February 28, 2010 / 5:45 PM / 9 years ago

UPDATE 1-UAE's First Gulf Bank sees double-digit '10 growth

(Adds details, background, byline)

By Stanley Carvalho

ABU DHABI, Feb 28 (Reuters) - Abu Dhabi’s First Gulf Bank FGB.AD expects double-digit growth in profit, credit and deposits in 2010, its chief executive said on Sunday.

CEO Andre Sayegh said the bank, the second largest by market value in the United Arab Emirates capital, plans to expand in the Gulf state and overseas this year, ruling out acquisitions.

For the fourth quarter, First Gulf had reported net profit rose by 27 percent to 855 million dirhams ($232.8 million), from a year earlier. Its annual earnings rose 10 percent in 2009. [ID:nLDE60K0GR]

“Yes, double-digit growth is sustainable,” Andre Sayegh told reporters at a shareholders meeting.

“If Abu Dhabi and the UAE economy grow 5 to 6 percent, then double-digit growth in the financial sector is expected,” he said.

The bank plans to upgrade its representative offices overseas into branches. First Gulf upgraded its Singapore office into a branch last year and has representative offices in Qatar and India and a joint-venture bank in Libya.

“We prefer to grow in an organic way. We will gradually upgrade the other rep offices,” Sayegh said, adding that China is a market the bank is considering to enter due to China’s growing trade with the UAE.

The bank may add up to four branches this year to its current 19 in the UAE, he said.

Shareholders approved the extension of the maturity of the bank’s convertible bonds by five years. In February 2008, First Gulf launched a $2.5 billion convertible bonds programme, of which it sold $1 billion.

“The remaining $1.5 billion — from today up to five years we have time to think of,” Sayegh said.

The meeting also approved the conversion of a 4.5 billion dirham ministry of finance deposit into Tier 2 capital. (Editing by Leslie Adler)

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