Shares in First Abu Dhabi Bank surge

Investors respond to merged lender’s latest forecast of better profitability and higher cost savings over next three years.

Executives od newly merged First Abu Dhabi Bank ring the bell at the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange to start the newly merged bank’s first day of trading. Courtesy First Abu Dhabi Bank
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Shares in the merged National Bank of Abu Dhabi and FGB – now known as First Abu Dhabi Bank – jumped on Wednesday as investors welcomed its forecast of higher profitability and a doubling of cost savings.

The bank said in an investor presentation published on its website that cost synergies are forecast at Dh1 billion, twice the initial estimate of Dh500 million. They would occur over a period of three years and would be driven by a reduction in branches and headcount.

At the same time, the bank said it was targeting a higher-than-expected return on equity, a measure of profitability, of 16 to 17 per cent by 2020.

Shares of the lender have rallied 9.1 per cent since Monday, closing 4.1 per cent higher at Dh11.35 on Wednesday.

“The management’s guidance on synergies was taken positively by the market,” said Shabbir Malik, a Dubai-based analyst at the Egyptian investment bank EFG-Hermes.

“The bank’s outlook on profitability was a positive surprise as its ROE target of 16-17 per cent by 2020 is above our estimate of about 15 per cent. Although integration cost guidance was raised, its impact should be softened by the higher cost synergies.”

First Abu Dhabi Bank also said the cost of integration would rise to Dh1.1bn from Dh600m over three years. Those costs will comprise mostly of write- offs of IT assets as well as costs of severance packages. Analysts said the revision of these estimates should be regarded as investments that will pay off in the long run.

It will have assets in excess of Dh670bn, making it the UAE’s largest bank and the second-largest in the Middle East by assets, behind Qatar’s QNB at US$198bn (Dh727.2bn).

Shares in First Abu Dhabi Bank, listed under the NBAD ticker, were traded on the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchangeon Sunday for the first time.

Under the terms of the merger, FGB shareholders received 1.254 NBAD shares for each FGB share held. FGB shares have subsequently been delisted.

The merger, which was approved by both banks’ shareholders on December 7, was done in part to cut down on costs by removing duplicate posts and sharing resources.

Even though NBAD, the biggest bank by assets in the UAE, had made headway in building its consumer banking business, it will get a boost from joining forces with FGB, which has more loans to individuals on its books.

Retail lending accounts for about 40 per cent of FGB’s total lending book, while NBAD’s consumer lending portfolio makes up just 17 per cent of its outstanding loans.

Investors have backed the combination, especially as NBAD is considered one of the safest banks in the world; its high credit ratings will allow it to borrow at low cost on behalf of the new entity.

Moody’s Investor Services on Tuesday maintained its ratings on NBAD following the merger with FGB on the expectation that the consumer banking business of the new combined entity will boost growth.

The credit rating agency affirmed the long and short-term foreign and local currency deposit and debt ratings of NBAD at Aa3/P-1.

Moody’s has altered the ratings of FGB to match those of NBAD before saying it would be withdrawing the FGB ratings altogether following the delisting of FGB shares.

mkassem@thenational.ae

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