UPDATE 1-UAE's biggest bank FAB posts 16% drop in 2020 net profit

(Adds Q4 profit, new CEO’s appointment)

DUBAI, Jan 26 (Reuters) - First Abu Dhabi Bank, UAE’s biggest lender, on Tuesday posted a 16% drop in 2020 net profit on higher impairment charges as the economy suffered from the coronavirus pandemic.

The bank also said its Chief Executive Andre Sayegh will be retiring next month and named Hana al-Rostamani, currently deputy group CEO, as the new chief executive.

Sayegh came from First Gulf Bank, which merged with NBAD in 2017 to become UAE’s biggest lender, spending a combined 21 years with FAB and FGB.

FAB said its underlying operating performance is expected to improve in 2021, driven by a healthy pipeline of business from government and state-linked companies, and by its latest acquisition in Egypt.

FAB earlier this month agreed to buy the Egyptian business of Lebanon’s Bank Audi in a deal which will make the largest lender in the United Arab Emirates also one of the biggest foreign banks in Egypt.

FAB posted a net profit of 10.6 billion dirhams ($2.9 billion) in the year ended December 31, down from 12.5 billion dirhams in the same period a year earlier, it said in a late night statement.

The net profit was better than analysts’ average forecast of 9.36 billion dirhams, according to Refinitiv data.

FAB’s net profit in the fourth quarter, however, rose 5% to 3.23 billion dirhams, as impairments in the last quarter dropped sharply.

“Profitability was lower year-on-year reflecting unprecedented market conditions, record low interest rates and the pandemic-driven economic slowdown,” FAB’s chairman, Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan, said in a statement.

Reporting by Saeed Azhar Editing by Nick Zieminski