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Moving at Variable Speed

The GCC banking industry’s situation is extremely varied. While it is worrying in Bahrain and Kuwait, in Saudi Arabia and Qatar it is boom time once again, says Ranvir Nayar.

May 21, 2012 3:43 by

Nearly three years after the glob­al banking crisis erupted, the banks in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries continue to remain fairly robust by and large, even though the situation is quite different in each of the six GCC countries. Today, while banks in countries like Saudi Ara­bia and Qatar are sitting pretty, those in the UAE are on a comeback trail and yet others, like in Bahrain or Kuwait, will continue to struggle for some more time to come.

When the contagion broke in late 2008, most of the regional banks proclaimed they were not really con­cerned and that their account books were rather clean and healthy, and they did not have to face the same degree of bad loans or non-performing assets as the US or EU banks. Then as the crisis hit the region, some banks did find themselves in a cor­ner. Most notable of course was the Dubai Bank, the banking subsidiary of real estate giant Emaar, which had to be first rescued by the government and later, merged with the much larger Emirates National Bank. Although Dubai Bank remains the most famous case of a UAE bank that needed assistance, the GCC central banks were quick to inject adequate fresh liquidity to ensure that banks in the GCC did not end up like most European banks.

Analysts and banking industry experts say that during the crisis, GCC banks saw a cash outflow from the system, especial­ly in UAE, where hot money was placed in the billions to bet on currency de-pegging.


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