What's Up: Qatar National Bank reports a strong start to 2012, but analysts warn of a crowding out of other Qatari lenders as the country's biggest bank expands market share.
Qatar National Bank sets bar high for fellow lenders
Qatar National Bank (QNB) made a strong start to the year with its 10th consecutive quarter of earnings growth, but analysts expect it will be a hard act to follow for other Qatari lenders.
The country's biggest bank, which is considered a bellwether of the wider Qatari economy because of its dominant market share, reported net profits of 2 billion Qatari rials for the first quarter, an increase of 17.4 per cent.
The bank's quarterly profit growth "was in solid, double-digit territory and in line with estimates, though we would also note that it was the slowest rate in 10 quarters," analysts from Beltone Financial wrote.
The bank's growth story is well told, with preparations for the Fifa 2022 World Cup and the development of the country's gasfields having sparked a bonanza for the government-owned bank.
Lending grew by 3.7 per cent during the quarter to 201.2bn rials, while a big boost in deposits helped ease liquidity conditions.
The bank's bad debts account for just 1.1 per cent of all lending, a rare find for a bank of its size.
But those reading the tea leaves of the country's economy believe a crowding-out of other lenders is taking place.
Total credit throughout the Qatari economy during the first two months of this year grew by 8bn rials to 384.7bn rials, according to data from Qatar's central bank.
QNB's loan book grew by 7.2bn rials during the first three months of this year, so there appear to have been slim pickings for the remainder of Qatar's banking sector - unless the economy had an exceptionally strong burst of growth.
"We expect private sector and retail credit demand to improve from  levels, but it should still account for a far smaller share of incremental growth than the public sector at large," analysts from Deutsche Bank wrote in a research report. "The key beneficiaries [have] a proportionally higher share of government ownership, QNB and Masraf Al Rayan."