* Bank revenues grow despite regional turmoil
* Deposits grow more than $1.5 billion to $34.4 bln in 2013
* Board proposes 37 pct cash dividend for 2013 vs 30 pct in
(Adds dividends, more details and background)
By Suleiman Al-Khalidi
AMMAN, Jan 25 Jordan's largest lender, Arab Bank
Group, posted a 43 percent rise in net profit to
$501.9 million last year on higher revenues, with its chairman
saying a conservative policy eased the impact of political
upheaval across the region.
Chairman Sabih al-Masri said in a statement the bank, one of
the Middle East's major financial institutions, saw deposits
grow by $1.5 billion to $34.4 billion in the year.
"This was in spite of the challenging environment in the
region with the solid growth in operating income reflecting
prudent and conservative policies the bank preserved and the
strategy it pursued," Masri said.
Masri said the board had proposed paying out 37 percent of
its 2013 profits in dividend payments, up from 30 percent in
Arab Bank, which has a $45.6 billion balance sheet spread
across 30 countries and five continents, had seen a slowdown in
profit growth in recent years as it put aside provisions to
cover non-performing loans at businesses reeling from the global
Bankers said the jump in Arab Bank's profits last year
partly reflects the fact that it put aside less provisions,
although the bank itself gave no figure. It set aside nearly $1
billion in provisions in 2011 and 2012 to cover bad loans.
Bankers say the wave of political unrest across the region
since 2011 will continue to affect the bank's business in 2014,
but a diversified portfolio will help reduce its risks.
Arab Bank's Chief Executive Officer Nemeh al-Sabbagh said
the bank would focus on keeping a high level of liquidity, after
posting a capital adequacy ratio of 15.15 percent at the end of
"It's important to keep high liquidity, which is a main
pillar of the bank's solid financial position," Sabbagh said.
The bank's net operating income exceeded $1 billion in 2013
as a result of growth in net interest and cost-cutting measures,
He said the bank had set aside enough provisions to cover
all its non-performing loans.
Investment analysts say the bank has traditionally had a
lower risk appetite than peers and it favours capitalisation and
liquidity versus profitability.
Arab Bank's growth has long been tied to its regional and
global expansion, and it has built a reputation for low
vulnerability to major political upheaval.
Its subsidiary in Syria was one of several foreign banks
still operating in the civil war-torn country. It has a strong
presence in Egypt and north Africa alongside the Gulf.
The firm is one of the Arab world's largest privately owned
banks. More than 20 percent is owned by the family of Lebanon's
former prime minister, Rafik al-Hariri, who was assassinated in
2005. Jordan's social pension fund holds a 15.5 stake.
Arab Bank owns 40 percent of Saudi Arabia's Arab National
(Editing by Hugh Lawson)