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Fitch sees limited pandemic impact on Saudi banks

CAIRO: Fitch Ratings agency revised outlook for Saudi banks, as it said the impact of the pandemic on their performance has been contained, Arab News reported.

The agency said in a note that it revised the outlooks on all Saudi banks’ Long-Term Issuer Default Ratings to “Stable” in second and third quarter of this year to “reflect reduced pressures on the operating environment and the Stable Outlook on the sovereign rating”.

It also kept weighted average Viability Rating of ‘bbb+’ for all Saudi banks, the highest in the Gulf Cooperation Council, according to the note.

Asset quality and profitability underwent little deterioration and financial metric stabilized, Fitch added. Government support, particularly its interest-free deposits, was key for these improvements in the banking sector.

Additionally, the significant loan growth experienced in 2020 and in the first half of 2021 (14.9 per cent and 19 per cent respectively) was another factor that enhanced banks’ performance. Loan growth was fuelled, mainly by steady retail mortgages.

Rebounds in the global oil demand, falling oil prices and boosts in the non-oil sector are also expected to improve the operating environment for banks, Fitch pointed out.

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