x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Regional bank growth forecast to slow down

Bank revenue and profit growth will stagnate in the Gulf this year, trailing international rivals that are experiencing a recovery in earnings.

Bank revenue and profit growth will stagnate in the Gulf this year, trailing international rivals that are experiencing a recovery in earnings after the financial crisis, a study by the Boston Consulting Group shows.

After years of expansion, revenue growth of GCC banks will slow to single digits this year, with UAE banks expected to be flat, the study said.

Banks in the Emirates were forecast to experience a 2 per cent decline in profits overall. Only Oman was expected to perform worse, with profits expected to shrink by 11 per cent.

UAE banks had been among the region's star performers, showing an average annual growth of 21 per cent since 2005.

Dr Reinhold Leichtfuss, the managing director of Boston Consulting, said the period of low revenue growth would spur bank s to make more ambitious moves.

"Banks have to get ready to become more competitive," Dr Leichtfuss said. "You'll have to steal market share from competitors. We'd expect, and this is a pattern we've seen around the globe, that there will also be quite a bit of market consolidation."

He said consolidations would be likely to occur before any cross-border acquisitions begin, but both were possibilities.

Mahin Dissanayake, an associate director at Fitch Ratings, said any mergers and acquisitions would mainly occur among smaller players as many of the larger banks were government-backed.

ghunter@thenational.ae