Arab 100 1997: Good times hit the Gulf
With a rare combination of rising oil prices, bumper harvests and policy reforms lifting the economic fortunes of the Middle East, its banks enjoyed a good year in 1996. Tony Wynne and Anthony Christofides take a look at the top 100 Arab banks and assess their prospects for 1997.
For most banks in the Middle East, 1996 was a very good year. In the Gulf region, higher oil prices boosted government finances and accelerated economic growth. Recovery from drought in the Maghreb region and steady progress in reform programmes led to more private investments flowing into Egypt and Morocco.
Furthermore, economic growth in world markets, particularly the US economy, had a positive effect on banks' investment portfolios. Business confidence in the Middle East in general remains buoyant and 1997 is looking like another good year for the banks.
The Arab 100 table is once again dominated by the strong Saudi banks, with seven of the 12 Saudi banks among the top 12 players in the region. Of the top 100 banks, 62 come from Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, reflecting the relatively more developed nature of their economies.