x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Changes at the top send NBO plunging

National Bank of Oman reports disappointing earnings, with analysts warning that frequent management reshuffles have resulted in weaker profits.

If too many cooks spoil the broth, what about executives? Shares in National Bank of Oman (NBO) dropped to 331 baisas per share , a five-month low, after its earnings fell below analysts estimates on Sunday.

Some blamed the fact that the chief executive and three chief financial officers have been changed at the bank in the past three years.

Full-year net income at the sultanate's biggest lender rose 28.9 per cent to 27.2 million rials, disappointing analysts, who had hoped for 29.4m rials.

"Pretty clearly, the fourth quarter was a little bit of a disappointment," said Murad Ansari, a banking analyst at EFG-Hermes.

"Omani banks are relatively stable. They've cleaned up their books and coverage has been satisfactory."

Credit growth has increased steadily across the Omani banking sector, rising 1.7 per cent in September, according to the most recent data from the Central Bank of Oman.

However, one analyst at an Omani investment bank, who asked not to be named, said the outlook in the short term for NBO was bleak.

"I don't think there will be a major improvement - we could see growth, but only in the second half," said the analyst.

A lack of direction at senior level had left the bank without a clear vision, with smaller rivals capitalising to grab market share.

"The small banks have been more aggressive in the market. While [NBO] were doing these internal issues, they could lose out on the next quarter," the analyst added.

"During 2010 the focus of the bank was asset quality rather than looking for growth," said Kanaga Sundar, an analyst at Gulf Baader Capital Markets.

"But we feel that the bank is the cheapest bank available in Oman. That will attract institutional players."