February 11, 2018 / 6:16 AM / in 10 months

Saudi's Al Rajhi Bank Q4 net profit rises 20 pct

DUBAI, Feb 11 (Reuters) - Al Rajhi Bank, Saudi Arabia’s second-largest lender by assets, reported a 19.8 percent rise in its fourth-quarter net profit on Sunday, broadly in line with analysts’ forecasts.

The bank made 2.45 billion riyals ($653.4 million) in the three months to Dec. 31, up from 2.05 billion riyals in the same period a year earlier, it said in a bourse statement.

Three analysts surveyed by Reuters had on average forecast the bank’s quarterly profit would be 2.28 billion riyals.

Al Rajhi has now reported profit growth for nine quarters in a row. It attributed the latest rise to an 8.1 percent increase in income from financing and investments, an 18.2 percent climb in fees, and a 1.1 percent decline decline in total operating expenses. The latter improved due to a decrease in impairment charges and salary expenses, it said.

Saudi banks’ performance in 2018 should be bolstered by an improvement in liquidity and an anticipated pick-up in lending as the government embarks on a stimulus of 72 billion riyals to support private-sector growth over the next four years.

Al Rajhi’s results follow an 11.8 percent rise in fourth-quarter net profit last week by National Commercial Bank (NCB), the kingdom’s largest lender, helped by a drop in expenses and lower impairment charges.

Loans and advances at the end of December stood at 233.54 billion riyals, gaining 3.8 percent on the same point of 2016, while deposits increased 0.2 percent to 273.06 billion riyals over the same period. ($1 = 3.7498 riyals) (Reporting By Tom Arnold; editing by Richard Pullin)

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