February 16, 2017 / 10:20 AM / 9 months ago

Saudi's Al Rajhi Bank eyes corporate banking business growth

DUBAI, Feb 16 (Reuters) - Al Rajhi Bank, Saudi Arabia’s second-biggest bank by assets, aims to take advantage of opportunities arising from the country’s economic diversification plan to boost its share of corporate lending, its CEO said.

Al Rajhi, Saudi Arabia’s biggest Islamic lender, is one of the dominant players in the kingdom’s consumer banking market, but has only around a 7 percent share of corporate lending.

It aims to use the government’s National Transformation Plan (NTP) as a springboard to become one of the kingdom’s top five corporate banks by 2020.

”In 2016 we gained market share [in corporate banking] for the first time in four years,“ Chief Executive Steve Bertamini said in an interview. ”We believe we can steadily increase our exposure in that sector and will give us a better balance within our overall portfolio.”

“By 2020, we aim to grow our corporate banking focus on the healthcare services, affordable housing, transportation and energy areas,” he said.

The NTP, released last year, is meant to lessen the dependence of the world’s top oil exporter on hydrocarbons following a slide in oil prices.

The government plans to boost non-oil revenue to 530 billion riyals ($141 billion) by 2020, expanding the private sector and creating 450,000 non-government jobs.

Bertamini said the bank had no immediate plans to tap the debt market to fund the bank’s expansion until the end of the decade, adding that the lender was very liquid, had a low loan-to-deposit ratio and among the highest capital adequacy ratios in the world.

”We are very highly funded by current accounts, also very unusual by global standards, so that gives us a strong competitive advantage to fund our customers and our growth in the short-term,” he said.

The bank on Jan. 18 reported a 5 percent rise in fourth-quarter net profit, extending its run of rising profits to five quarters in a row. ($1 = 3.7504 riyals) (Editing by Adrian Croft)

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