How would you describe Ahlibank's performance?
Overall, 2014 was an excellent year for the Bank on all fronts. In terms of performance, we have recorded strong operating and net income growth, even after allocating access provisions to protect us against future unforeseen loan losses. On the strategic level, we have completed our rebranding, major technology investments, and taken major steps to address the bank's liability structure, leading us towards early compliance with both new prudent funding and Basel III rules.
Ahlibank recently signed its first syndicated loan, which was worth $200 million over three years. What is the significance of this deal to the overall operations of Ahlibank?
The size of the syndicated facility was not our aim. There are several milestones that can be highlighted with this debut facility: feasibility, an improved maturity ladder with long-term funding representing 6% of our 2014 balance sheet, commitment and trust of major regional and international investors in Ahlibank, and last but not least the profile of Qatar as a haven for investment.
How open is Ahlibank to partnering and collaborating with additional regional and international banks on similar agreements?
Following the successful closure of an oversubscribed loan facility, we have set a benchmark for future arrangements if required, such as a syndicated loan structure, MTN, Tier I, or bilateral arrangements. We will decide what is appropriate at the right time. Our Tier I adequacy ratio is currently 16.9%.
Fitch Ratings has recently upgraded Ahlibank's IDR and SRF from A to A+. What does this mean to Ahlibank going forward and how does this reflect the strength of Qatar's banking sector as a whole?
The recent rating upgrade has placed Ahlibank equal to all the major banking players in Qatar. This is a true recognition of the Bank's strong position on all fronts.
What is your expectation for the year ahead?
The operating environment in 2015 is different than 2014 and beyond. Hydrocarbon prices have declined by 50%; therefore, we must set realistic expectations on final results. We believe in prudence and long-term sustainability against short-term gains.