Saudi banks backed by strong mortgage loans amid COVID-19, lower oil prices

Saudi banks’ financial metrics were supported by a sustained momentum in retail mortgages, among others. (AFP file photo)
Saudi banks’ financial metrics were supported by a sustained momentum in retail mortgages, among others. (AFP file photo)
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Updated 24 December 2020

Saudi banks backed by strong mortgage loans amid COVID-19, lower oil prices

Saudi banks backed by strong mortgage loans amid COVID-19, lower oil prices
  • The sector’s reported asset-quality metrics were stable in the nine months of 2020

Fitch Ratings said in a report that the strong loan growth of 12.7 percent seen in the first ten months of 2020 from the sustained momentum in retail mortgages, combined with an operating environment showing signs of recovery supported Saudi banks’ financial metrics in the face of the repercussions of COVID-19 pandemic and the decline in oil prices.

It added that the sector’s reported asset-quality metrics were stable in the first nine months of 2020, supported by government forbearance measures and high growth underpinned by pre-pandemic corporate deals and retail mortgages.

Fitch also noted that Saudi banks’ weighted average Viability Rating (VR) of ‘bbb+’ remains the highest in the GCC region.

It indicated that the operating environment for Saudi banks has been more challenging since the first quarter of this year due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and lower oil prices, adding that this resulted in heightened pressure on the sector’s asset quality and profitability.

The sector remains well-capitalized, said Fitch, adding that balance sheets of Saudi banks remain very liquid, as the sector’s liquidity has been supported by large amounts of government deposits since the first quarter.

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