Iraq's private banks setting growth records, attracting foreign investors
A resurgent oil economy, projected GDP growth at more than 12 percent and a record level of foreign investment point to signs that the private banking industry in Iraq is looking at substantial growth, a new report on Iraqi banking says.
The analysis, conducted by Ahmad Saleh, senior research analyst at IraqiXchange, also indicates that for the first time in the modern era, bank deposits in Iraq accounted for more than half of the money supply. "Iraq's economy is growing out of its wartime difficulties quickly and transitioning from a centralized economy to one that is market-based," says Saleh, an Iraq native and veteran North American banking analyst.
"With credit accounting for more than one-third of bank revenue and deposits at record levels, our analysis identifies attractive and specific investment opportunities in the Iraqi banking sector," Saleh says.
HSBC of London, Qatar National Bank and National Bank of Kuwait are among those with stakes in Iraqi banks, and more financial institutions are following.
"We are very optimistic about Iraq over the next three to five years," says Dennis Flannery, Citi's country head for Iraq and a former U.S. financial attaché who previously worked at the World Bank and Bank of America. "Our feeling is that good progress is being made, and we expect to see really significant increases in the GDP in coming years -- really significant."
The Middle East and Africa banking sector is second only to Asia's in growth potential, according to the 2011 Barclays Corporate Global Banking Survey of 200 top banking and insurance services executives.
Influenced by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the Iraq government is phasing in an increased capitalization requirement for all banks.
"The hope," Emirates Bank investment strategist Irfan Chaudhry tells IraqXchange, "is that new capital requirements will bring consolidation, increased investment and more interest from foreign banks."The Iraq banking analysis is available through IraqiXchange by contacting Saleh.
IraqiXchange specializes in local market analysis, covering the publicly listed companies, sectors and trends in the Iraqi economy.