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UAE rejigs interbank rate panel to spur lending

Abu Dhabi, August 26, 2009

The United Arab Emirates central bank will set up a new panel for the interbank offered rate, an official said on Wednesday, in the hope that the change will lower the rates and spur lending.

The central bank expressed dismay earlier this month at persistently high interbank rates, saying they did not reflect the market. It announced a new mechanism to determine the rates, prompting speculation it may overhaul the panel of providers.

The new 11-bank panel will include four new local banks and drop two international lenders, and will get to work by mid-September, the official in the central bank's treasury department told Reuters, requesting anonymity.

 The four local banks to be added are First Gulf Bank, Union National Bank, Mashreq Bank and RAKBank, while those to be dropped from the previous group of contributors are Lloyds Banking Group and the ABN Amro arm of the Royal Bank of Scotland group.

Emirates NBD will have one only slot on the panel, the official said, having previously held two, one for National Bank of Dubai and Emirates Bank, which merged to form ENBD in 2007.

"There will be 11 banks to provide EIBOR and we want to start from mid-September," the official said. More banks may be added to the panel in the future.

The other banks are National Bank of Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, Commercial Bank of Dubai, Standard Chartered Bank, HSBC and Citibank.

"I think it makes sense to have more participation from local banks on the panel," said Mohammed Al-Hashemi, associate director of asset and liability management and money markets at Emirates Bank. "They have a good weight in the market."    

Lloyds in Dubai declined to comment.

Currently, the 10 local and foreign banks on the panel submit their rates and the average of eight is calculated -- excluding the highest and lowest figures.

Rates can vary widely between banks. For instance quotes provided for the fixing of the one-month interbank offered rate on Wednesday ranged from 1.25 percent from National Bank of Abu Dhabi to 2.35 percent from Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank.

"With a new panel hopefully Eibor will be more realistic," one Dubai-based banker said. As for how the central bank would ensure lower rates, he said.

"The central bank will challenge the banks in a diplomatic way to bring their rates down." Al-Hashemi said it may have been in some banks' interest to keep rates high.

Banks have definite arguments for keeping the Eibor high. Some of their portfolios may be based on Eibor and so it could affect their profitability," he said.

But the one-month rate has fallen to 1.79 percent from 2.05 percent on Aug. 3, a day before the central bank said it would introduce its new interbank offered rate mechanism, and bankers said they expected the decline to continue.

"(The rate) will probably go to below 1.5 percent in the next two months if the support the market has given to the central bank continues," Hashemi said.

Banks had been lowering the rates to "appease the central bank", the Dubai-based banker said. "I absolutely expect it to continue falling." - Reuters
   




Tags: UAE | banks | lending | Interbank |

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