x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Abu Dhabi lenders start to raise earnings

Short-term gains but long-term view not quite so rosy, as recovery in credit is a crucial factor.

Two of Abu Dhabi's biggest lenders reported rising earnings yesterday as they boosted income from deposits, in the first positive signs to emerge from the capital's banks this earnings season.

While profits at Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB) raced ahead over the quarter, net income grew at a snail's pace at National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD), the country's second-largest lender by assets.

Despite the improved earnings, analysts warned that bad debts and the slow pace of credit growth still weighed heavily on the sector.

NBAD said net income nudged ahead with a 0.6 per cent increase in the third quarter to Dh920 million (US$250.5m). Meanwhile, ADCB, its nearest rival in Abu Dhabi by assets, recorded a sevenfold profit increase to Dh325m ($88.4m).

"The key issue at this point is credit picking up, and private sector credit in particular, because this is something that has been treading water for some time," said Jarmo Kotilaine, the chief economist at NCB Capital.

Banks in the UAE have struggled to overcome bad debts accumulated during the boom years from both customers and corporations, creating the need to put aside large sums to deal with defaulting loans.

But ADCB found profits by looking outsideits loan book, as non-interest income soared 36 per cent to Dh574m. Both banks enjoyed increased deposits, with ADCB reporting an increase of 21 per cent and NBAD 9 per cent above a year ago.

Mohamad Hawa, a banking analyst at Credit Suisse, said despite both companies' rosy earnings reports, he expected new threats to the banking system in the months ahead.

"The problem is, if you look at the non-performing loans figure, it's astonishingly low," he said. "I'm looking for impaired numbers which will only be seen on the full-year finances."

Deposits have recently risen at both banks, with NBAD's capital adequacy ratio now at 22.1 per cent and ADCB's at 16 per cent.

Mr Hawa added: "Why would you continuously increase capital unless you're afraid of something that's coming? If there's something not hidden, you would be questioning your management as to why they're being a capital-inefficient bank."