* Targets Asia in overseas growth drive
* In talks over $1.2 bln bond repayment
(Adds context, Asia, capital details)
ABU DHABI Feb 27 First Gulf Bank, the
UAE's second-largest lender by market value, expects its loan
book to grow by 10 percent this year, driven by higher demand
from consumers and government bodies.
Loan growth in the UAE has been subdued in recent times as
regulatory measures, including rules aimed at reducing excessive
consumer borrowing, and an economic slowdown have stymied
"For the loan book, the best guidance would be 10 percent,"
First Gulf's Chief Financial Officer Karim Karoui told reporters
at the bank's annual general meeting in Abu Dhabi.
Wednesday's forecast is close to the 9.5 percent achieved in
the previous two years.
Figures from the UAE central bank put loan growth across the
banking sector at 3.4 percent for the first 11 months of 2012.
First Gulf's lending growth in 2013 would be driven by loans
to government-related entities as well as an increase in its
international and retail business, Karoui said.
International operations accounted for 6 percent of the
bank's corporate lending in 2012, but it expects this to
increase as it expands overseas.
First Gulf is targeting Asia in particular, because of
strong trade flows linked to oil, and has applied for a licence
to open a representative office in South Korea and China.
It has also begun talks with the central bank about repaying
4.5 billion dirhams ($1.2 billion) of capital-linked bonds
placed with First Gulf by the central bank at the height of the
global financial crisis, Karoui said.
First Gulf made a net profit of 1.15 billion dirhams in the
fourth quarter of 2012, up 12 percent on the same period of
2011. Full-year net profit for 2012 was 4.15 billion dirhams,
also up 12 percent year on year.
($1 = 3.6730 UAE dirhams)
(Reporting By Stanley Carvalho; Writing by David French;
Editing by Mirna Sleiman and David Goodman)