NCB's profit edges up ahead of merger with Samba

Saudi Arabia's biggest lender reported higher operating income, despite an increase in impairments

 Jeddah, Saudi Arabia -- July 19, 2009 -- A National Commercial Bank (NCB) branch. Michael Bou-Nacklie for The National
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National Commercial Bank, Saudi Arabia's biggest lender by assets, reported a slightly higher net profit for 2020 despite having to make more provisions for potential bad debts.

The lender, which is in the midst of a merger with Samba Financial Group, reported a net profit of 11.44 billion Saudi riyals ($3.05bn), up from 11.40bn riyals in 2019.

This is despite total income falling almost 8 per cent to 19.44bn riyals.

Higher net profit was "derived from higher total operating income, partially offset by higher total operating expenses, including impairments", the lender said in a statement on Tuesday to Saudi Arabia's Tadawul exchange, where its shares trade.

"Total operating income increased by 4.3 per cent mainly due to the increase in net special commission income, fees from banking services and foreign exchange income [and] higher investment-related income," it added.

Impairments for expected credit losses rose to 1.95bn riyals, up 37 per cent on the prior year.

NCB's assets increased 18 per cent to 599.4bn riyals by year-end, as its loan book grew 23 per cent to 346.7bn riyals. Customer deposits also increased by almost 18 per cent to 416.4bn riyals.

The lender said earlier this month that it plans to change its name to Saudi National Bank once its merger with Samba Financial Group concludes.

The deal was given the green light by the Saudi Central Bank on February 1, and the kingdom's Capital Market Authority on Monday approved an application for the lender to increase its share capital to enable the merger.

Upon completion, the combined entity will have a market share of about 25 per cent, with a network of more than 500 branches.