x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

NBAD opens Jordan bank as it expands in Levant

NBAD continues its push into Jordan, but doubts remain as political tensions smoulder in the kingdom and burst into flames in neighbouring Syria.

National Bank of Abu Dhabi has opened its second branch in Jordan, with more planned as a springboard to the Levant.

The bank (NBAD) opened its first branch in Jordan in February last year, with six in total planned by 2015, originally intended to help develop opportunities in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

"NBAD entered Jordan with the commitment to serve and expand in this market and just a year later we are launching the second branch," said Qamber Ali al Mulla, the senior general manager of international banking at NBAD.

"Our presence in Jordan plays an important role in NBAD's international branch network and serves as a gateway to the UAE, boosting trade and investment between the UAE and Jordan."

But question marks remain over the kingdom of Jordan, which has been restive throughout the Arab spring.

Clashes between police and protesters armed with swords and daggers last month were broken up with tear gas, Agence France-Presse reported.

At the same time, more than 1,000 protesters took to the streets, calling for economic and political reforms.

The kingdom's border with Syria has been closed since the end of last month. Jordanian activists rallied in solidarity with Syrian protesters at the weekend, according to Reuters.

However, NBAD's increased interest in Jordan comes as tensions in the kingdom start to ease.

"My sense is that tensions are dying down in Jordan, because it is a different type of mix as opposed to some of the other states that have seen uprisings," said Dr Theodore Karasik, the research director at the Institute for Near Eastern and Gulf Military Analysis.

NBAD has recently sought to expand its overseas network with an Islamic bank in Malaysia and a licence to begin operations in Shanghai.

"The overall loan growth story isn't very bright for the UAE this year," said Naveed Ahmed, a financial analyst at Global Investment House. "Perhaps they're trying to tap into a market with higher growth."

ghunter@thenational.ae