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
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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.


Huawei in public test as it unveils sanction-hit phone

Updated 19 September 2019

Huawei in public test as it unveils sanction-hit phone

  • Hit by US sanctions, Huawei's Mate 30 will not be allowed to use Google’s Play Store
  • Household-name services like WhatsApp, Instagram and Google Maps will be unavailable.
BERLIN: Chinese tech giant Huawei launches its latest high-end smartphone in Munich on Thursday, the first that could be void of popular Google apps because of US sanctions.
Observers are asking whether a phone without the Silicon Valley software that users have come to depend on can succeed, or whether Huawei will have found a way for buyers to install popular apps despite the constraints.
The company has maintained a veil of secrecy over its plans, set to be dropped at a 1200 GMT press conference revealing the Mate 30 and Mate 30 Pro models.
Huawei, targeted directly by the United States as part of a broader trade conflict with Beijing, was added to a “blacklist” in Washington in May.
Since then, it has been illegal for American firms to do business with the Chinese firm, suspected of espionage by President Donald Trump and his administration.
As a result, the new Mate will run on a freely available version of Android, the world’s most-used phone operating system that is owned by the search engine heavyweight.
While Mate 30 owners will experience little difference in the use of the system, the lack of Google’s Play Store — which provides access to hundreds of thousands of third-party apps and games as well as films, books and music — could hobble them.
Household-name services like WhatsApp, Instagram and Google Maps will be unavailable.
The tech press reports that this yawning gap in functionality has left some sellers reluctant to stock the new phones, fearing a wave of rapid-fire returns from dissatisfied customers.
Huawei president Richard Yu said at Berlin’s IFA electronics fair this month that his engineers found a “very simple” way to install the hottest apps without going via the Play Store.
Huawei could offer its own app store in a preliminary version, setting itself up as a competitor to the dominant Apple and Google offerings, observers speculate.
Over the longer term, the company could build out a similar “ecosystem” of devices, apps and services as the Silicon Valley companies that would bind users more closely to it.
The world’s second-largest smartphone maker after Samsung, Huawei earlier this month presented its proprietary operating system HarmonyOS, a potential replacement for Android.
The Mate 30 will not yet have HarmonyOS installed.
But it could make for a new round in the decades-old “OS wars” between Microsoft’s Windows and Apple’s Mac OS, then Android versus Apple’s iOS.
Meanwhile, Eric Xu, current holder of Huawei’s rotating chief executive chair, has urged Europe to foster an alternative to Google and Apple.
That could provide an opening for Huawei to build up Europe’s market of 500 million well-off consumers as a stronghold against American rivals.
“If Europe had its own ecosystem for smart devices, Huawei would use it... that would resolve the problem of European digital dependency” on the United States, Xu told German business daily Handelsblatt.
He added that his company would be prepared to invest in developing such joint European-Chinese projects.