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Awards for excellence - Saudi Arabia

Best bank

Saudi American Bank

Saudi American Bank is highly regarded for its strong profile and competent management. It is helped by the backing of Citigroup, the global powerhouse that part owns it, and also has the largest capital base of any Arab bank. During 2000 it enjoyed a good year with earnings increasing.

Samba's asset quality has also improved and there was a much lower provision charge in 2000.

However, although the Citigroup connection certainly helps the bank in its domestic market, it creates something of a headache if it wants to take the next step of looking outside of Saudi Arabia to grow. Citigroup already has a strong presence across the region which might lead to conflicts of interest.

During 2000 Samba recovered from most of the negative effects of the merger with United Saudi Bank. This was starkly illustrated by its non-performing loans. Before the merger it historically had the highest quality loan portfolio in the sector. At the end of 1998, total NPLs were less than 1% of its gross portfolio. By absorbing USB this jumped to 8.7%. However NPLs have now dropped again and Samba achieved its profit target.

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