October 17, 2016 / 9:31 AM / 10 months ago

UPDATE 1-Kuwaiti lender NBK upbeat on rising demand for credit

* Says large state tenders lift prospects for Kuwaiti lenders

* Posts 6.4 pct rise in Q3 net profit

* Contrasts with profit falls for Saudi rivals (Recasts on chairman's comments, adds detail, context)

By Tom Arnold

DUBAI, Oct 17 (Reuters) - National Bank of Kuwait (NBK) is seeing higher demand for bank credit and an improvement in operating conditions, its chairman said on Monday, in contrast with the generally gloomy picture for banks throughout the Gulf.

Low oil prices have weighed on deposit growth and pushed up problem loans across the region, but Nasser al-Sayer gave a more upbeat assessment for Kuwait's largest commercial lender on the back of an increase in project tenders as the government pushes ahead with capital spending plans.

"This has led to an improvement in the overall operating environment, a pick-up in business sentiment and consequently higher demand for bank credit," he said in a statement.

After years of project delays because of red tape and political wrangling, Kuwait is pressing ahead with several huge schemes, including the Clean Fuels Project to upgrade and expand two of Kuwait's largest refineries and the building of the al-Zour refinery.

Kuwait was the only Gulf state to increase project awards in the first half of 2016, with awards totalling $7.8 billion during the period, according to Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank.

Al-Sayer was speaking after NBK posted a 6.4 percent rise in third-quarter net profit to 68.65 million dinars ($227.24 million), helped by a rise in net interest income.

Analysts at EFG Hermes and HSBC had forecast that NBK would make quarterly net profit of 73.7 million dinars and 67 million dinars respectively.

The results compare favourably with those of rivals in Saudi Arabia, the Gulf's largest economy, where the five banks to have reported third-quarter earnings so far have all reported a profit fall.

Emirates NBD, Dubai's largest bank, on Monday reported a 1 percent drop in profit as as net interest income slipped and costs rose.

Bank lending growth in Kuwait accelerated to 7.4 percent in July, the latest central bank data shows.

NBK's loans and advances reached 13.9 billion dinars in the nine months to Sept. 30, up 4.9 percent year on year, with customer deposits growing 9.7 percent.

In a research note last month, Moody's Investors Service noted that Kuwaiti banks were better placed than their regional peers to weather liquidity tightening because they remained primarily deposit funded and had comfortable capital buffers. ($1 = 0.3021 Kuwaiti dinars) (Editing by David French and David Goodman)

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