DUBAI, (Reuters) – Qatar National Bank, the country’s largest lender, posted its biggest profit ever in the first quarter on higher revenue from foreign operations and after buying into a bank in Jordan last year.
Net income jumped 40.5 percent to 917.3 million riyals ($252.2 million), or 4.2 riyals per share, compared with 652.8 million riyals, or 3.2 riyals per share, in the year-earlier period, the bank said.
QNB said in September it paid $195 million to raise its stake in Housing Bank for Trading & Finance — Jordan’s second-largest lender — to 30 percent. That was after it bought a 20.6 percent stake in the lender for $442 million from the government of Qatar in July.
The results “were a direct outcome of the investment strategies adopted by the broadening of the bank’s geographical presence,” Chairman Yousef Hussein Kamal said in a statement.
Housing Bank made a fourth quarter profit of 107.77 million Jordanian dinars ($152 million), according to Reuters data.
The lender aims to boost foreign operations’ share of profit to as much as 30 percent within five years, expanding in the Middle East and Africa to reduce it reliance on its home market, QNB Chief Executive Officer Ali Shareef al-Emadi said in January. Emadi could not immediately be reached for comment on Wednesday.
QNB plans to begin operations in Syria, Sudan and Mauritania this year, and in March took over the Qatar government’s stake in Tunisian-Qatari bank.
Net fees and commissions grew 31.2 percent to 254.8 million riyals, the bank said. Loans and advances, and financing activities climbed to 77.4 billion riyals and net operating income to 1.2 billion riyals, up 38.6 percent on the year-earlier period, it said.
Net income at the bank’s Islamic unit more than doubled 76.9 million, it said.
“These are good results,” said Bashar Issa, analyst at Doha, Qatar-based Dlala Brokerage & Investment Holding. “The chairman said the bank’s profits would be about 3 billion riyals this year, so if they continue like this in the next three quarters, we estimate about 3.2 billion riyals.”
Shares of QNB rose 0.84 percent on Wednesday before the results were announced. Its stock has surged more than 19 percent this year, outpacing the main stock index .QSI, which is up a little over 5 percent.
Shares of closest rival Commercial Bank of Qatar are up 6.53 percent this year.
The economy of Qatar, the world’s largest producer of liquefied natural gas, may grow 9.9 percent this year, according to a Reuters survey of economists in December.