February 26, 2019 / 5:18 PM / 23 days ago

REFILE-National Bank of Bahrain expects double-digit loan growth in 2019 – CEO

(Adds dropped word in paragraph 4)

By Davide Barbuscia and Lisa Barrington

MANAMA, Feb 26 (Reuters) - Majority state-owned National Bank of Bahrain (NBB) is aiming for double-digit loan growth in areas such as corporate and structured finance this year, the chief executive told Reuters.

NBB, which had 3.15 billion dinars ($8.36 billion) in assets at the end of 2018, plans to increase lending to major companies and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), as well as projects.

“Our strategy is much more to go into structured finance transactions ... such as project finance in Bahrain where we can take a leading role and then develop the relationship with the client,” Chief Executive Jean-Christophe Durand said.

He said the bank did not intend to be that active in lending to financial institutions.

NBB’s loans and advances increased by 8.7 percent last year, with SMEs, the commercial sector and structured finance the main growth contributors, Ahmed Abdulghani, head of debt capital markets and syndication, also told Reuters this week.

He said he expected light manufacturing to generate lending opportunities for NBB, with foreign firms such as U.S.-based Mueller Industries and Mondelez, the world’s No. 2 confectioner, having expanded operations in Bahrain.

NBB, the second largest Bahraini bank by market capitalisation, said this week it had put on hold its plan to acquire additional shares in Bahrain Islamic Bank.

$1 = 0.3768 Bahraini dinars Reporting by Davide Barbuscia and Lisa Barrington Editing by Edmund Blair

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