Revealed: Top 10 banks in the GCC

The GCC’s biggest listed banks ranked by total asset size



2018 was a good year for the major banks in the Gulf (the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Saudi Arabia) region, which collectively performed better than the previous year. In fact, profitability in 2018 was the highest in four years for Gulf banks. The improved banking performance was supported by generally better economic conditions throughout the Gulf states in 2018. There were higher oil production and recovery in non-oil activities, fuelled by higher investment needs, particularly surrounding activities linked to countries focusing on diversifying their economies.

Government spending continues apace on infrastructure projects in all Gulf states. This economic growth has aided not only corporate banking, but commercial and retail banking areas. In turn, the group of 50 leading banks in the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Saudi Arabia recorded higher net profit in 2018.

In 2018, the Gulf banking sector asset base grew by 5 per cent, against 8 per cent in 2017. Net profit rose by a higher amount, however – a rise of 12 per cent in 2018 against 7 per cent in 2017. Although there was some tightening in margins in 2018, operating expenses were better controlled, and the cost of risk was lower as a whole. The capital increase was only marginal, but the top 50 banks’ balance sheets remain well capitalised. The low growth in capital in 2018 was mainly due to the introduction of the new international accounting policy IFRS 9, which resulted in positive trends in loan-reserve coverage, but negatively impacted banks’ equity positions. Internal capital generation was good as the sector’s return on assets was higher in 2018.

Economic growth across the Gulf region accelerated in 2018. GDP growth for the GCC was a much higher 2.0 per cent last year, against 0.6 per cent in 2017. This aided asset growth for Gulf banks in 2018. There are ongoing efforts and reforms being made towards improving the business environment in the region. In 2019, economic growth is forecast to be slightly higher at 2.1 per cent – and is expected to accelerate to 3.2 per cent in 2020. There remained significant variation in performance, with a small number of banks seeing declining asset bases, but most recorded healthy growth in assets. Many banks achieved good rises in net profit year-on-year. Net profit for the Gulf banking sector increased by 12 per cent in 2018.

The largest domestic banking sector in the Gulf region was the UAE in 2018, with a 38 per cent share of the total.

Looking ahead

For 2019, banks in the region are expected to perform steadily, with overall growth in both assets and net profit. Balance sheet growth is likely to remain in single digits. Geopolitical risk in the area has risen but is not expected to have a big impact on banks. Bank liquidity remains solid for the region with a good profile of customer deposit funding.

Bank interest margins may tighten slightly in some GCC markets due to competitive pricing and lower interest rates. Nonetheless, net interest income will grow as loan growth continues, although modestly. In Saudi Arabia, performance may pick up. Most banks in the kingdom enjoyed a strong first half in 2019 with stronger loan growth, particularly from retail banking and mortgage lending. Private credit growth was also good in Kuwait. In the UAE, performance will remain solid, although economic growth estimates have been revised downwards.

Most Gulf banks’ financial fundamentals remain very solid. Bank capital ratios are high on an international basis.

TOP 10 BANKS IN THE GCC

(Based on total assets of listed banks at the end of 2018)

1. First Abu Dhabi Bank
Assets in 2018 ($000): 202,593,301
Assets in 2017 ($000): 182,131,308
Growth percentage (2017-2018): 11.24
2018 net profit ($000): 3,270,081
Per cent return on assets (ROA) in 2018: 1.61

2. Emirates NBD
Assets in 2018 ($000): 136,221,820
Assets in 2017 ($000): 128,062,152
Growth percentage (2017-2018): 6.38
2018 net profit ($000): 2,733,635
Per cent return on assets (ROA) in 2018: 2.01

3. National Commercial Bank
Assets in 2018 ($000): 120,858,852
Assets in 2017 ($000): 118,603,214
Growth percentage (2017-2018): 1.90
2018 net profit ($000): 2,844,108
Per cent return on assets (ROA) in 2018: 2.35

4. Al Rajhi Banking Corporation
Assets in 2018 ($000): 97,298,030
Assets in 2017 ($000): 91,491,641
Growth percentage (2017-2018): 6.35
2018 net profit ($000): 2,745,339
Per cent return on assets (ROA) in 2018: 2.82

5. National Bank of Kuwait
Assets in 2018 ($000): 90,315,585
Assets in 2017 ($000): 86,238,700
Growth percentage (2017-2018): 4.73
2018 net profit ($000): 1,225,531
Per cent return on assets (ROA) in 2018: 1.36

6. Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank
Assets in 2018 ($000): 76,185,771
Assets in 2017 ($000): 72,149,005
Growth percentage (2017-2018): 5.60
2018 net profit ($000): 1,317,705
Per cent return on assets (ROA) in 2018: 1.73

7. Samba
Assets in 2018 ($000): 61,293,997
Assets in 2017 ($000): 60,674,932
Growth percentage (2017-2018): 1.02
2018 net profit ($000): 1,471,776
Per cent return on assets (ROA) in 2018: 2.40

8. Riyad Bank
Assets in 2018 ($000): 61,283,674
Assets in 2017 ($000): 57,671,401
Growth percentage (2017-2018): 6.26
2018 net profit ($000): 1,257,397
Per cent return on assets (ROA) in 2018: 2.05

9. Dubai Islamic Bank
Assets in 2018 ($000): 60,899,036
Assets in 2017 ($000): 56,448,954
Growth percentage (2017-2018): 7.89
2018 net profit ($000): 1,338,522
Per cent return on assets (ROA) in 2018: 2.20

10. Kuwait Finance House
Assets in 2018 ($000): 58,514,531
Assets in 2017 ($000): 57,497,701
Growth percentage (2017-2018): 1.77
2018 net profit ($000): 751,800
Per cent return on assets (ROA) in 2018: 1.28