Saudi bank lending climbs on real estate loans

Bank lending is on the rise again in Saudi Arabia helping to boost retail and real estate spending. (Getty Images)
Updated 29 May 2018

Saudi bank lending climbs on real estate loans

  • Total real estate loans rise 5.7 percent in first quarter yoy
  • Oil price recovery helps to boost overall bank lending

Bank lending to the private sector in Saudi Arabia rose in April, providing a tentative sign that confidence in the Kingdom’s economy is returning, say analysts.

Total bank credit to the private sector increased by about 0.7 percent compared to the same month the previous year, according to Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) data.

“It’s a hard indicator to read, but it may be a sign that Saudi consumers and business people feel less uncertain about the future and a bit more secure. It is probably linked to the return to fiscal expansion,” said Marcus Chenevix, a Middle East and North Africa analyst at TS Lombard in London.

“However, Saudi Arabia has a comparatively underdeveloped banking sector for its level of per-capita wealth, meaning that this is an area in which we would expect to see pretty strong growth.”

The loan growth was put down in part to a revival in the property sector.

“Lending growth was driven primarily by the construction sector and the real estate retail loans in the first quarter,’ said Mohamed Damak, senior director, financial institutions ratings at S&P Global.

Total real estate loans by banks in the first quarter this year increased by 5.7 percent compared to the same quarter the previous year.

“Under our base case scenario, we expect slight lending growth in 2018 explained by a higher GDP growth in 2018,” he said.

Ashraf Madani, vice president, senior analyst at rating agency Moody’s Investors Service, agreed that lending is likely to rise this year. “We expect credit demand to increase in 2018 boosted by the planned increases in government capital expenditure,” he said.

The April data also revealed that SAMA’s foreign reserves rose to $498.9 billion in April, the highest level in more than a year and an increase of more than $13 billion on the previous month.

The increase is mainly due to the recovery in oil prices which reached approximately $75 a barrel in April.


“It is 90 percent due to rising oil prices,” said Chenevix.

“The remaining 10 percent of responsibility is down to the fact that the Saudi budgetary system is far better managed than it was just three years ago, even though the state is actually spending more money, it is doing so in a more effective and better planned way than before,” he said.

The Kingdom’s reserves also benefited from the government’s international bond issuance of $11 billion in the first half of April.


Bank jobs go as HSBC and Emirates NBD reduce costs

Updated 15 November 2019

Bank jobs go as HSBC and Emirates NBD reduce costs

  • Others have also reduced headcount amid economic downturn and property market weakness

DUBAI: HSBC Holdings has laid off about 40 bankers in the UAE and Emirates NBD is cutting around 100 jobs, as banks in the Arab world’s second-biggest economy reduce costs.

The cuts come amid weak economic growth, especially in Dubai, which is suffering from a property downturn.

HSBC’s redundancies came after the London-based bank reported a sharp fall in earnings and warned of a costly restructuring, as interim CEO Noel Quinn seeks to tackle its problems head-on.

HSBC has about 3,000 staff in the UAE, part of a nearly 10,000-strong workforce in the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey.

The cuts at Dubai’s largest lender Emirates NBD came in consumer sales and liabilities, one source said, while a second played down the significance of the move.

HSBC and Emirates NBD declined to comment.

“The cuts are part of cost cutting and rationalizing to drive efficiencies in a challenging market,” the second source said.

Other banks have also reduced staff this year. UAE central bank data shows local banks laid off 446 people in the 12 months until the end of September. Foreign banks added staff in the same period.

Staff at local banks account for over 80 percent of the 35,518 banking employees in the country.

The merger between Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, Union Commercial Bank and Al Hilal Bank saw hundreds of redundancies.

Commercial Bank International (CBI) said it would offer voluntary retirement to employees in September, which sources said saw over 100 departures. Standard Chartered, too, cut over 100 jobs in the UAE in September.

Rating agency Fitch warned in September a weakening property market would put more pressure on the UAE’s banking sector.