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Pudner To Leave Dubai’s ENBD, New CEO Will Reveal Priorities

Pudner To Leave Dubai’s ENBD, New CEO Will Reveal Priorities

Pudner is expected to stay as CEO until his contract expires at the end of this year.

The new chief executive of Emirates NBD will have to marry competing desires for international expansion and greater local influence in its management, after Dubai’s largest bank announced the departure of current head Rick Pudner on Sunday.

The bank, 56 per cent owned by state fund Investment Corp of Dubai, said Pudner was expected to stay as CEO until his contract expired at the end of this year, at which point he would hand over to a successor, who was not named.

Pressure to ensure that local citizens are playing leading roles in all aspects of the economy – an increasingly important consideration across the Middle East in the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings – will be a factor in choosing Pudner’s replacement, industry sources said.

“It’s time that the largest bank in Dubai is managed by an Emirati national, and if you look around you’ll find many who are qualified for the job,” said one UAE government official, who declined to be named because of the issue’s sensitivity.

However, the lender has embarked on overseas expansion in the last few months after being badly hit by Dubai’s corporate debt crisis of 2009-2011. ENBD is in the process of closing its first foreign acquisition, the purchase of BNP Paribas’ Egyptian assets for $500 million.

This strategy would imply a banker with experience both inside and outside the region who could drive the move, bankers said.

“Which Emirati could come in and do this? Better to make a local deputy to a competent CEO, and let him learn from him to take over next time,” said a senior Dubai-based banker.

The source added that most CEOs at UAE banks had long-term experience at one of the three most active international lenders in the region: HSBC, Citigroup and Standard Chartered.

British-born Pudner was with HSBC for 24 years, including as CEO of HSBC South Korea and head of corporate banking in the Middle East, according to his biography on ENBD’s website.

The top lender in neighbouring Abu Dhabi, National Bank of Abu Dhabi, which is focusing on organic growth in Asia as it moves outside its home market, named Alex Thursby as its new CEO earlier this month.

Thursby led Australia and New Zealand Banking Group’s push into Asia over a six-year period before replacing Michael Tomalin at NBAD.

BAD LOANS

Pudner joined Emirates Bank as chief executive in early 2006. A year later, the bank merged with National Bank of Dubai in one of the region’s largest tie-ups to form ENBD.

He led ENBD through the latter part of Dubai’s economic boom before the emirate was hit by the bursting of its real estate bubble and the need to restructure billions of dollars of debt at state-linked entities.

ENBD’s earnings were dragged down by provisions for non-performing loans (NPLs) and although profits recovered in the last two quarters of 2012, NPLs at the bank stood at 14.3 per cent at the end of last year. Bank officials have predicted they will peak in 2013 at around 15-16 per cent.

By comparison, the ratios at NBAD, First Gulf Bank and Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, which with ENBD make up the top four banks in the United Arab Emirates by market value, stood at 3.4, 3.3 and 5.4 percent respectively at end-2012.

Despite the bank’s problems in recent years, Pudner was well respected in the local banking sector.

“During the bad times he was just the right person to be at the helm for ENBD – he’ll be a hard act to follow,” said one UAE-based banking analyst, who declined to be named as he wasn’t allowed to speak to the media.

ENBD is due to report first-quarter earnings on Thursday; the average forecast of three analysts is for the bank to post a 5.4 per cent rise in net profit versus the same quarter last year to Dhs676 million ($184 million).

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