By Pratap John/Business Editor
Qatar’s banking sector continues to benefit from the country’s economic expansion, solid fundamentals and relatively stable oil price, said QIIB chief executive officer Dr Abdulbasit Ahmad al-Shaibei.
“Local hospitality industry in particular is gaining, spurred by a growth in consumer spending,” Dr al-Shaibei told Gulf Times in an interview.
“The Qatari market remains promising; local banks in general are benefitting from big projects that are related to the infrastructure. As a key player in the Qatari banking system, QIIB is also benefitting from this. QIIB is very well set on the growth trajectory based on the strength of the Qatari economy,” Dr al-Shaibei said.
QIIB’s net profit for the first half (H1) of 2019 amounted to QR510.6mn, compared to QR484mn for the same period of 2018, representing an increase of 5.5%.
The bank’s total assets in H1 rose to QR54.2bn compared to QR47.6bn for the corresponding period of 2018, representing a growth of 13.9%. QIIB’s financing assets grew by 13.1% to reach QR31.4bn in June this year.
Dr al-Shaibei said QIIB’s focus would continue to be on enhancing the bank’s IT infrastructure and scaling up its products and services.
The bank’s customers can now perform various operations and access most of the services through alternate channels such as Internet banking, mobile banking, phone banking and the round-the-clock call centre.
“We want our customers to get world scale products and services; we are also working on our credit cards portfolio. We are trying to have more alliances with different vendors.”
Asked on QIIB’s branch expansion, the CEO said, “This year, we are fine with our branch expansion. We have achieved excellent results in implementing our local expansion plans. The opening of branches in major malls across the country has helped widen our customer base and enhance customer satisfaction.”
Dr al-Shaibei said he believed more local banks would go to the international market to raise either bonds or sukuks.
“This will have a positive effect on the balance sheet of the local banks,” the QIIB chief executive officer noted.
The $500mn sukuk issued by QIIB earlier, was listed on the London Stock Exchange, and attracted investors from across the world with the issue getting oversubscribed nearly seven times.
Asked about the challenges being faced by the local banking industry, the veteran Qatari banker said, “Maintaining proper capital adequacy and non-performing loans (to total loans ratio) are some of the challenges. Then we will have to maintain good rating with leading international rating agencies. Challenges are there all the time, but by God’s grace, we are successfully meeting those.”
On the economic blockade on Qatar (by a quartet of Arab nations), al-Shaibei said, “At the beginning of the blockade, His Highness the Amir had said the challenges would bring in opportunities. Indeed, the blockade has taught us to be self-reliant on many areas... find new markets. The economy as a whole learnt new things because of the blockade. So, the positives have diminished the negatives because of the blockade.”
On the signals of a Fed rate cut from the United States, he said, “If there is a rate cut, it will benefit the US economy. Once the US economy is healthy, it will reflect on the global economy as well. Currently, there are fears of a slowdown in the Eurozone, but the rate cuts will benefit Europe too.”
Asked whether Qatar can expect rate cuts, given that the riyal has been pegged to the dollar, Dr al-Shaibei said, “I believe QCB looks at inflation rate, money supply and many other elements before deciding on the rate. So, it is not necessary that Qatar follows the Fed rates always.”
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