(MENAFN - Arab Times) Al Ahli Bank of Kuwait announced a net profit of KD 35.4 million for the financial year ended Dec 31, 2013, signifying an 18 % year on year increase. At the Annual General Meeting held at its premises, the bank declared that earnings per share rose by 16 % from 19 fils to 22 fils. Ahmed Yousuf Behbehani, Chairman of the ABK Board of Directors stated that total assets at year end stood at KD 3.19 billion, 7 % greater than 2012 with an increase in Kuwait government security bonds, loans and advances, investment securities and other assets while customer deposits marked a 6 % rise to KD 1.95 billion and shareholder's equity received a 5% boost to KD 540.8 million with the bank earning higher returns on assets of 1.15% and on equity of 6.70%.
Behbehani highlighted the major achievements of the year, one of them being an increase in operating profits to KD 81.54 million, a marginal increase from 2012's KD 80.41 million 'despite the subdued economic environment in Kuwait and continued uncertainty in the global markets'. The total liabilities augmented from 2012's 2.45 Billion stood at 2.65 billion at year ended Dec 31 2013. ABK maintained a capital adequacy ratio of 26.93%, highest among local banks and ahead of international peers, Behbehani attributed this to disciplined balance sheet management. "Consequently, ABK has the capacity and resilience to absorb losses, and sufficient capital to expand", he remarked.
He added, "The robustness of ABK's core businesses and their impressive revenue gathering capacity have proven their value to our overall performance. In addition, continued improvements in operating efficiency and careful cost management have resulted in a stable cost to income ratio that compares favourably with our peers." The bank also reduced its NPL ration from 5.25% in 2012 to 2.59% in 2013. Based on the above figures, the AGM approved the proposed distribution of 13% cash dividend i.e. 13 fils for the share's nominal value for 2013. Behbehani shared that conscious efforts had been made to remain conservative in the bank's provisioning policies which helped further improve its asset quality metrics. ABK has succeeded in building up adequate precautionary general provisions to cope with unforeseen contingencies, he revealed.
Speaking of the Central Bank of Kuwait's revised corporate governance gidelines which came into effect last year, he shared that since ABK's philosophy has always been to adhere to international standards, the bank already had a high level of compliance with the new guidelines. Furthermore, three institutional developments that strengthened the bank's governance was the additional of two new Directors on the board, two new Board committees and restructuring the Bank's management committees for greater efficiency, accountability, and transparency.
Colin Plowman, Chief General Manager and Chief Executive Officer of ABK, stated that the first 12 months of the 2013-15 three year plan saw most of the Bank's frontline businesses contribute to an upward trend in profit and net growth, "We recorded market leading growth in the retail segment; treasury and investments performed very well; and international banking continued to expand and diversify its business." He noted that growth in the above had helped offset sluggish corporate demand. Plowman added, "Retail Banking maintained its growth of recent years, with card products performing particularly well."
He shared that a credit scoring system that cut approval times for customers was worked on by the Retail and IT departments, and announced the launch of mobile banking in 2014. It was also pointed out that ABK had received the "Best Customer Service" in retail banking category of the Service Hero awards, an award for the best website and obtained ISO (9001-2008) Behbehani iterated that the bank's performance had resulted in rating agencies, Moody's and Fitch, maintaining its investment grade status with a stable outlook. Moreover, Fitch upgraded ABK's rating from A- to A. "This underlines our intrinsic strengths of high liquidity, good income generating capacity and prudent management strategies", he said.
In regard with the bank's corporate social responsibility, Behbehani stated ABK's support for various activities ranging from health and education to sports and environment. For its efforts, the bank received the Golden CSR Excellence Award from the Arab Organisation for Social Responsibility for the second consecutive year. "Overall, ABK is well positioned to benefit from any uplift in the economy, having capacity to grow the balance sheet and with resilience to absorb contingencies and maximize shareholders' value", he said.