UAE banks told to cut debt burden of nationals
Abu Dhabi, March 17, 2012
The UAE central bank has directed lenders in the Gulf state to help reduce the debt burden of UAE nationals, with some bankers saying banks may have to write off certain personal loans.
The central bank, after a review of personal loans, found that UAE nationals were paying high repayment installments, it said in a statement.
"To alleviate the financial burden on UAE nationals, the board instructed further study and more cooperation and coordination from concerned agencies in order to find solutions," the statement said.
It did not specify how the burden should be reduced.
Shabbir Malik, banking analyst at EFG-Hermes, said: "This is in line with other measures taken by the government to help UAE nationals in terms of debt."
In January, the UAE government said it would will settle Dh2 billion ($544.5 million) of debt owed by nationals, including some who were detained for defaulting on loans.
"I don't expect a massive negative impact, it won't be large as the provisions standards for retail loans are quite stringent," said Malik.
But bankers speaking on condition of anonymity said banks may have to write off some debt relating to personal loans.
"It must be about waiving or writing off some loans conditionally. We need to know more details," said an Abu Dhabi-based banker involved in credit.
In the boom years, UAE banks extended huge personal loans to UAE nationals and expatriates, surpassing even limits set. But after the financial downturn and real estate crash in the UAE, many lost jobs, finding it difficult to repay loans.
Personal loans in the UAE, which has the largest Arab banking sector, surged by at least 35 percent during 2006-08 before they sharply slowed over the past three years following the 2008 global financial crisis and regional debt default problems, according to the central bank. – Reuters