Saudi Banks Reach $4.5 Billion Settlement Over Islamic Taxes

(Bloomberg) -- Major banks in Saudi Arabia reached settlements worth a combined 16.7 billion riyals ($4.5 billion) with the kingdom’s tax authority over a religious levy the lenders had been kicking against.

The deals come as the world’s largest crude exporter predicts a budget shortfall of 131 billion riyals, or 4.2 percent of gross domestic product, for 2019. The deficit was worsened as the nation boosted spending and benefits for government employees worth billions of dollars. The tax authority had extended the 2.5 percent religious levy, known as the Zakat, by including items that were previously exempt, while eliminating some deductions.

Click here to read an analysis of what the Zakat tax could mean for lenders

Al Rajhi Bank was hit with the highest payment, agreeing to pay 5.41 billion riyals, the lender said in a statement posted on the Saudi Stock Exchange. Alinma Bank didn’t pay any settlement and said in a separate announcement that there will be a credit balance with the authority.

Change Is Coming

The back taxes are being paid amid changes to the country’s banking landscape, which saw Saudi British Bank and Alawwal Bank strike a deal to combine in May in a $5 billion stock deal. That was followed a month later with JPMorgan Chase & Co. agreeing to sell its 7.5 percent stake in Saudi Investment Bank back to the Riyadh-based lender.

The merger of HSBC Holdings Plc affiliate Saudi British Bank with Alawwal, which was backed by Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc, has been seen as a precursor to more deals in the country’s financial-services industry, where about 25 local and international lenders compete in a market of about 33 million people. The merger is due to be completed in the first half of 2019.

The Tadawul Banks Index has climbed 27 percent this year, even in the face of 37 percent drop in oil prices since October as the economy struggles to recover from 2017’s contraction. The benchmark Tadawul All Share Index rose 7.3 percent this year.

Saudi Banks Reach $4.5 Billion Settlement Over Islamic Taxes

Saudi Arabia released its 2019 numbers this week, with revenue estimated at 975 billion riyals versus 895 billion riyals in 2018. Taxes are projected to contribute 183 billion riyals to the budget in 2019, up from 166 billion riyals in 2018.

Here is a list of the settlements from statements released by the lenders:

  • Al Rajhi Bank settlement to decrease shareholders’ equity by 5.41 billion riyals
  • Saudi British Bank to pay 1.63 billion riyals, reducing shareholders’ equity by 1.13 billion riyals
  • Samba Financial Group settlement of 2.32 billion riyals to cut shareholders’ equity by 1.82 billion riyals
  • Banque Saudi Fransi’s 1.51 billion riyals deal to drop shareholders’ equity by equivalent amount
  • Alawwal to pay 374.5 million riyals, with shareholders’ equity taking a knock of 100.4 million riyals
  • Riyad Bank settlement of 2.97 billion riyals to decrease shareholders’ equity by 787.3 million riyals
  • National Commercial Bank to pay 182.7 million riyals,, yet resulting in a 105 million riyals increase to shareholders’ equity
  • Bank AlJazira to pay 551.5 million riyals, slicing its shareholders’ equity by the same amount
  • Arab National Bank agrees to 649 million riyals payment, yet it will increase its shareholders’ equity by 1.11 billion riyals
  • Saudi Investment Bank to pay 775.4 million riyals, cutting shareholders’ equity by the equivalent amount
  • Bank Albilad to pay 392.8 million riyals, with the equivalent decline in shareholders’ equity

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