DUBAI: Emirates NBD's annual profit rose 34% as improved economic activity boosted investment banking income, Dubai's biggest lender said on Wednesday, while impairment fell sharply from the height of the pandemic.

The lender also boosted its dividend by 25% to 0.50 dirhams per share and said it was in a good shape to navigate rising interest rates amid a better funding mix.

"The funding mix improved as we added a further 38 billion dirhams ($10.35 billion) of current accounts and saving account balances during 2021 and we are well positioned to benefit from a potential rise in interest rates," Group CEO Shayne Nelson said in a statement.

Banks in the United Arab Emirates are benefiting from an uptick in economic activity as the effects of the pandemic are easing amid government support, higher oil prices and strong tourism due to the world fair Expo in Dubai.

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Emirates NBD posted a net profit of 9.3 billion dirhams ($2.53 billion) in 2021, up from 7 billion dirhams a year earlier.

Analysts on average had expected the lender to post a net profit of about 9 billion dirhams, according to Refinitiv's Eikon data.

Impairment allowances were down 26% in 2021 compared to a year earlier, with cost of risk within the pre-pandemic range.

For the fourth-quarter, net profit jumped more than 50% to 2 billion dirhams, from a year earlier.

EFG Hermes had forecast a net profit 2.3 billion dirhams, while Arqaam Securities had estimated 1.6 billion dirhams.

Emirates NBD said its net interest income rose 7% to 4.3 billion dirhams in the fourth quarter, while non-funded income - earnings from areas such as investment banking and foreign currency trading - jumped by 146%.

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