselves very busy for 2012," he said. "In 2013 now we are focusing again and the bank came up with a new strategy. The focus now is more on retail banking, priority private banking, SME and mid-corporate."

Dubai Bank was rescued by the emirate's Government in May 2011 and then sold for just Dh10 to Emirates NBD in October. Following a clean-up of its balance sheet by the Ministry of Finance, it completed a merger with EIB last December.

EIB is seeking to grow its retail banking book by 35 per cent this year, with credit cards accounting for a large proportion of its new business, Mr Aqil said.

Its financial statements show that it had Dh13.1 billion in personal financing receivables on its books at the end of March, which accounted for more than half of its loan book and represented an increase of 11.1 per cent since the start of the year.

The bank has received approval from the Central Bank for five new branches and plans to apply for five more in an effort to grow its retail banking and SME business.

Personal loans to residents rose by 3 per cent during the first four months of 2013, more than double the rate of growth during the same period last year, according to Central Bank data.

EIB has also allocated 10 per cent of its total assets for lending to small-to-medium enterprises, joining a growing number of lenders which include Emirates NBD, Doha Bank, RAKBank and Mashreq in targeting small companies.

But the bank is refusing to lend to property companies as it attempts to bring its direct exposure to real estate, excluding mortgages, below 20 per cent of total assets, from a high of more than 40 per cent during the financial crisis, Mr Aqil added.

ghunter@thenational.ae

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