* Q4 net profit 76.2 mln dinars vs 76.8 mln a year ago
* Result beats analyst expectations of 62 mln dinars
* CEO upbeat on 2013, says 2012 turbulent for local banks
(Recasts with outlook, adds shares, analysts comment)
By Sylvia Westall
KUWAIT, Jan 21 The outlook for Kuwait's banks
has improved after a turbulent year thanks to an expected
increase in state infrastructure spending, the head of Gulf
state's largest lender said.
Ibrahim Dabdoub, group chief executive officer of National
Bank of Kuwait (NBK), said there was cause for
optimism this year as the government adopts a more dynamic
fiscal policy and accelerates spending on mega projects.
"The recent directions from the highest authority and the
proposed measures to boost economic activity and spur growth are
expected to lift the overall sentiment and create new
opportunities in the local economy," he said on Monday.
Dabdoub said the improvement came after a "stagnant" local
economic environment in 2012, during the fourth quarter of which
the lender beat analyst expectations with a steady net profit.
"Government spending was insufficient and the tendering of
new projects remained behind schedule, leading to slower
economic activity and an underperforming stock market," he said
in a statement.
Political tensions in the region also put pressure on
business sentiment in Kuwait and beyond, he said.
Dabdoub, one of the most senior banking figures in the
region, earlier this year urged Kuwait to step up spending on
infrastructure to boost economic growth, in unusually frank
comments for a Gulf business leader.
One of the world's richest countries per capita, Kuwait has
suffered from years of political upheaval stemming from a
long-running power battle between parliament and government.
The row has held up investment and major economic reforms
including implementation of a 30 billion dinar ($108 billion)
economic development plan announced in late 2010.
The plan involves a series of infrastructure projects
including a new airport terminal, new oil refinery and
hospitals, and is aimed at diversifying the economy and
attracting foreign investment.
NBK's fourth-quarter net profit reached 76.2 million
dinars($271 million), a Reuters calculation showed, compared
with 76.8 million a year ago and with an average forecast of 62
million, according to analysts polled by Reuters.
One analyst said the results were much higher than forecast,
thanks to lower-than-expected provisions and
higher-than-anticipated capital gains.
"Overall we take a neutral to positive view on the result,"
analyst Naveed Ahmed at Global Investment House said in a
NBK shares were 2 percent lower at 0.97 dinars by 0940 GMT
as investor caution lingered about the operating environment.
"If there were no projects, and if there were no plans, we
expect a continued decline in the performance of banks,
continued decline in profits and continued decline in shares,"
Nayef al-Anezi, an independent analyst, said.
NBK said it would pay a reduced annual dividend of 30
Kuwaiti fils per share and five bonus shares for 2012. In 2011
the dividend was 40 fils per share and 10 bonus shares.
($1 = 0.2814 Kuwaiti dinars)
(Additional reporting by Ahmed Hagagy in Kuwait and Rania El
Gamal in Dubai; Editing by David French and David Holmes)