x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

First Gulf Bank bullish

First Gulf Bank expects double-digit loan book growth during the year ahead as it plans office openings in South Korea and China.

First Gulf Bank expects double-digit loan growth during the year ahead as it plans office openings in South Korea and China and seeks new business from the Middle East's growing oil trade with Asia.

The Abu Dhabi-based lender expects to increase the bank's balance sheet during the year ahead with a focus on Asian markets, said Karim Karoui, its chief financial officer. "We're planning to continue organic growth. The best guidance would be 10 per cent."

The bank grew its loan book last year through providing funding for Abu Dhabi Government entities, retail lending and small enterprises. The bank's international loan book is expecting to grow at the fastest rate, currently accounting for 6 per cent of FGB's total.

"Our focus is on Asia and the oil business and the trade flows of the oil business," Mr Karoui said.

Mr Karoui said the bank hoped to gain approval for offices in Seoul this year and expected to enter China next year, building on an existing presence in Hong Kong and Singapore.

A number of UAE banks, including Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank and Mashreqbank, have signed agreements with South Korean lenders this year as the countries foresee increased trade.

Meanwhile, Union National Bank, Emirates NBD and National Bank of Abu Dhabi have all leapt into mainland China with office openings during the past few years.

First Gulf Bank generated net profits of Dh4.1 billion (US$1.11bn) last year, an increase of 12.5 per cent compared with the previous year, with its loan book growing by 9.4 per cent during the same period.