Saudi oil sector expands 5.1%

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TEAM EFFORT: Increasing supplies of natural gas is essential for the Kingdom’s economic growth.
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Updated 04 July 2016
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Saudi oil sector expands 5.1%

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s economy expanded at its slowest rate in three years during the first quarter of 2016, official data showed.

Some analysts said the data pointed to a risk of growth in Saudi Arabia slowing to near zero this year, which would be its worst performance since the global financial crisis of 2009.
Gross domestic product, adjusted for inflation, grew 1.5 percent from a year earlier between January and March, down from a revised growth rate of 1.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015, the state statistics office said. It was the slowest growth since 0.3 percent in the first quarter of 2013.
The oil sector expanded 5.1 percent in the first quarter of this year as Saudi Arabia increased its production of crude and exported more refined products.
But the non-oil sector shrank 0.7 percent, its worst performance in at least five years.
“The important thing to remember is that austerity will be a multi-year process. There will be more measures in the next few years and these will continue to keep growth subdued,” said Monica Malik, chief economist at Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank.
Within the non-oil part of the economy, the private sector grew just 0.2 percent in the first quarter while the government sector shrank 2.6 percent, the official data showed.
The weakness of the non-oil sector was partly due to the fact that the first quarter of 2015 was unusually strong; in January that year, authorities awarded public employees two months’ extra salary to mark his accession to the throne.
But the fourth-quarter 2015 growth rate of 1.8 percent was revised down sharply from an original estimate of 3.6 percent. That points to the possibility of a similar revision for the first-quarter figures.
Malik said ADCB was cutting its Saudi GDP growth forecast for the whole of this year to a drop of 0.1 percent, from a previous prediction of 0.5 percent growth.
She noted that while private sector and non-oil activity could pick up slightly from the second quarter of this year, partly because there were signs that the government was paying some of its outstanding bills to private firms, oil output was not continuing to rise significantly year-on-year.
If the economy slows excessively, the government still has the option of spending more to stimulate growth; the central bank holds $573 billion of net foreign assets, and Riyadh has begun borrowing abroad this year to finance some expenditure.
But if it eases up on its austerity program too much it may increase pressure on the Saudi riyal’s peg against the US dollar, fueling concern among some foreign investors about the long-term sustainability of its economy.
In a report released late last month, London-based Capital Economics said it was expecting growth of between zero and 0.5 percent this year.
“Further ahead, as the fiscal squeeze continues, we think the economy is likely to remain weak for the foreseeable future.”


UAE banks benefit from US Fed rate rises

Updated 43 min 47 sec ago
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UAE banks benefit from US Fed rate rises

  • With the dirham pegged to the US dollar, the actions of the US central bank have a direct impact on interest rates charged by UAE banks
  • With another Fed rate hike potentially on the horizon in December, analysts said the Gulf country’s banks could find it harder to keep ramping up the cost of borrowing

LONDON: Banks in the UAE are reaping the benefits of the US Federal Reserve’s three rate rises so far this year, with healthy increases in net interest incomes helping bolster profits.
With the dirham pegged to the US dollar, the actions of the US central bank have a direct impact on interest rates charged by UAE banks.
The UAE Central Bank last increased its repo rate by 25 basis points and raised interest rates on certificates of deposit on Sept. 26 to bring it in line with the Fed’s earlier move.
With another Fed rate hike potentially on the horizon in December, analysts said the Gulf country’s banks could find it harder to keep ramping up the cost of borrowing for their corporates or individual clients.
“Due to ample liquidity in the system, supported by high crude prices, banks are struggling to pass the rate hikes to customers,” said Chiradeep Ghosh, research analyst at Sico Bank in Bahrain.

 

 “We expect UAE banks to report only a modest (net interest margin) expansion, despite a likely three to four more Fed rate hikes by the end of 2019.”
In the last reported quarter, UAE banks revealed increases in net interest income of varying degrees.
Banks’ profitability is typically driven by net interest income, which accounted for 69 percent of the UAE sector’s total net revenue in 2017, according to a Oct. 3 Moody’s Investors Services report.
Dubai-headquartered Emirates NBD reported one of the largest increases in interest income this year.
The bank posted net profits of 7.7 billion dirhams ($2.1 billion) for first nine months of the year, 24 percent up year-on-year. This increase was supported by 9.5 billion dirhams in net interest income, a 19 percent increase on the previous year. In contrast, non-interest income dropped 2 percent for the same time period.
First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB) reported smaller increases, with net interest income reaching 9.75 billion dirhams for the first nine months of the year, marginally up by 0.1 percent.
The increase was slightly more noticeable in the third quarter alone, jumping by 1.2 percent compared to Q3 last year, according to its Oct. 23 statement.
FAB said net interest income was “broadly stable” due to “strong business volumes and rate hike benefits,” according to a bank presentation.
Dubai-based Mashreq Bank said its net interest income, combined with Islamic financing income, climbed by 4.5 percent in the first nine months year-on-year to reach 2.8 billion dirhams, according to a Oct. 21 filing.
Analysts said the increase in the banks’ interest-related income has helped to counter some of the risk of rising funding costs looming over banks.
“We expect that rising interest rates will increase system-wide net interest margins as banks’ higher gross yields outweigh the increase in funding costs,” Moody’s said.
Continued rate hikes could, however, start to affect the financing costs for corporate and individual borrowers and be a drag on economic growth, analysts said.
“Rate hikes would definitely dent the borrowing appetite of UAE corporations and the banks would not be left with much option but to lower their spread over interbank rate which they charge corporates,” said Ghosh.
“The capacity of UAE companies to bear higher debt burden would eventually depend on the economic activities in the UAE. A weak economic environment, along with a surge in higher funding cost may lead to pick up in delinquencies,” he said.
Ehsan Khoman, head of regional research and strategy at MUFG, based in Dubai, said the country should be able to absorb the impact of higher interest rates for now.
“Rising interest rates are unlikely to derail the UAE’s benign economic growth outlook in the near-term. The impact of higher rates should be more than offset by government stimulus. Having said that, it’s an additional factor to consider that GDP growth will remain weak by historical standards,” he said.
Some UAE companies have already reported higher financing costs in their latest Q3 results.
The UAE-based United Food Company (UFC) said on Nov. 5 that finance costs paid in the first nine months of the year reached 535,742 dirhams, compared to the lower amount of 364,568 dirhams recorded in the same period in 2017.
Dubai Investments said on Nov. 5 that finance expenses for the first nine months of the year reached 133.6 million dirhams compared to 69.4 million dirhams.

FACTOID

BACKGROUND

The US Federal Reserve has hiked interest rates three times this year. It left rates unchanged in November but is likely to make another hike next month.