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Despite oil slump, there's value in the UAE: CFO

The oil price rout has taken its toll on the economies of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), including the banking sector, but the chief financial officer of the National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD) believes there were still good investment opportunities in the region.

"At the moment I see good relative value in paper, so in the fixed-income side, and I think there is a lot of cash sitting in people's balance sheets at the moment. I think there are relative value opportunities to invest in very, very safe risk in this environment at very attractive prices so my sense is that when the fundamentals return, you will see cash flowing back into the economy and into those investments."

However, Burdett thought that on the equity side, "the picture is less clear." "I think it's the same old story, you've got very good companies with very good track records and I think they'll the ones that will benefit. Investment will come back, it's just a matter of time. I'm more bullish than most I think."


Abu Dhabi skyline, UAE
Victor Romero | Getty Images
Abu Dhabi skyline, UAE

Oil exporting countries like the UAE and its Gulf neighbors have seen rising budget deficits due to the dramatic collapse in oil prices since the highs of $114 a barrel seen in June 2014.

The financial systems of those countries have also been tested by the decline in the region's most lucrative export with lower deposits in commercial banks reported. NBAD has estimated that the region's lenders have lost over $15 billion in government deposits since last September, when oil price declines began to accelerate.

When asked what the outlook was for the financial system, Burdett said it was a "bit of a mixed bag."

"There's no question that you've got a strong banking system here because you've got high capital adequacy ratios, good return on equity, so even if there is a little stress in the market, the banks are going to survive and do very well and the returns are much more attractive than most of the banks offshore."

Burdett said he was encouraged that the central bank in the UAE was following regulatory moves in Europe to improve liquidity requirements in order to safeguard the banking system from future financial crises. He said NBAD was to introduce those requirements too.

"The (central bank) has just announced that they're looking to move towards Basel III liquidity requirements and we want to be the first bank that introduces that into the system and I think it's a good thing for the economy," he said.