Qatari bank sees gradual growth in Saudi Arabia

Qatar National Bank expects its business in Saudi Arabia will pick up only gradually after reviving its Riyadh branch

January 19, 2021

DUBAI- Qatar National Bank (QNB), Gulf's biggest bank by assets, expects its business in Saudi Arabia will pick up only gradually after reviving its Riyadh branch that was dormant for more than three years due to a diplomatic and economic rift.

A QNB executive made the comments to analysts on Monday after Riyadh announced a deal on Jan. 5 to end the dispute with Doha that forced Qatari firms to halt business in the kingdom and its airline to reroute flights around Saudi airspace.

QNB opened its branch in the Saudi capital in May 2017, just a month before the dispute erupted.

QNB Group Chief Financial Officer Ramzi Mari told analysts that the impact of reopening its Riyadh branch would be gradual, analysts who joined the call told Reuters.

The bank would rebuild its information technology infrastructure and the banking team in Riyadh, Mari said, according to the analysts who did not give further details.

QNB declined to comment.

Saudi Arabia, along with United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt suspended diplomatic and transport ties with Qatar, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism. Qatar denied the charges and said the embargo was meant to undermine its sovereignty.

Qatar National Bank last week reported a drop in annual profit of more than 16%, hit by $1.6 billion in impairments during a year when the region's economy was affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

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