Saudi British Bank Q4 net profit jumps 20 percent, beating forecasts

Saudi Arabia's fourth-largest listed bank attributed its profit rise only to higher operating income

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Saudi British Bank (SABB), Saudi Arabia's fourth-largest listed bank, said its fourth-quarter net profit rose 20 percent over the same period of 2012, beating analyst expectations.

The lender, an affiliate of HSBC Holdings, said it made 976 million riyals ($260 million) in the three months to Dec. 31, compared to 815 million riyals in the corresponding period of 2012.

Eight analysts surveyed by Reuters had forecast it would earn a net profit of 924.5 million riyals in the quarter.

SABB attributed its profit rise only to higher operating income, without elaborating.

Net profit for full-year 2013 advanced 16.5 percent to 3.77 billion riyals.

Saudi companies issue brief earnings statements early in the reporting period before publishing more detailed results later.

SABB's loans portfolio climbed 10 percent to 106 billion riyals over the end of 2012, and deposits grew 15 percent over the same timeframe to 139 billion riyals.

SABB managing director David Dew told Reuters in an Oct. 1 interview the bank was finalising a three-year strategic plan based on an assumption that government spending will continue to grow and that Saudi bank lending levels to the private sector are sustainable in the mid-teens for the next two-three years.

Saudi banks have benefited from rising lending, deposits and deal activity in an economy buoyed by years of high state spending which is backed by strong oil prices and record government surpluses.

The kingdom's budget for 2014, while the smallest increase for a decade at 4.3 percent, is still another record amount, and bank lending to the private sector grew at 13.8 percent year-on-year in November, up 0.3 percent from the previous month's 17-month low.

Total operating income for the quarter rose 12.6 percent year-on-year to 5.82 billion riyals, and profit from special commissions grew 13.9 percent over the corresponding period of 2012 to 3.72 billion riyals.

SABB said last month its board had recommended a cash dividend of 1 riyal per share for 2013, up from 0.92 riyals in 2012.

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