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DUBAI, May 10 (Reuters) - Mashreq Bank, Dubai's third-biggest lender by assets, expects net profit growth of around 5 percent in 2017, towards the top end of growth for the United Arab Emirates banking sector, driven by expansion in the corporate sector.
Growth in the retail sector would be more sluggish as the impact of the new credit bureau made Mashreq and other banks more cautious about lending, Mashreq Chief Executive Abdul Aziz al-Ghurair, who is also chairman of the UAE Banks Federation.
"UAE growth will come from corporates," he told reporters on Wednesday. "The good news is that for the large corporates there's no stress so they're still performing and the SME issue has stabilised and the credit card business is stable."
Growth for the overall banking sector would be around 3 to 5 percent, he said.
A Reuters poll of economists expects average economic growth to reach 2.6 percent in 2017, before climbing to 3.3 percent in 2018.
Mashreq last month reported a 2.7 percent rise in first-quarter net profit to 546 million dirhams as impairment charges dropped by 15 percent.
Levels of provisions for bad debt across the banking sector should improve in 2017 said al-Ghurair.
Banks had reported elevated levels of provisions in recent quarters, although that rate declined for some banks in the first quarter. Much of the bad debt has stemmed from a spate of defaults by SMEs in 2015 and 2016 as some struggled as a result of lower oil and other commodity prices.
In the retail sector, Mashreq had increased its rejection of credit applications by around 35 percent since it began using the Al Etihad Credit Bureau data last year, he said.
Previously, banks in the UAE were often been unable to access data on consumers at other financial institutions when making lending decisions.
But the bureau has exposed the extent of borrowing by retail customers across sometimes more than one lender, making banks more cautious about lending to heavily-indebted customers.
Reporting By Tom Arnold