Standard Chartered chief gives warning over UAE asset bubbles
Standard Chartered's local chief executive has warned that preventing asset bubbles will be the biggest challenge facing UAE authorities as the local economy expands.
Research from the British bank, which generates most of its income from emerging markets, said consumer leverage now represents a bigger proportion of the UAE economy than before the financial crisis and added that some measures to protect consumers would be welcome.
With the property crash and attendant financial crisis now firmly in the past, maintaining the current pace of economic growth required attention from the Government, said Jonathan Morris, the bank's chief executive for the UAE.
"The challenge the Government faces now [is] quite difference from the challenges in the recovery period," he said.
"A challenge for the Government will be managing growth and managing inflation."
Asset bubbles were likely to be the biggest concern, he added. Mr Morris said Standard Chartered did not see a bubble developing in house prices, saying the market was experiencing a "normal pricing dynamic" led by demand.
However, the bank said it was in favour of measures such as levies on property sales similar to those in Hong Kong and Singapore, where stamp duties are imposed on overseas buyers as a means of controlling speculation.
Standard Chartered said the ratio of household debt to gross domestic product increased to around 6.16 per cent last year.
That compares to a ratio of 5.8 per cent in 2008, before the Dubai property crisis.
However, interest rates are substantially lower now than then, and household debts represent a lower share of assets.
The ratio of household debt to assets has fallen for the past few years, and is around 25 per cent now, compared with 30 per cent in 2008. The IMF estimates that the UAE economy will decelerate this year to 3.1 per cent growth in real terms from 3.9 per cent in 2012.
But lending by the banking sector has accelerated significantly this year, with new credit in the first six months of 2013 higher than during the 18 months before that.
There has been significant growth in bank lending in the first half of the year, with net loans and advances growing by 4.3 per cent in the year until the end of June, according to the latest data from the Central Bank.
Consumer credit increased in June by Dh3.8 billion to Dh276.2bn, the biggest monthly jump on record and the sixth straight month of increases, which banks attributed to increased retail spending as the job market strengthens.
Banks were attempting to increase the volume of wholesale banking transactions to offset falling margins, Mr Morris added.
"The cost of funding more generally for banks has come down and loan impairments are coming down," he said.
"But margin compression is very real. We're having to run harder to stand still. That's a story we're seeing across the banks."
Updated: September 1, 2013 04:00 AM