Saudi banks beat first-quarter profit forecast

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Saudi Hollandi Bank and Saudi British Bank (SABB) beat estimates for first-quarter net profit, with both lenders attributing the growth in earnings to higher operating income.

SABB, Saudi Arabia's fourth-largest listed bank, said its first quarter net profit rose 11 percent over last year to 948 million riyals ($252.8 million) from 854 million riyals, a bourse filing said on Tuesday.

This exceeded the average forecast of nine analysts polled by Reuters for a net profit of 847.3 million riyals.

Meanwhile, Saudi Hollandi, the kingdom's eighth-largest listed bank, said its first quarter net profit rose 19.4 percent over last year to 346.3 million riyals in the first three months of 2013, compared with net profit of 290 million riyals in the first quarter of 2012, a separate filing said.

Five analysts surveyed by Reuters had forecast Saudi Hollandi to earn a net profit of 315 million riyals in the quarter.

Both banks attributed the profit increase to more operating income, which increased year-on-year by 16.4 and 8.1 percent at SABB and Saudi Hollandi respectively.

Loan growth, which has been strong in Saudi Arabia on the back of successive years of expansionary government budgets, ample liquidity and improving corporate loan demand, was up 11 percent year-on-year at SABB and 22.7 percent at Saudi Hollandi.

Bank lending in Saudi Arabia dipped from December's 14-month high in the first two months of 2013 but growth was still 13.4 percent and 12 percent year-on-year in January and February respectively, according to figures from the central bank.

Meanwhile, net special commission income in the first three months of 2013 was up 14.2 percent on the same period last year at SABB, with Saudi Hollandi posting a 9.3 percent increase.

Shares in SABB ended Tuesday up 1.5 percent, with Saudi Hollandi's stock advancing 2.1 percent on the day, against a wider market increase of 0.4 percent. The results announcement came after the market closed.

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