Banks have reacted positively to rule changes as the finance industry attempts to escape the excesses of the last boom. Christopher Pike / The National
Banks have reacted positively to rule changes as the finance industry attempts to escape the excesses of the last boom. Christopher Pike / The National

Banking review 2013: lenders shake off years of low growth

UAE banks continued to recover this year amid an economic rebound following years of low growth as jitters about defaulters subsided and more loans started to flow out of the bank’s vaults.

Jostling for business in a crowded market, lenders here have also ramped up the tempo to tap emerging markets for more growth.

National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD), the biggest lender by assets in the UAE, is among those that said this year they were focusing on capturing a slice of US$137 billion market in corporate lending in Asia and Africa.

At home, the competition for retail banking has become intense because products such as home and car loans offer better margins than company financing. Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, the largest Sharia-compliant lender in the emirate, has been aggressive in luring customers outside of its home city, while Mashreq, run by the billionaire Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair, has spent millions of dollars to set up high-tech, iPad-laden branches that make banking chores easier for customers.

“The story of 2013 for me in the banking sector is loan growth,’’ said Shabbir Malik, a Dubai-based banking analyst at the Egyptian investment bank EFG-Hermes. “The economy is picking up and so is the real estate market and that has made banks more willing to lend.”

Mr Malik said the decline of bad debts and the tightening spreads banks were getting from making loans to companies had made the retail segment much more attractive because individuals had to pay higher rates when seeking finance.

“There has been a bigger focus on the retail market where the spreads are better,” Mr Malik said. “The retail loan book is growing and the margins are higher.”

Total lending growth in the UAE rose 7.2 per cent in the nine months to September, while personal loan growth alone advanced at a rate of 9.3 per cent in the same period, according to the latest Central Bank data. That rate is yet to rebound to the 30 per cent growth rate banks were recording before the financial crisis, but it is a welcome recovery by banks from the 1 per cent low that it reached post-2008.

Economists estimate that the UAE’s economy will grow at least 4 per cent this year and by at least the same amount next year after Dubai won the right to host World Expo 2020. House prices have appreciated by about 30 per cent this year, according to estimates from property firms.

While local banks, such as NBAD, are opening offices in emerging markets, they have taken more notice this year from business they can get from retail customers, especially following the Arab Spring.

That is because political turmoil has made banks with high credit ratings attractive to expatriates from countries such as Egypt, Syria and Tunisia.

The state-owned bank has not been as historically as active as its local rivals, such as Emirates NBD and Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank in the UAE’s retail banking market. But as part of its retail drive this year NBAD has started to offer new mortgage products to benefit from the housing boom.

The specs

Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo

Power: 178hp at 5,500rpm

Torque: 280Nm at 1,350-4,200rpm

Transmission: seven-speed dual-clutch auto

Price: from Dh209,000 

On sale: now

Company Profile

Company name: Cargoz
Date started: January 2022
Founders: Premlal Pullisserry and Lijo Antony
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 30
Investment stage: Seed

Artist: M.I.A
Label: Island
Rating: 3.5/5


What is THAAD?

It is considered to be the US's most superior missile defence system.


It was created in 2008.


THAAD missiles can travel at over Mach 8, so fast that it is hypersonic.


THAAD is designed to take out  ballistic missiles as they are on their downward trajectory towards their target, otherwise known as the "terminal phase".


To protect high-value strategic sites, such as airfields or population centres.


THAAD can target projectiles inside and outside the Earth's atmosphere, at an altitude of 150 kilometres above the Earth's surface.


Lockheed Martin was originally granted the contract to develop the system in 1992. Defence company Raytheon sub-contracts to develop other major parts of the system, such as ground-based radar.


In 2011, the UAE became the first country outside of the US to buy two THAAD missile defence systems. It then stationed them in 2016, becoming the first Gulf country to do so.

Company profile


Started:+January 2021 

Founders:+Sanad Yaghi, Ali Al Sayegh and Shadi Joulani 


Number of employees:+140 

Sector:+B2B Vertical SaaS(software as a service) 

Investment:+$5.2 million 

Funding stage:+Seed round 

Investors:+Global Founders Capital, Colle Capital Partners, Wamda Capital, Plug and Play, Comma Capital, Nowais Capital, Annex Investments and AMK Investment Office  


Company name: Znap

Started: 2017

Founder: Uday Rathod

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: FinTech

Funding size: $1m+

Investors: Family, friends

About Proto21

Date started: May 2018
Founder: Pir Arkam
Based: Dubai
Sector: Additive manufacturing (aka, 3D printing)
Staff: 18
Funding: Invested, supported and partnered by Joseph Group

The stats

Ship name: MSC Bellissima

Ship class: Meraviglia Class

Delivery date: February 27, 2019

Gross tonnage: 171,598 GT

Passenger capacity: 5,686

Crew members: 1,536

Number of cabins: 2,217

Length: 315.3 metres

Maximum speed: 22.7 knots (42kph)

Full Party in the Park line-up

2pm – Andreah

3pm – Supernovas

4.30pm – The Boxtones

5.30pm – Lighthouse Family

7pm – Step On DJs

8pm – Richard Ashcroft

9.30pm – Chris Wright

10pm – Fatboy Slim

11pm – Hollaphonic


Where the Crawdads Sing

Director: Olivia Newman
Stars: Daisy Edgar-Jones, Taylor John Smith, Harris Dickinson, David Strathairn
Rating: 2/5

Company Profile

Name: Direct Debit System
Started: Sept 2017
Based: UAE with a subsidiary in the UK
Industry: FinTech
Funding: Undisclosed
Investors: Elaine Jones
Number of employees: 8

UAE athletes heading to Paris 2024


Abdullah Humaid Al Muhairi, Abdullah Al Marri, Omar Al Marzooqi, Salem Al Suwaidi, and Ali Al Karbi (four to be selected).

Men: Narmandakh Bayanmunkh (66kg), Nugzari Tatalashvili (81kg), Aram Grigorian (90kg), Dzhafar Kostoev (100kg), Magomedomar Magomedomarov (+100kg); women's Khorloodoi Bishrelt (52kg).

Safia Al Sayegh (women's road race).


Men: Yousef Rashid Al Matroushi (100m freestyle); women: Maha Abdullah Al Shehi (200m freestyle).


Maryam Mohammed Al Farsi (women's 100 metres).


Company name: Almouneer
Started: 2017
Founders: Dr Noha Khater and Rania Kadry
Based: Egypt
Number of staff: 120
Investment: Bootstrapped, with support from Insead and Egyptian government, seed round of
$3.6 million led by Global Ventures