The UAE banking sector has stabilised and is now looking to expand, according to Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair, CEO of Mashreq bank and chairman of the DIFC Authority.
“Banks have ample liquidity and they have realised that for them to grow, they have to be more active in lending,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the DIFC Forum in Dubai.
“Particularly since they now see that government-related entities (GREs) and other companies have stabilised and fixed their balance sheets.
“Four years ago, banks were more hesitant to lend to these companies, but now the challenges are behind us. Banks are willing to lend again and they want to do business,” he added.
Bank lending in the UAE rose 2.6 per cent year-on-year in September and 3.2 per cent year-on-year in August 2012, according to central bank data.
Earlier this year, the central bank issued new regulations capping bank lending to local governments and GREs at 100 per cent of capital. While the regulations were set to take effect from the end of September, there were reports claiming that the implementation was delayed.
However, Al Ghurair, who is also chairman of the Emirates Bank association, confirmed that the new rules are now in place.
“The central bank regulations have been implemented,” he said. “The central bank is going to deal with each bank separately and will accommodate them if they have a genuine concern. But ultimately, over time, each bank will have to respect this guideline,” he said.
Going forward, he expects 2013 to be a positive year for the country’s banking sector.
“I am quite optimistic. The tough time is behind us. We have stabilised the business. We have created capacity, we have learned from the past and we are eager to do business. Our doors are open for business, for the corporate as well the retail,” he said.