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Saudi National Bank has liquidity to withstand Credit Suisse shock

SNB Credit Suisse Reuters/Arnd Wiegmann
SNB's stake in Credit Suisse, initially worth 1.4 billion Swiss francs, has since lost more than 500 million francs
  • SNB took almost 10% stake in Swiss bank last year
  • Cannot offer financial assistance for regulatory reasons
  • Kingdom’s bank maintains healthy balance sheet

Saudi National Bank has enough liquidity to withstand any losses arising from the troubled Credit Suisse, according to a leading economist.

SNB, the kingdom’s biggest lender, took a stake of almost 10 percent in Credit Suisse last year after it participated in the bank’s $4.3 billion capital raise.

It became its largest shareholder, with a commitment to invest up to 1.5 billion Swiss francs ($1.5 billion).

At the time SNB chairman Ammar Alkhudairy described it as a “financial opportunistic investment”.

“The bank has been battered – excessively so, pricing wise. It’s trading at less than a quarter of tangible book value, which is a steal,” he added.

The stake, initially worth 1.4 billion Swiss francs ($1.53 billion), has since lost more than 500 million francs, according to a Bloomberg report.

The bank’s shares fell 24 percent on Wednesday and SNB said it could not offer any more financial assistance due to regulatory reasons if it increased its stake above 10 percent.

In a statement early on Thursday, Credit Suisse said it would exercise an option to borrow from the central bank up to 50 billion Swiss francs.

Shares in SNB on the Saudi Tadawul exchange closed down 2.9 percent on Thursday.

SNB chairman Ammar Alkhudairy
SNB chairman Ammar Alkhudairy said ‘panic’ was ‘unwarranted’. Picture: SNB

Vijay Valecha, chief investment officer at Century Financial, told AGBI: “Saudi National Bank has a very healthy balance sheet with adequate capital, high liquidity, and superior asset quality driven by its diversified business model.”

He added that the fact that 37 percent of SNB is owned by Saudi’s Public Investment Fund “adds to the bank’s strength”.

Valecha explained that SNB’s share of low-cost CASA deposits (the amount of money that gets deposited in the current and savings accounts of bank customers) stood at 75 percent in 2022. 

“Even if it declines a bit this year due to corporate spending or a slowdown in CASA inflows owing to recent rate hikes, it is still well above the industry median of 57 percent,” he said.

SNB, which boasts a loan-to-deposit ratio of 96 percent, reported a 47 percent jump in net profit in 2022 on the back of higher operating income and lower impairments.

“Overall, the impact on SNB will be limited since its investment in Credit Suisse constitutes only 2.2 percent of its pro forma investment book, less than 4 percent of total shareholders’ equity, and less than 1 percent of total consolidated assets,” said Valecha.

Credit Suisse, the second biggest bank in Switzerland, is looking to recover from a string of scandals that have undermined the confidence of investors and clients.

Customer outflows in the fourth quarter of last year rose to more than 110 billion Swiss francs.

Earlier this week Credit Suisse published its annual report for 2022 where it revealed “material weaknesses” had been identified in controls over financial reporting and it had not yet stopped customer outflows.

It comes following the collapse of US-based Silicon Valley Bank last Friday, the largest bank to fail since the 2008 financial crisis, which roiled markets and left billions of dollars belonging to companies and individuals stranded.

SNB’s Alkhudairy told CNBC on Thursday the whole situation had caused “a little bit of panic” which was “totally unwarranted, whether it be for Credit Suisse or for the entire market”.

Saudi Arabia’s banks have no dealings with non-performing US banks, the Saudi central bank governor, Ayman Alsayari, said in an interview with Al Arabiya on Thursday.

The kingdom had recently implemented tools to provide liquidity to the banking system, Alsayari added, without providing further detail, according to a report from Reuters.

The banking sector in Saudi Arabia was already down 12.8 percent year-on-year even before the latest turbulence, as per the daily report from Kamco Invest.

The Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), the Gulf state’s sovereign wealth fund, increased its stake in Credit Suisse to just under 7 percent in January, becoming the Swiss bank’s second largest shareholder behind SNB.

QIA bought 139.03 million shares in the Swiss lender, bringing its ownership to 6.87 percent.

Saudi Arabian conglomerate Olayan Group owns a stake of about 3 percent, Eikon data shows.

Middle East closing stock prices, Thursday March 16

  • Saudi Arabia down 0.7 percent to 9,977
  • Abu Dhabi down 0.9 percent to 9,442
  • Dubai down 0.1 percent to 3,307
  • Qatar down 2 percent to 9,910
  • Egypt down 0.1 percent to 14,704
  • Bahrain down 0.1 percent to 1,897
  • Oman down 0.2 percent to 4,888
  • Kuwait down 0.8 percent to 7,840

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