Emirates NBD CEO Rick Pudner to Leave Bank by the Year End

Emirates NBD PJSC’s Chief Executive Officer Rick Pudner will leave the bank after completing his term at the end of 2013, the second such departure at United Arab Emirates’ two biggest lenders this year.

Pudner had been with Emirates NBD for more than seven years, the Dubai government-controlled lender said in an e-mailed statement today. “He will hand over the role to a new leader as part of the succession planning process and the organization’s strategy for change and transformation.”

Pudner’s departure comes after state-controlled National Bank of Abu Dhabi PJSC, the country’s second-biggest lender by assets, appointed Alex Thursby as CEO earlier this month. Thursby, who was CEO for international and institutional banking at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd., will succeed Michael Tomalin, who retires after 14 years in the job.

Emirates NBD was hurt over the last three years as a property crash in Dubai and slowing economic growth led to a rise in debt defaults and a surge in loan loss provisions. Dubai’s economy, the U.A.E.’s second-biggest, is now recovering as its tourism, trade, retail and transport industries rebound.

Pudner “navigated through the difficult times that most of the Dubai-based banks, especially Emirates NBD, faced over the last 4 years,” Murad Ansari, an analyst at Egyptian investment bank EFG-Hermes Holding SAE, said by telephone from Riyadh today. “During his tenure, Emirates NBD transformed from being a local bank into a regional player, grew at strong pace and acquired assets domestically as well as internationally.”

The U.A.E., the second-largest Arab economy, has the biggest banking market in the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, which also includes Saudi Arabia and Qatar. First-quarter profit at Emirates NBD may climb 4 percent to 667 million dirhams ($182 million), according to the mean estimate of five analysts. The bank reports results on April 25.

Pudner joined the bank when it was called Emirates Bank International PJSC and oversaw its merger with National Bank of Dubai PJSC in 2007 that created Emirates NBD. He helped the bank expand in Saudi Arabia, the biggest Arab economy, where Emirates NBD has both a retail and investment banking license.

Emirates NBD in December acquired the Egyptian unit of French bank BNP Paribas SA in a $500 million deal, helping it enter the most populous Arab country. Emirates NBD is keen to expand in the Middle East, North Africa, Turkey and Islamic nations in South East Asia and south, the bank said in December.

“The biggest concern with the U.A.E.-based banks over the last three-four years has been the asset quality deterioration cycle and our view is that we are at the end of that cycle,” Ansari at EFG-Hermes, which has a buy rating on the stock, said. “So, as asset quality numbers and provisions stabilize, we think that at current valuations, which is significantly below book value, there is an opportunity for upside on the stock.”

Pudner joined Emirates Bank from HSBC Holdings Plc, where he was chief executive officer of Korea. He has also been head of corporate banking for HSBC in the Middle East.

Emirates NBD’s shares rose 0.7 percent to close at 4.34 dirhams today, taking gains this year to 52 percent. Dubai’s benchmark share index has risen 20 percent this year.

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