DUBAI- Qatar National Bank (QNB), the biggest lender in the Gulf, said on Sunday its first quarter net profit fell by 7% from a year earlier to 3.3 billion riyals ($906 million) as it booked 1.4 billion riyals in "precautionary" loan loss provisions.
The bank's total assets grew by 8% from a year earlier to 1.042 trillion riyals at the end of March, the bank said in a statement. That growth was mainly due to a 2% increase in loans advances to 721 billion riyals.
QNB's ratio of non-performing loans rose to 2.2% at the end of the quarter from 1.9% at the end of March 2020.
It said its loan to deposit ratio of 96.1% was "healthy" and complemented by conservative credit underwriting in the first quarter.
"In addition, QNB Group continued its drive for cost rationalisation in addition to sustainable revenue generating sources. This helped QNB Group to improve the efficiency (cost to income) ratio to 23.4%, which is considered one of the best ratios among the large financial institutions in the MEA region," it said.
The cost to income ratio improved from 25.6% in the first quarter of 2020 and 24.3% in the fourth quarter.
The loan loss provisions were "a precautionary measure taking into account the long-term view of the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic," said QNB, which according to its website is 50% owned by Qatar's sovereign wealth fund, the Qatar Investment Authority.
Provisions rose from 972.8 million riyals in the first quarter of last year.
QNB's capital adequacy ratio was at 19% in the first quarter from 18.4% a year earlier.
($1 = 3.6411 Qatar riyals)
(Reporting by Yousef Saba; Editing by Susan Fenton) ((Yousef.Saba@thomsonreuters.com; +971562166204; https://twitter.com/YousefSaba))