Lebanese banks continued to see growth in assets and deposits in the first four months of this year despite political trouble in some Arab states, according to Bank Audi's latest report on Lebanon's banking sector.
During the first four months of the year, the banking sector's total domestic assets grew by 3.8 per cent rising from $128.9 billion (Dh473 billion) at end of December 2010 to $133.8 billion by the end ofApril 2011.
Over the first four months of 2011, banking activity in Lebanon continued to be favoured by customer deposits, which remain the backbone of banks' balance sheets and the major source of funding. Customer deposits of Lebanese banks increased by $2.7 billion between December 2010 and April 2011.
The latest statistics from Lebanon's central bank shows its foreign currency reserves fell by $224.15 million in the middle of May but the central bank said the reserve at $29 billion is still more than sufficient to offset any possible monetary crisis in future.
Reflecting the relatively healthy banking environment in Lebanon, international rating agency Fitch recently affirmed the ratings of three leading Lebanese banks and maintained positive outlook on banks such as Byblos Bank, Bank Audi and Blom Bank.
"We do not expect the strong growth that Byblos and the Lebanese banking sector have experienced in recent years to continue at the same high level. Revenues are likely to remain relatively stable for 2011, with lower growth resulting from a slowdown in the the Lebanese economy and key regional trading countries, as well as the bank's strategy of focusing on stability and consolidation rather than growth," the rating agency said recently.
Byblos continued to achieve strong income growth in 2010 and first quarter of 2011, with net income rising by roughly 22 per cent for both periods.
Byblos' largest single exposure remains the Lebanese sovereign through holdings of government debt which comprised 46 per cent of total assets by the end of 2010 and includes Lebanese central bank certificates of deposit, and government securities. Gross loans comprised of 25 per cent of total assets by the end of 2010 while interbank assets accounted for 17 per cent.
Loan quality ratios remained good by the end of 2010 with impaired loans/gross loans marginally increasing during the first quarter of 2011 to 1.6 per cent from 1.5 per cent by end-2010, which compares well with peers.
Fitch observed that Bank Audi's performance ratios remained solid in first quarter of 2011.
Net income growth from Audi's Mena subsidiaries specifically Egypt and Syria is likely to decline in 2011 as the bank takes a conservative provisioning approach to regional operations.
From / Gulf News