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Kuwait: NBK Inks a Financing Facility with Shomoul Holding to Fund Phase 1 of The Avenues Khobar

25.12.2023

National Bank of Kuwait (NBK), as part of a consortium of four banks, has formally inked a SAR 4.35 billion financing deal with Shomoul Holding Company to fund Phase 1 of the Avenues Khobar project.

The consortium including Arab National Bank, Saudi Awwal Bank (SAB), and Riyad Bank were among the banks engaged in financing the project, in collaboration with Saudi Arabia's  Tourism Development Fund (TDF) aims to fund Phase 1 of the Avenues Khobar project, encompassing both the commercial mall and a multifunctional tower.

The signing ceremony was attended by senior executives, including Mr. Isam J. Al-Sager, Vice Chairman and Group CEO of National Bank of Kuwait Group, Mr. Mohammed Al-Shaya, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Shomoul Holding Company, Mr. Qusai AI-Fakhri. Chief Executive Officer at Tourism Development Fund, Mr. Louai Al-Zaher, Head of Wholesale Banking Group at Arab National Bank, Mr. Mohammed Abu Al-Naja, Executive Vice President, Corporate Banking at Riyad Bank, and Mr. Mohammed Al-Mohsen, Regional Head of Multinational Corporate at Saudi Awwal Bank.

The ceremony was attended by Ms. Shaikha Al-Bahar, Deputy Group CEO of NBK, and Mr. Sulaiman al Marzouq,Deputy CEO of NBK-Kuwait, and Mr. Sulaiman Al-Fulaij Deputy Head, Domestic Corporate Banking Group.

The Avenues Khobar, located at the crossroads of King Saud Road and Prince Sultan Road in the heart of Al-Khobar's northwestern sector, is a ground-breaking project. It ranks among the Eastern Province's most extensive and pioneering endeavors, set to redefine shopping and entertainment paradigms. This project is projected to greatly elevate the region's tourism sector and service offerings.

Spanning a leasable area of 70,000 square meters, this vast expanse encompasses 8 distinct shopping zones, 10 cinema halls, and exclusive entertainment zones. Additionally, the project features two towers: the first tower hosts a hotel, while the second tower accommodates a hotel, conference halls, office spaces, and a substantial parking area capable of housing over 6,000 vehicles.

Shomoul Holding Company has recently announced that Al Kifah Contracting Company and Al Ahmadiah Contracting Company were chosen as the main contractors of the project, with a contract value of SAR3.660 billion.

Shomoul Holding Company was established in 2014 as a joint venture involving three key entities: Al-Mabanee Company, Al-Fawzan Group, and Al-Shaya Group, resulting in a Saudi-Kuwaiti cooperation. This strategic partnership draws on these partners' substantial knowledge and experience in GCC and the Middle East.

NBK maintains its prominent position as the major financial institution for funding mega transactions and projects in Kuwait and throughout the region, thanks to its strong balance sheet and extensive expertise. Moreover, its enduring success is underpinned by the exceptional and long-standing relationships it cultivates with clients, fostering sustainable and mutually beneficial partnerships, in the local and international markets.

Continuing its legacy, NBK actively pursues opportunities within the local and regional landscapes. Leveraging its historical leadership in spearheading significant collaborations and funding pivotal strategic initiatives across various sectors, NBK solidifies its pioneering role as the bank of choice for major local and regional corporations, aiding in financing their expansion endeavors.



Kuwait: NBK’s AGM Approves All Motions Proposed by the Board of Directors

24.03.2024

National Bank of Kuwait (NBK) held its Annual General Meeting (AGM) for 2023 on Saturday, March 23, 2024, with a quorum of 71.87%. The AGM approved the Board of Directors’ recommendation to distribute 25% cash dividend to shareholders (25 fils per share) for the second half of the financial year, bringing the total cash dividend distributions for the year to 35%, in addition to the distribution of 5% bonus shares (5 shares for every 100 shares owned).

Consistent Progress

In his speech to the AGM attendees, Mr. Hamad Al-Bahar, NBK Group Chairman, emphasized that the strong financial results achieved by the bank in 2023 highlight its unique business model and strong financial position. This performance reaffirms NBK’s dedication to providing the highest returns for shareholders and promoting sustainable growth.

Al-Bahar highlighted the multitude of successes attained by the bank in 2023, further solidifying its track record of accomplishments and leadership both domestically and internationally. These endeavors were acknowledged with numerous prestigious awards, further affirming NBK’s position of excellence.

"Our sustained achievements stem from our core strategy of diversification, which lies at the foundation of our operations. By strategically expanding our portfolio and services across various geographical locations, we mitigate risks, capitalize on potential opportunities, and reinforce our dedication to adaptability, resilience, and long-term stability."

"We remain committed to making substantial strides in executing our strategic agenda, and we are optimistic that our accomplishments over the past year will serve as a catalyst for enhanced performance in the future." Al-Bahar emphasized. He also underscored NBK's robust balance sheet and stable capital foundation, highlighting their role in meeting the evolving demands of customers and delivering optimal returns for shareholders.

Al-Bahar further stated, "Our endeavors yielded improvements across all key performance indicators compared to the previous year. This underscores the effectiveness and adaptability of our long-standing strategy, solidifying our position as a safe haven for investors, depositors, wealth management clients, individuals, and businesses alike. Moreover, we remain committed to leveraging the potential of digital transformation and sustainability initiatives, while fostering collaboration with communities, corporations, and individuals to foster a brighter and more inclusive future."

Social Responsibility

Al-Bahar highlighted the bank's prominent role in social responsibility over the past year, establishing itself as a leader in Kuwait. The bank contributed over KD 28 million across various sectors including healthcare, childcare, societal initiatives, environmental causes, sports, and education.

Expanding our Footprint

Discussing the bank's prospects for the current year, Al-Bahar remarked, "Regarding our outlook for 2024, our expansion efforts will primarily focus on Kuwait as our core market, with strategic initiatives in the GCC markets. We intend to further strengthen our presence in current markets through strategic investments. Additionally, the bank aims to introduce its proven digital banking solutions in other markets, while enhancing its footprint across MENA region."

Unwavering commitment

Al-Bahar emphasized NBK's unwavering dedication to upholding the highest ethical standards and governance principles. He highlighted the bank's dynamic and proactive governance framework, which fosters transparency, accountability, and ethical conduct across all levels. Al-Bahar noted that the Board of Directors, in collaboration with the dedicated executive management team, prioritizes aligning strategic decisions with the bank's core values to effectively serve the interests of its shareholders.

Historical Earnings

Meanwhile, Mr. Isam J. Al-Sager, NBK Group Vice Chairman and CEO, outlined in his speech that the bank reached its highest annual profit on record in 2023 and maintained strong profit trends. This accomplishment was supported by its diversified business model, strategic investments, and resilience in the face of various economic conditions.

Al-Sager highlighted that despite the challenging operating environment and geopolitical tensions experienced last year, the bank achieved a record profit of KD 560.6 million, marking a year-on-year growth of 10.1%. Additionally, the operating profit surged to KD 1.2 billion, reflecting a substantial increase of 15.6%.

Al-Sager further stated, "Our core segments exhibited strong performance and sustained operational momentum, particularly in our international operations and wealth management divisions. Additionally, Boubyan Bank further supported our competitive edge in the local market as the sole banking group offering both Islamic and conventional banking services in Kuwait."

He explained that the bank maintained consistent dividend rates of 35 fils per share by the end of the year, highlighting the strong financial position of the Group and its commitment to providing shareholders with optimal returns.

He highlighted that as of December 31, 2023, total assets stood at KD 37.7 billion, marking a 3.7% year-on-year increase. He attributed this growth primarily to the expanding volume of the Group's business across diverse sectors and activities.

Al-Sager also indicated that shareholders' equity reached KD 3.7 billion, reflecting a notable annual growth of about 7.3%. Return on average shareholders' equity stood at 15.0%, while return on average assets demonstrated strong rates, reaching 1.53% in 2023. Moreover, customer deposits surged to KD 21.9 billion by year end, marking an 8.8% increase compared to 2022. Concurrently, loans and advances experienced a growth of 6.1%, reaching KD 22.3 billion. Additionally, the capital adequacy ratio surpassed the minimum required levels, reaching 17.3%.

Challenges and Opportunities

Al-Sager remarked that Kuwait encountered challenges akin to those experienced globally in 2023. However, he highlighted several opportunities seized upon during the past year. These included the sustained increase in oil prices, the flexibility observed in consumer spending, accelerated growth in the projects market compared to previous years, positive trends in employment and population growth, advancements in the refining sector, and a less hawkish monetary policy approach. These factors collectively contributed to shaping a favorable economic environment in Kuwait.

He highlighted that the remarkable achievements of the bank in the previous year were attributable to several factors, including leveraging its geographical footprint, advancing the digital transformation initiative, and maintaining a robust financial position. These aspects strengthened revenue streams while maintaining the bank's prudent policies over the years. Consequently, this positively impacted asset quality and boosted capitalization.

Centre of Attention 

Al-Sager emphasized that in 2023, NBK continued its commitment to prioritizing customers by offering innovative digital services and products to support their financial objectives.

Wealth Management

Al-Sager highlighted that in the previous year, NBK Wealth was introduced as a premier destination for pioneering and sophisticated wealth management solutions. It offers an extensive array of comprehensive services in private banking and advanced asset management through a global network spanning 9 cities across 5 countries.

In the domain of digital transformation, Al-Sager emphasized that the bank leads among financial institutions in digital innovation, prioritizing a banking experience tailored to the actual needs and aspirations of its customers. He noted that the bank's unwavering dedication to addressing customer needs has played a pivotal role in reshaping the lifestyles of its customers through a meticulously crafted range of digital services and products.

Sustainability Momentum

Al-Sager elaborated that the bank sustained its progress in sustainability by embarking on a new trajectory for its environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) strategy. This involved the adoption of a formal ESG governance framework and the integration of these standards across its services and products. For instance, it introduced green mortgage loans, consumer loans for electric vehicles, financing options related to sustainability, and low-emission housing loans.

“Recently, we have been recognized as the Best Bank in the Middle East for ESG-related loans. Furthermore, we have successfully finalized and approved the ESG framework, clearly defining responsibilities among members of the executive management. We have also established the Sustainability and Climate Change Committee, which operates under the direct oversight of the Board of Directors.

Al-Sager highlighted that NBK has maintained a high score by CDP, distinguishing itself as the sole bank in Kuwait to receive this recognition. Furthermore, NBK ranks among the highest-rated GCC financial institutions engaged in this initiative. Additionally, the bank has committed to reducing total operating emissions by 25% by 2025 and aims to achieve zero emissions operationally by 2035. These initiatives are integral to the bank's overarching plans to attain carbon neutrality by 2060. Consequently, these efforts led to an upgrade in the Bank's MSCI ESG Governance rating to BBB as per the 2023 review.

A Sustainable Future

"Our agile strategy and resilient business model will persist in steering us towards delivering utmost value to our stakeholders, serving as a cornerstone in our journey towards a digital and sustainable future. We remain steadfast in our commitment to sustaining revenue growth through responsible banking practices, strategic investment in our future, innovative products and services, enhancement of our digital capabilities, fostering holistic community development, and playing a significant role in fostering economic growth in Kuwait and beyond." Al-Sager said.

Focus on profitability

"As we navigate the opportunities and challenges of 2024, our dedication to prioritizing profitability, capital resilience, and sustainable growth remains unwavering. However, we recognize the need to closely monitor several challenges, with geopolitical tensions in the region standing out as particularly significant." Al-Sager concluded.

Diverse Mix

On the sidelines of the AGM, Ms. Shaikha K. Al-Bahar, NBK Deputy Group CEO highlighted that NBK has witnessed positive growth trends in the previous year, demonstrating continued success in executing its strategic plans, confirming that the primary sources of profitability in 2023 were centered around core banking operations.

Al-Bahar explained that NBK's performance in 2023 showcased the effectiveness of its diverse business portfolio and prudent risk management practices. She highlighted the substantial strides made in executing its customer-centric strategy, underscoring NBK's sustained momentum across various fronts. This encompassed achieving robust levels of capitalization, maintaining high credit quality, and strengthening customer relationships, all of which led to an expansion in business volume.

She emphasized that these factors were pivotal in driving last year’s strong performance and will play a significant role in generating sustainable value for shareholders in the long term. She also highlighted the bank's ongoing commitment to expanding its business operations while enhancing the quality of its services.

"2023 served as a testament to the resilience of our investment philosophy in driving growth initiatives and the importance of customer-centricity. These factors propelled the ongoing expansion across our diverse business sectors. Throughout the year, we remained committed to investing in the future, enhancing our digital capabilities to improve customer service, and introducing innovative products and solutions aimed at facilitating our customers' banking needs." Al-Bahar said.

Al-Bahar emphasized that the International Banking Group (IBG) maintained robust performance and supported the balance sheet, accounting for 24% of operating income and 23% of the Group's profits. This underscores their significant contribution to the overall performance of the Group.

She highlighted that in 2024, IBG will strengthen the bank's footprint in key regional markets, particularly in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. This will involve targeting Government Related Entities and Top-Tier Corporations. Additionally, strategic expansion efforts will focus on the European Union, particularly in corporate lending, trade finance, Commercial Real Estate, and residential mortgages. The Group also aims to strengthen its footprint in Asia through its regional hub in Singapore while diversifying its Commercial Real Estate portfolio.

Al-Bahar further emphasized that IBG are committed to diversifying the Group's commercial real estate portfolio. Additionally, they aim to integrate ESG standards into credit management processes while promoting digital and technological investments across the business network.

She emphasized that throughout 2023, the bank remained focused on maintaining high asset quality and strong capitalization. Highlighting the significance of the Saudi market, she noted that it is a key priority for the NBK Group due to the numerous emerging opportunities aligning with the bank's strategic goals. Additionally, she highlighted the profitability of the bank's operations in Egypt, which continue to be among the most lucrative within the Group, boasting the highest returns on both shareholders' equity and assets.

Wealth Management

Al-Bahar highlighted that NBK Wealth Group played a significant role in 2023, contributing 10% to operating income and approximately 11% to the Group's profits. She noted that the previous year marked the official announcement of the launch of its brand, solidifying its position as one of the largest regional groups in comprehensive wealth management. The group caters to high-net-worth individuals and corporations, offering tailored financial advisory services aimed at protecting and growing the wealth of its customers, through offering innovative and comprehensive banking and investment solutions.

She further mentioned that NBK Wealth, with approximately US$37.6 billion in personal financial assets by the end of 2023, boasts an elite team comprising over 100 investment experts and brokers with extensive experience in the field.

Revolutionary Change 

Al-Bahar emphasized that the bank has made significant progress in its digital transformation journey by introducing notable updates and enhancements to the NBK Mobile Banking App. These updates represent a revolutionary shift in how customers engage with their everyday banking requirements through a highly efficient and user-friendly interface. This contributes to enhancing and refining the overall customer experience.

The Best Experience

Al-Bahar highlighted that NBK's efforts persist in delivering top-tier banking experiences, operating with the utmost efficiency, and securing a significant market share by offering customers a broader array of options and numerous value-added services. She underscored the bank's consistent commitment to delivering added value for all stakeholders, employing a balanced approach to boost revenues from diverse sources, and enhancing the Group's profitability. This entails maintaining the bank's prominent position in its core business while fostering growth through expansion into sectors beyond its key business activities.

Digital Offerings 

She emphasized that NBK remains dedicated to investing in its digital offerings to furnish customers with a unique and unparalleled banking experience. This commitment encompasses the implementation of cutting-edge financial tools and unique banking services, along with regular updates to the NBK Mobile Banking App, acclaimed as one of the premier banking applications in the sector. Moreover, NBK leverages data analysis and artificial intelligence across many of its services, employing machine learning techniques to deliver a personalized experience that surpasses customer expectations.

Social Initiatives 

Al-Bahar confirmed that the bank's social initiatives persisted throughout the past year, marked notably by the official introduction of the "Bankee" program. This initiative aims to enhance financial inclusion, particularly among school students, fostering sustainable improvement in financial literacy levels within society. In collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Kuwait Authority for Anti-Corruption "Nazaha,", the program engaged 150 schools and over 16,000 students, supported by the participation of 3,000 teachers. Additionally, the program also included a special needs school for learning difficulties. 

She highlighted that the bank's endeavors to support and empower women saw significant recognition with the NBK Rise program receiving the prestigious Best Initiative for Women in Business accolade at the MEED MENA Banking Excellence 2023. This notable achievement reflects the culmination of the bank's dedicated steps towards women's empowerment. Importantly, this effort extends beyond the bank itself to encompass several leading organizations in Kuwait.

Leadership Centre

On the sidelines of the AGM, Mr. Salah Y. Al-Fulaij, Chief Executive Officer – Kuwait remarked that throughout 2023, NBK’s endeavors were marked by initiatives aimed at strengthening its leading position in Kuwait and enhancing customer loyalty.

Al-Fulaij further added that the bank focused on enhancing and refining the NBK Mobile Banking App by incorporating over 30 enhancements to improve both user interface and experience. He highlighted that the App witnessed over 50 million banking transactions in the past year, marking a notable 19% year-on-year growth.

He emphasized that NBK Mobile Banking App is elevating digital offerings to new levels as part of the bank's ongoing endeavors to empower customers through the digital transformation journey. This is particularly evident in the substantial increase in customer satisfaction rates, exceeding 90%, following the recent update of the new App.

The Youth Segment 

Al-Fulaij indicated that in 2023, the bank continued to leverage the valuable offerings provided by Weyay Bank, increasing its market share in the youth segment to over 30%. Additionally, the bank forged a partnership with MasterCard, which now serves as the exclusive provider of bank cards.

He highlighted that NBK extended bank cards to SMEs as part of its commitment to catering to the needs and demands of this segment. Moreover, the bank entered into several partnerships to introduce new services, including exclusive offers for retirees in collaboration with the Public Institution for Social Security.

He emphasized that the bank has broadened its range of robust offerings for customers in the premium services sector through partnerships with top-tier brands, providing this segment with an exclusive lifestyle experience.

“We will persist in implementing customer-centric strategies that foster technological advancements and introduce innovative initiatives to bolster NBK's standing as a reliable financial partner and establish new benchmarks in Kuwait's banking industry,” Al-Fulaij said.

Al-Fulaij underscored that NBK's commitment to delivering exceptional products and services to its customers earned it several accolades throughout the year, notably being recognized as the Best Innovation and Transformation (World) by Global Finance. He emphasized that NBK's significant and strategic investments in its workforce, operational infrastructure, and digital platforms over the years have unequivocally proven their worth and effectiveness.

Maximum Benefit

Al-Fulaij emphasized that NBK's Personal Banking Group capitalized on the momentum of consumer spending and operations by offering exceptional banking services and products. He highlighted the implementation of a strategy that prioritizes customer choice based on individual needs and lifestyle preferences when designing products. Additionally, he emphasized NBK's commitment to maintaining a significant digital advantage over its competitors.

He added that the Corporate Banking Group remains steadfast in achieving its strategic objectives, with a primary focus on maintaining and expanding NBK's leadership and market share as the preferred corporate partner in Kuwait.

He emphasized that the bank plans to continue leveraging new business opportunities with existing customers and attract new ones, thanks to its exceptional service and the strength of its capital base.

Al-Fulaij elaborated that in 2023, the Corporate Banking Group introduced a pioneering set of commercial cards, the first-of-its-kind in Kuwait, aimed at empowering customers to manage their business expenses effectively. Additionally, new services were introduced to streamline the provision of digital and physical documents to corporate clients, fostering the growth of our medium-sized corporate clientele.

“In 2024,   our focus will remain on maintaining prudent credit risk management practices, We will continuously monitor and assess the performance and effectiveness of our interactions with corporate customers, to continually enhance our offerings. Moreover, we are committed to continue our efforts to integrate ESG standards into our assessments of corporate customer credit and creditworthiness, thereby fostering improved governance in business practices,” Al-Fulaij commented.

Renewed Momentum

Al-Fulaij also noted that Kuwait's operating environment in the past year displayed continued signs of recovery, driven by increased consumer spending and improved business activity. Additionally, there was a gradual recovery in spending and project awards, with project activities experiencing their strongest performance since 2017 in terms of the value of contracts awarded. This positive trend is expected to have a favorable impact on private sector lending.

Key Pillar

Al-Fulaij indicated that the exceptional results achieved by the bank in 2023, along with its robust operational and financial performance, owe much to the exceptional human capital, which stands as the cornerstone of the bank's achievements. He highlighted that the Human Resources Group is persistently dedicated to fostering a work environment conducive to enhancing employees' capabilities, encouraging peak performance, fostering innovation, and driving continuous improvement.

Al-Fulaij revealed that in 2023, NBK allocated approximately 179,000 training hours to its employees, with 142,000 hours dedicated to local training initiatives and 36,700 hours for IBG. 

Moreover, the bank initiated numerous academic, motivational, and cultural programs. He emphasized NBK's commitment to providing equal opportunities to all employees, underscoring that this commitment is evident in the bank's workforce composition. Notably, women accounted for approximately 44% of the total workforce, with around 28.8% holding senior management positions. Additionally, Kuwaiti employees constituted about 76.7% of the total workforce by the end of 2023.

He highlighted that the bank's initiatives persist in fostering a workplace culture where individual advancement meets collective achievements. These initiatives entail offering professional development avenues for employees, equipping them to navigate the complexities of the dynamic landscape and the evolving demands of the sector. "Our investments have not only empowered our employees and supported their capability to tackle challenges but have also positioned our organization as a frontrunner in innovation and competitiveness," He emphasized.

"In 2023, the bank's endeavors culminated in receiving five prestigious awards. Among these accolades were three awards from MEED, recognizing our outstanding contributions to women's empowerment initiatives and sustainable development of human resources. Additionally, we were honored with the bronze award from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). The recognition is credited to the NBK RISE program, recognizing the initiative’s excellence in diversity and inclusion. Furthermore, we received the coveted Bronze Medal from Brandon Hall International Group, for our excellence in Best Advance Program in Compliance Training,” Al-Fulaij concluded.
 



Kuwait: Al-Bahar: We are Optimistic for More Political Stability, Promoting Business Environment in Kuwait

06.02.2024

In an interview with Bloomberg, Ms. Shaikha Al-Bahar, NBK Deputy Group CEO, expressed optimism that a stabilized political environment will improve Kuwait's business landscape.

During the interview, Al-Bahar confirmed that in 2023, NBK consistently maintained strong asset quality and solid capitalization.

Optimism & Positivity 

Al-Bahar expressed confidence in the impact of Kuwait's political landscape on business prospects. She underscored the favorable perspective on the newly appointed government and the transformative policies introduced by the new Prime Minister. Recognized as technocrats committed to a reform agenda, the new cabinet representatives aim to implement strategic changes that will boost the business environment in Kuwait.

“The new cabinet has started to actively engage with the parliament to align on the direction and promote cooperation,” Al-Bahar stated, noting that while the political scene is currently calm, the resumption of sessions and further interaction and execution progress by the newly appointed government are key to gain more confidence in a more optimistic outlook.

“What is important here is to highlight that a stable period of political dialogue can see a lot of these hanging issues get resolved and translate into a more productive legislative calendar,” Al-Bahar added. 

Discussing the projections for 2024, Al-Bahar pointed out that NBK maintains an optimistic and positive outlook regarding the revival of project execution, fostered by a more stable political environment. Such stability is expected to catalyze improvements in the non-oil GDP growth and boost credit demand.

“The strong momentum of projects is expected to continue and feed into the market in 2024, with another KD 6.2 billion worth of awards in the pipeline,” Al-Bahar indicated.

She also pointed out that the projects market rebounded sharply in 2023 with KD +2.5 billion worth of awards: surpassing last year's awards by almost 300%.

“We are hopeful to see some political stability and an improved dialogue between parliament members and the newly appointed cabinet as this will trigger project activity that can revive non-oil GDP activity and demand for credit,” Al-Bahar noted.

Al-Bahar also mentioned that Saudi Arabia is considered a key market that NBK is approaching from all fronts. She also noted that as the operating environment in the kingdom continues to improve, presenting lot of emerging opportunities that align with the bank’s strategic goals.

“We are also expanding under our newly launched Global Wealth Management platform. We have been active in the Saudi market and the NBK franchise is playing an important role in our AUM growth in KSA,” Al-Bahar stated.

2024 Outlook: Navigating the Future

Al-Bahar emphasized that the performance in 2024 may be influenced by an anticipated shift in the Fed’s monetary policy towards a direction that generally does not favor banks, given their business models are designed to thrive in environments of high or rising interest rates. She pointed out that the operational challenge for banks in 2024 will be to defend their margins.

“With our diversification and our growing focus on fee business, we partially hedge revenue from interest rate movements. Our focus will remain on strategy execution and keeping the strength of our balance sheet intact as this is what helps us navigate through different economic cycles,” Al-Bahar explained.

Al-Bahar further elaborated that alongside the core banking's growth momentum, there is an expectation for the ongoing expansion of NBK’s international and wealth management operations, supported by the Group’s presence in key markets, stating that” Our commitment to digital investments will persist in defining our future, with an increased emphasis on incorporating digital services across all business sectors and markets”.

In answering a question regarding provisions in 2023, Al-Bahar explained that the provisions are primarily a precautionary measure, reflecting a historically prudent stance towards managing credit risk.

The challenges facing the Egyptian Pound

When asked about the Egyptian market's condition and the future of the bank's investments there, Al-Bahar stated, "The Group considers Egypt to be a key strategic market for our operations, often referring to it as our 'second domestic market.' She emphasized that NBK has a steadfast presence in Egypt and has no intentions of exiting from this investment, viewing it as a long-term commitment."

“With regards to our operations in Egypt and in domestic currency terms, it remains one of the most profitable in the Group with the highest ROEs and ROAs,” Al-Bahar responded.

“We are looking forward to some easing of geopolitical tensions to allow for some recovery in foreign currency inflows and a reactivation of the government’s asset sales program. Once the confidence is restored in the economy and the currency, we believe there are huge opportunities in Egypt and remain optimistic on its prospects,” Al-Bahar concluded.



Kuwait: NBK Reports KD 560.6 Million in Net Profits for Financial year 2023

01.02.2024

National Bank of Kuwait (NBK) released its full year 2023 financial results for the twelve months period ended December 31, 2023. The Group recorded a net profit of KD 560.6 million (USD 1.8 billion), up 10.1% year-on-year from KD 509.1 million (USD 1.7 billion) in 2022.

As of the end of December 2023, total assets grew by 3.7% year-on-year to reach KD 37.7 billion (USD 122.8 billion), whereas customer deposits surged by 8.8% to reach KD 21.9 billion (USD 71.6 billion). Meanwhile, total loans and advances stood at KD 22.3 billion (USD 72.6 billion), up by 6.1% year-on-year, while attributable shareholders’ equity reached KD 3.7 billion (USD 12.0 billion), growing by 7.3% year-on-year.

 In terms of distributions, the Board of Directors proposed a cash dividend distribution of 25 fils per share for the second half of 2023, bringing the total cash dividends for the year to 35 fils; a payout ratio of 50% of profits attributable. The Board of Directors also proposed the distribution of 5% bonus shares. The proposed distributions are subject to approval by the Annual General Assembly, which is scheduled for March 2024.

Earnings per share (EPS) stood at 68 fils per share for the year 2023, compared to 61 fils in 2022.

Mr. Hamad Al-Bahar, Group Chairman commented on the financial results: “In 2023, NBK achieved robust financial results, showcasing the adaptability of our business model and affirming our consistent progress toward delivering enduring long-term value to our customers, shareholders, and communities”.

“We persist in making substantial strides in executing our strategic agenda, and we are confident that the initiatives undertaken in the past year will serve as a catalyst for even stronger performance in the future,” Al-Bahar continued.

He also emphasized that NBK has a robust balance sheet and a stable capital base, providing support for meeting the expanding needs of its customers while simultaneously striving to achieve optimal returns for its shareholders.

Al-Bahar expressed optimism that the operational environment in Kuwait will gain momentum in the upcoming period, particularly following the attainment of political stability. This positive outlook is further bolstered by the appointment of new prime minister and government, placing a priority in its agenda on addressing economic challenges and fostering efforts to restore confidence in the business climate.

“Throughout the past year, NBK solidified its pioneering position as a leading contributor to social responsibility in Kuwait; affirmed through contributions exceeding KD 28 million across various sectors, including health, care for children and society, environmental initiatives, sports and education,” Al-Bahar stated.

Al-Bahar emphasized that sustainability has become a pivotal driver to enhance the Bank's long-term growth opportunities. He highlighted that NBK continues to undertake numerous significant initiatives supporting responsible business practices, contributing to the sustainable development of Kuwait’s economy. The latest of these initiatives was becoming a signatory of the United Nations Global Compact; recognized as the largest sustainability initiative for responsible business practices.

Meanwhile, Mr. Isam J. Al-Sager, Vice Chairman and Group CEO, said: “In 2023, we delivered a robust performance, experiencing growth in both revenues and profits. The favorable operational performance persisted across our business, as we continued to leverage the advantages of our diverse business portfolio and strategic investments in talent and technology”.

Al-Sager underscored that NBK’s primary business sectors demonstrated strong performance throughout the year, registering increased momentum in the operational performance across key areas including international operations and wealth management. These key segments are witnessing substantial expansion in alignment with the Group's strategic plans to grow in main markets and enhance its offerings in investment and wealth management services.

"The Group's net operating income surged by 15.6% annually, reaching KD 1.2 billion, driven by the growth of net interest income and fees and commissions." Al-Sager added.

He further explained that the growth in profitability aligns with the strength of NBK’s financial position. The expansion of the loan portfolio, total assets in general, and customer deposits was sustained while maintaining robust asset quality levels, thanks to NBK’s prudent risk management policy.

“In 2023, we witnessed a compelling demonstration of the strength of our investment philosophy in growth initiatives, underscoring the value of our customer centricity.  This played a pivotal role in the sustained growth of our diverse business sectors as we persistently invested in the future throughout the year. A central focus was placed on enhancing our digital capabilities to better serve our customers.. We also introduced innovative products and solutions crafted to assist our customers in seamlessly meeting their banking needs,” Al-Sager confirmed.

He emphasized that throughout the year, NBK maintained a steadfast focus on positioning its customers at the core of its priorities, supporting their financial goals through the provision of innovative digital services and products. Notably, the bank garnered several prestigious accolades during the year, including the recognition for being the most innovative bank worldwide in delivering digital banking services by Global Finance Magazine.

“As we navigate the opportunities and challenges that the year 2024 may present, our commitment remains unwavering in maintaining a focus on profitability, capital robustness and sustainable growth. We also acknowledge the importance of closely monitoring various challenges, particularly the escalating geopolitical tensions. Consequently, we approach the future with a sense of caution, mindful of the potential impacts on the operational environment in the region,” Al-Sager said.

He highlighted that the Group, guided by a commitment to responsible leadership, has embraced a new trajectory for its ESG strategy through the formal adoption of a framework for ESG standards. This commitment is evident in the integration of ESG principles into products and services, including offerings such as green mortgage loans, consumer loans for electric cars, eco-friendly housing loans and sustainable finance value propositions.

In addition to that, NBK is committed to reducing its total operational emissions by 25% by 2025 and strives to achieve net-zero operationally by 2035. These efforts are integral to the Bank's comprehensive plans to attain carbon neutrality by 2060. These initiatives have played a role in improving NBK’s MSCI ESG ratings to BBB, in their 2023 review.