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French Version

BLOM’s profits show increase (Daily Star)

Deposits and assets also rose from last year
Player is one of 5 Arab banks that will open in Syria early next year

Banque du Liban et d’Outre Mer (BLOM), Lebanon’s largest bank, said on Monday that its net nine-month profit this year rose by 7.45 percent to $66.1 million and its assets and deposits rose by about 20 percent from last year. The bank said the net profit in the first nine months of 2003 reached $66.1 million versus $61.5 for the same period of last year.

BLOM said its total assets rose by 22.63 percent to $8.3 billion and its deposits rose by 23.77 percent to $7.34 billion from a year earlier, excluding off-balance sheet accounts. Loans rose by 10.81 perc- ent to $1.13 billion from a year earlier. The bank said it had very high liquidity in both foreign and Lebanese currency.

Liquidity ratio in foreign currency stood at 72 percent at the end of September of this year compared with 49.4 percent a year earlier. Liquidity in Lebanese pounds exceeds customer deposits in local currency.

BLOM is currently planning to open in January 2004 a branch in Syria. Last year, Syria gave licenses to five Arab banks to open branches. The move took place some 30-years after nationalizing its banking sector following the rise of the socialist Arab Baath party to power. The Syrian banking law stipulates that foreign banks must be 51 percent owned by Syrians and have a minimum capital of $30 million.

Bank of Syria and Overseas is a joint-stock company established between BLOM, which has a 39 percent share, the International Finance Corporation, the financial arm of the World Bank, which has a 10 percent share and Syrian investors with a 13 percent share.

The remaining shares in the Syrian subsidiary bank were sold in a public offer to Syrian investors, with subscription exceeding twice the numb- er offered. Bank of Syria and Overseas plans to open branches in the Syrian capital of Damascus and other major Syrian cities after obtaining the necessary permits.

Lebanese banks are trying to expand into markets such as the Syrian one to increase profits that have been dwindling as Lebanon’s banking sector tries to steer away from government treasury-bills and Eurobonds, the main source of bank income. Recent drops in interest rates on T-bills has led to a decrease in bank profits, which are also battling economic stagnation and an increase in bad loans to the private sector.

BLOM is one of the two Lebanese banks that were given licenses to open branches in Syria, the other is Banque Europeenne pour le Moyen-Orient (BEMO). BEMO has a license to open in Damascus, in partnership with Saudi Arabia’s Banque Saudi Fransi.

Beirut 03-11-2003
Dania Saadi
The Daily Star

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