The National Bank of Kuwait (NBK) is on the threshold of a new era with the appointment of new executive team, Deputy Chairman Nasser Musaed Al-Sayer said Sunday. During its General Assembly meeting, the Group approved the appointment of Isam Al-Sager as Group CEO - succeeding Ibrahim Shukri Dabdoub who decided to retire, and Sheikha Al-Bahar as Deputy CEO, according to a press release by the bank. "The appointment of Isam Al-Sager and Sheikha Al-Bahar is testimony to the stability of NBK's management team and reflects the bank's successful succession planning," the statement quoted Al-Sayer as saying. He stated that the Group managed to deliver a strong set of results in 2013 notwithstanding the ongoing challenges in the corporate domestic market and the political instability in some of the regional markets. He highlighted that 2013 was a remarkable year at the strategic level as NBK continued to strengthen its positioning in the local, regional and international markets. NBK reported net profits of USD 844 million (KD 238.1 million) for the year 2013, up 6.5 percent excluding the exceptional gains recognized in 2012 on the consolidation of Boubyan Bank. As of the end of 2013, NBK Group's total assets reached USD 66 billion (KD 18.6 billion) up 12.8 percent compared to year-end 2012, while total shareholders' equity increased by 3.3 percent year on year to USD 8.4 billion (KD 2.37 billion). The General Assembly endorsed the recommendation of NBK's Board of Directors to distribute a cash dividend equivalent to 30 percent of the nominal value of the share (30 fils per share) and bonus shares by five percent (five shares for every 100 shares) to shareholders on record at the time of the General Assembly meeting. Al-Sayer stated that NBK Group achieved a strong performance in 2013 thanks to the bank's financial resilience, clear strategy, conservative culture, and high professional standards. He confirmed that the domestic operating environment continued to improve and the overall outlook is turning more positive. "We have started witnessing some acceleration in the tendering, award and execution of some of the large projects as the government proves determined to advance the execution of the development plan," he noted. Al-Sayer stressed that NBK will continue with its current strategy strengthening its leading position both locally and regionally, building on its strong reputation and long track record of solid performance and remarkable achievements. "The Board of Directors has confirmed its complete confidence in Al Sager and Al-Bahar and extended its full support for them to achieve the bank's future ambitions and create value for its shareholders," Al-Sayer added. Prior to his appointment as the Group CEO, Al-Sager has been holding the position of NBK's Deputy Group CEO since 2010. He also held the position of NBK Kuwait CEO between 2008 and 2010 after being appointed as NBK Kuwait Deputy CEO in 1998. Sheikha Al-Bahar was NBK's Kuwait CEO, a position she has been holding 2010. Prior to that, Al-Bahar was NBK Kuwait Deputy CEO between 2008 and 2010 and held several managerial positions including the General Manager of Corporate Banking Group since 2003. Commenting on Dabdoub's decision to retire, Al-Sayer extended appreciation for Dabdoub's contribution to NBK's success during his 30 years term as the Group CEO, transforming the bank into a well-established regional institution. "On behalf of the Board of Directors, I'd like to thank Mr. Ibrahim Dabdoub for the passion, dedication and dynamism he brought to NBK since his appointment as CEO and even earlier in his different roles since joining the bank in 1961," Al-Sayer said. On his part, Dabdoub expressed gratitude and appreciation to all the members of the Board for their trust and support over the years for him and for all the executive management team. Meanwhile, Al-Sager said the NBK is progressively implementing its income diversification strategy. "Our regional and international strategy remains on track. We are focusing our efforts on the GCC countries to leverage NBK's strong franchise there and to benefit from the strong economic outlook and the growth opportunities available," he affirmed. In 2013 the Group's international banking profits grew by 9.5 percent year on year confirming the strength of NBK's international operations. "Moreover, our expansion into Islamic banking through the acquisition of 58. 4 percent of Boubyan Bank continues to pay off as Boubyan's contribution to the group's profitability and balance sheet increases over time," Al-Sager added. On her part, Sheikha Al-Bahar, the new Deputy CEO, stressed that NBK has been able to considerably increase its share of the total banking sector profits in Kuwait throughout the global financial crisis. NBK's share of the total banking sector profits increased from 32 percent in 2007 to 45 percent in 2013. Al-Bahar noted that NBK continues to enjoy collectively the highest ratings among all banks in the Middle East from the three international rating agencies Moody's, Fitch Ratings and Standard and Poor's. The Bank's ratings are supported by its high capitalization, prudent lending policies, and its disciplined approach to risk management, in addition to its highly recognized and very stable management team. "We have over the years maintained the highest asset quality indicators by regional and international standards, despite the ongoing economic challenges, " she added. NBK is currently rated "Aa3" by Moody's, "AA-" by Fitch Ratings and carries an "A+" rating from Standard and Poor's. All NBK ratings have a stable outlook. In addition, the NBK was also named among Global Finance's list of the 50 safest banks in the world for the eighth consecutive time.