October 22, 2018 / 2:28 PM / 24 days ago

UPDATE 1-First Abu Dhabi Bank to start commercial banking in Saudi this year

(Adds detail, context)

By Tom Arnold and Hadeel Al Sayegh

DUBAI, Oct 22 (Reuters) - First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB), the largest lender in the United Arab Emirates by assets, said on Monday it will launch commercial banking operations in Saudi Arabia by the end of this year.

The bank, which was granted a commercial banking licence in Saudi Arabia earlier this year, has been expanding its staff in the kingdom as it seeks to benefit from the government’s drive to move the economy beyond oil revenues.

It appointed Abdullah Abubakr as head of private banking in Saudi Arabia as of this month, according to his LinkedIn page.

FAB did not respond to a request for comment on his appointment.

FAB is the latest foreign bank attracted by openings in Saudi Arabia. Still, U.S. and European reaction to Saudi Arabia’s account of the death of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi is threatening to smother some of the enthusiasm among some Western banks for opportunities in the kingdom.

FAB said it had already completed its first debt capital markets transaction in the kingdom through its investment banking business. In February, it was granted a licence to conduct arranging and advising activities in the securities business. The bank also on Monday reported a 16 percent rise in third quarter net profit as net interest income and fees and commissions edged higher.

FAB made a net profit of 3.02 billion dirhams ($822 million) in the three months ending Sept. 30, up from 2.61 billion dirhams in the prior-year period, it said in a statement. SICO Bahrain had forecast FAB’s quarterly profit at 2.87 billion dirhams.

FAB’s performance was helped by lower net impairment charges during the quarter, with impairments falling 23 percent to 435 million dirhams. Loans and advances rose to 354 billion dirhams as of Sept. 30, up 8 percent from the same period of last year. Deposits totalled 455 billion dirhams, up 20 percent from a year earlier. ($1 = 3.6728 UAE dirham) (Additional reporting by Stanley Carvalho; Editing by Adrian Croft and Susan Fenton)

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