UAE: CEOs Upbeat Despite Global Instability

Sunday, 20 January, 2019 - 11:15
London - Motleq Mounir

CEOs in the UAE continue to be upbeat results showed in the latest issuance of Oxford Business Group (OBG).

Despite challenges caused by growing global economic and political uncertainty, more than 60 percent of companies across the UAE are expected to make “significant capital investments” over the next year, according to last year’s study.

The majority of respondents surveyed by the company represent private companies (79 percent) – they said that their company was likely to “increase spending on smart technology, and research and development,” within the next 12 months.

However, the executives surveyed also acknowledged that a number of region-specific factors stood as challenges to plans in the short to medium term. Over 60 percent cited political volatility in the Middle East as their main concern, ahead of the US Federal Reserve’s plan to raise interest rates (16 percent).

“Key players continuing to pursue controversial policies have often increased the negative rhetoric rather than reduced it. This is clearly not only a concern domestically, but internationally too,” said Oliver Cornock, OBG’s managing editor for the Middle East.

“Though business-people in the UAE remain upbeat on the whole, it is clear that they are well aware of geopolitics and both the domestic and global ramifications of economic policy,” he added.

Banking Sector

In another context, Alvarez & Marsal’s UAE Banking Pulse compared the data of the 10 largest listed banks in the UAE, looking at the third quarter of 2018 (Q3 2018) against the previous quarter (Q2 2018).

The prevailing trends identified for Q3 2018 were as follows:

1- Deposits continued to grow faster (3.19 percent) than loans & advances (L&A) (2.06 percent), further extending the decrease in loan-to-deposit (LDR) ratio for Q3 2018, continuing the trend from the previous quarter. That said, eight of the top 10 banks remained in the LDR “green zone” of between 80 percent and 100 percent. Five of the top banks grew their L&A and deposit market share, while only two banks lost L&A and deposits market share.

2- Operating income remained steady in Q3 2018, driven by mixed results in interest and non-interest income. Interest income continued to increase (by 1.5 percent) whilst non-interest income saw a further decline (by 3.1 percent), resulting in an overall deceleration in income growth.

3- Net interest margin (NIM) compressed by three basis points (bps), reversing the increase seen in Q2 2018. The compression was driven by a ~20 bps uptick in the cost of funds, despite a rise in yield on credit, which grew by ~25 bps when compared to the previous quarter.

4- Cost-to-Income (C/I) ratio retained previous quarter levels (33.1 percent), with income and expenses steady.

5- Cost of risk saw a slight reduction of ~2 bps (from 0.76 percent in Q2 2018 to 0.74 percent in Q3 2018), driven by a slight decrease in loss provisions and a slight increase in gross loans.

6 - Return on equity (RoE) decreased overall by ~ 68 bps, with two banks showing a large decrease of ~ 310 bps and ~ 270 bps respectively, and three banks managing to increase their RoE. The slight overall decline was driven by a higher cost of funds and lower non-interest income.

Alvarez & Marsal’s report uses independently-sourced published market data and 16 different metrics to assess the banks’ key performance areas including size, liquidity, income, operating efficiency, risk, profitability, and capital.

The country’s 10 largest listed banks analysed in A&M’s UAE Banking Pulse are First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB), Emirates NBD (ENBD), Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB), Dubai Islamic Bank (DIB), Mashreq Bank (Mashreq), Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (ADIB), Union National Bank (UNB), Commercial Bank of Dubai (CBD), National Bank of Ras Al-Khaimah (RAK) and the National Bank of Fujairah (NBF).

Dr. Saeeda Jaffar commented: “Comparing the third quarter of 2018 to Q2 shows that liquidity remained stable, whilst profitability and RoE saw a slight decrease, which we attribute to a higher cost of funds. In the coming months, we expect to see increasing M&A activity in the fragmented UAE banking sector, which makes good business sense aligned with creating regional champions. Banks are looking at consolidation in order to address a tightening market, as well as to provide scale, cost efficiencies and operating synergies. M&A activity is a core competency of our firm.”

She added, “We help clients operationalize M&A strategies by building internal capabilities, governance structures, processes and playbooks in support of their individual goals.”

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