Al-Sager: We are reaping the fruits of our conservative strategy since the beginning of the pandemic

NBK Group CEO, on the sidelines of the Analyst Conference for 9M2021

  
Mr. Isam Al Sager

Mr. Isam Al Sager

Al-Sager:

  • Our profits for 9M2021 reflect the growth in business volume, increase in operating income, as well as the decrease in the cost of risk
  • We are making steady strides to enhance our digital excellence by investing in digital platforms
  • The drop in NPLs is due to the improvement in some exposures
  • NBK’s digitization agenda focuses on improving customer experience, increasing operational efficiency, and growing business in its international markets
  • We strive to embed ESG initiatives into all our business strategies 

Ronghe:

  • Our profits reflect the strong recovery of the Group’s performance and the continued growth in business volumes
  • The Group’s loan portfolio recorded strong growth for 9M2021

Mr. Isam Al-Sager, the CEO of National Bank of Kuwait (NBK) Group, said: “Our profitability for 9M2021 was mainly driven by increased business volumes, growth of operating income, as well as the decrease in cost of risk.”

On the sidelines of the Analyst Conference for the results of 9M2021, Al-Sager added: “The improvement in the operating environment reflected positively on the bank’s quarterly results, as we posted a net profit of KD 94.1 million for Q3, increasing by 63.3% YoY.

Al-Sager mentioned that NBK reported a net profit of KD 255 million for the nine-month period of 2021, growing by 51% year-on-year, as compared to the same period of last year, adding that the bank is reaping the fruits of its conservative strategy adopted since the beginning of the pandemic.

Digitization agenda

Al-Sager stated that NBK Group’s strategy remains focused on digitization and on diversifying our operations, through our geographic footprint and breadth of services. Our drive towards digital excellence is ongoing and on track; with constant investments on the front as well as back end of our operations.

Our digital agenda is group-wide and focuses on improving customer experience and satisfaction, increasing operational efficiencies and growing our business through higher market penetration in key geographies, he added.

Sustainability

Al-Sager highlighted that NBK’s alignment to ESG principles remains core to the way of conducting its business and how it operates and delivers on its social and economic responsibilities.

As a Group, we continue to integrate ESG principles across the business strategies, and we are beginning to identify and quantify risks and opportunities vis-a-vis climate change and social trends, he added.

Our environmental commitment is ongoing, with initiatives to further reduce energy use and water consumption being rolled out, as well as looking after the health and development of our staff, he affirmed.

Mortgage law

NBK Group CEO stated that the mortgage law is becoming a must. The existing housing finance mechanism by Kuwait Credit Bank will delay the efforts to resolve the growing residential housing demand, especially considering the young Kuwaiti population.

If a mortgage law is passed, the banks will definitely benefit a lot, as they will offer a new product that is expected to have large demand in the Kuwaiti market similar to what we have seen in other GCC countries, he added.

Conservative performance

Commenting on the dropping of NPLs in the third quarter, Al-Sager explained that it is a mix of improvement in some exposures as well as write offs. Throughout the pandemic, NBK took a very conservative approach to NPL recognition especially considering the amount of uncertainty prevailing at that time.

Al-Sager mentioned that the bank built a provisioning buffers over the past quarters in an effort to capture any expected losses resulting from the impact of the pandemic on businesses, noting that as the operating environment improves and some of these previously categorized exposures remained performing and accordingly were removed from the NPL portfolio.

Public Debt Law

Al-Sager stressed that despite the latest oil price increases and its positive impact on the budget deficit; we still see a dire necessity to approve the debt law. The liquidity in General Reserve Fund is depleting; manoeuvring with asset swaps or drawdowns from Future Generation Fund is economically unfeasible and unsustainable. So we are hopeful that the national dialogue can cool off the tensions between the government and parliament and lead to approving the debt law as there are very limited solutions if it is not passed.

On his part, Mr. Sujit Ronghe, Acting Group CFO said that the increase in the bank’s net profit by 51.1% year on year reflects a solid recovery by the Group, driven by continued growth in business volumes, increased operating income and lower credit provisions and impairment losses.

“The cost of risk significantly improved compared to 2020, which makes us cautiously optimistic that the cost of risk will continue to decline during the fourth quarter of 2021,” Ronghe explained.

The cost of risk has been lowering year on year during the last few quarters and we have seen improvement in the operating drivers in Kuwait. Moreover, the credit quality of some of the exposures has also improved, he added.

On NIM outlook, Ronghe mentioned that any uptick would depend on the growth that comes in the next quarter or in the coming few quarters. This is where we can see a slight improvement in yields and NIMs overall. I would give a directional indication that the NIMs are expected to be broadly stable at the level of this quarter.

Strong loan growth

Ronghe noted that loan growth for the nine months has been very strong and the bank does have a strong pipeline into the next quarter and the next year as well.

On retail loan growth and the expectation of the trend post the deferral program, Ronghe said that there were 2 loan deferral programs last year and in the current year, wherein banks did not collect instalments for a period of six months. Hence, current growth levels on the retail side are not expected to continue into 2022, noting that it is probable go back to loan growth levels it had witnessed in the years preceding to COVID.

Ronghe emphasized that NBK has been investing in digital technologies even through COVID-19 times, noting that this is a medium-term goal for the Bank in the journey of digitization, and it is expected that the bank will be able to harness some of the benefits from our investments on the cost front.

-Ends-

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