x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

NBAD dilemma as cap dampens aspirations

What's Down: National Bank of Abu Dhabi faces a watershed year, as its growth aspirations bump up against newly imposed lending Central Bank limits.

NBAD is expected to be among the most vulnerable to a new Central Bank directive limiting the amount that can be lent to an individual company, analysts from Morgan Stanley wrote in a research report. Lauren Lancaster / The National
NBAD is expected to be among the most vulnerable to a new Central Bank directive limiting the amount that can be lent to an individual company, analysts from Morgan Stanley wrote in a research report. Lauren Lancaster / The National

National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD) faces a possible watershed year as its growth aspirations bump up against new lending limits imposed by the Central Bank.

The bank is most tied to the Abu Dhabi Government's spending plans, giving it scale to grow faster than many domestic rivals, analysts from Deutsche Bank wrote in a research note.

"NBAD's close ties to the Abu Dhabi Government (a 70 per cent shareholder) and perceived financial strength have provided the bank with a significant funding cost advantage relative to peers, which in turn has enabled the bank to generate healthy margins without taking excessive credit risk," the report said.

"We believe recent investment in the business - for example, seven branches were added domestically and two internationally in 2011 - could also help NBAD win market share from other banks."

But NBAD is expected to be among the most vulnerable to a new Central Bank directive limiting the amount that can be lent to an individual company, analysts from Morgan Stanley wrote in a research report.

"Out of the four Abu Dhabi banks we cover, NBAD would be impacted most. The bank has Dh72.7 billion gross public loans (mostly local government and government-related entities) versus Dh36.1bn total capital."

The new laws, announced this month, limit lending to a single entity to 25 per cent of a bank's capital, and aggregate exposure to arms of local government is capped at 100 per cent of bank capital.

The cap will come into effect by September 30 and is expected to force banks to diversify their relationships with government-related entities such as Dubai World and Abu Dhabi's International Petroleum Investment Company.

That may limit NBAD's stated aspirations to increase its total assets fourfold to Dh1 trillion, and its annual earnings to Dh16bn, by 2021.

Much of that growth is expected to come through capitalising on new trade corridors, including between the Middle East and Latin America, which has been the focus of a number of deals with the Emirates this year.

The bank's stock has risen 6.6 per cent so far this year, lagging behind many of its UAE competitors, and the shares have remained languid for much of this month. The bank generated a profit of Dh3.7bn last year, a 0.8 per cent increase on 2010.

ghunter@thenational.ae