x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Qatar National Bank rewards stockholders with dividend payout

Qatar National Bank on Sunday posted fourth-quarter net profits which were essentially flat compared with the previous year, meeting analysts' forecasts.

Qatar National Bank (QNB) is to ­reward shareholders with a 4.2 billion riyal (Dh4.24bn) dividend payout after closing a year of bumper ­profits.

The bank was barely hindered by no fewer than four acquisitions announced during a year that saw it become the region’s biggest lender by total assets.

QNB generated net income for the full year of 8.3bn riyals, an increase of 11.1 per cent compared with a year earlier.

The bank also announced a cash dividend payout of 6 riyals per share, worth a total of 4.2bn riyals. QNB’s rise in dividend payouts was “well ahead” of forecasts, Jaap Meijer, a financial analyst at Arqaam Capital told Bloomberg.

The bank is 50 per cent owned by Qatar’s government via the Qatar Investment Authority, with the remaining shares publicly traded. The bank’s shares retreated 1.7 per cent from an all-time high of 140.4 riyals to close at 138 riyals each yesterday, prior to the release of earnings.

QNB has increased its regional footprint this year through acquisitions of a controlling stake in the Iraq-based Mansour Bank, and sizeable stakes in Libya’s Commerce and Development Bank and the UAE’s Commercial Bank International.

It ended last year by announcing the biggest acquisition in the financial sector of the year to date, a US$1.9bn (Dh6.97bn) takeover of National Société Générale Bank (NSGB), the Egyptian arm of France’s second biggest lender.

QNB’s transformation from lowly government lender to regional banking champion will be accelerated by the acquisition of NSGB, which will increase the bank’s staff from 8,800 to about 13,000 worldwide.

The bank’s lending grew at a rapid rate as it rolled out new lending lines to support Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 Fifa World Cup and expanded across the Middle East. Loans and advances increased 28.9 per cent during the year to 250bn riyals.

In spite of this, levels of bad debts remained subdued.

“The bank was able to maintain the ratio of non-performing loans to total loans at 1.3 per cent, a level considered one of the lowest amongst banks in the Middle East and Africa, mirroring the quality of the group’s loan book and due to the effective management of credit risk,” QNB said.