November 22, 2017 / 11:14 AM / a year ago

UPDATE 1-UAE loan growth could recover to 3 to 4 pct in 2018, senior banker says

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By Stanley Carvalho and Saeed Azhar

ABU DHABI, Nov 22 (Reuters) - Loan growth in the United Arab Emirates could rebound to around 3 to 4 percent in 2018 after flat growth in 2017, the chairman of the UAE Banks Federation, an industry association, said on Wednesday.

Bank lending has been sluggish this year because of subdued economic growth. In October, gross bank credit expanded just 0.9 percent from a year ago, the lowest rate since the data series began in March 2014, central bank data shows.

Asked what he expected for 2018, Abdulaziz al-Ghurair told reporters: “I think 3 or 4 percent for the banking system.” He did not elaborate, but economists believe a rise in oil prices over recent months will enable governments in the region to loosen spending moderately.

In his role as chief executive of Dubai-based Mashreq bank , Ghurair said Mashreq had no plans to exit Qatar.

“We do business for the long term in any country. We are there for long haul,” he said.

He was speaking as a regional political dispute rages on between Qatar on the one hand and the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt. Many UAE portfolio investors and depositors have pulled money out of Doha since diplomatic and transport links between the UAE and Qatar were cut in June.

Mashreq was the first UAE lender to open an office in Qatar under its previous name, Bank of Oman.

Ghurair said in July that the bank had seen a drop-off in demand for business in Qatar since the dispute erupted.

The UAE central bank asked banks in June to stop dealing with a number of individuals and entities with alleged links to Doha, and to apply enhanced due diligence to any accounts they held with six Qatari banks. (Reporting by Stanley Carvalho and Saeed Azhar; Writing by Tom Arnold; Editign by Andrew Torchia)

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