Fransabank SAL, one of Lebanon’s top 10 commercial banks, announced plans to set up an investment banking unit with a capital of $15 million within the coming two to three months. The investment bank plans to focus on corporate finance, asset management and capital market activities locally and internationally.
The decision falls within the context of commercial Banks’ ongoing attempts to increase their fee-based income. Fransabank signed recently with Hungary’s export-import bank (Exim Bank) a memorandum of understanding for cooperation in financial and banking matters between the two sides. The agreement stipulates the exchange of financial information and consultation on business and investment prospects in Lebanon and Hungary.
The Syrian Cabinet ratified a decree authorizing the establishment of private banks in Syria. Banks can be entirely held by private investors or can have mixed private-public ownership. In the latter case, the Syrian government will own a maximum 25 percent of a bank’s capital. Foreign investors will be allowed to own up to 49 percent of a commercial bank, with the other 51percent restricted to Syrian individual or institutional investors. Individual investors will be allowed to own up to 5 percent of a bank’s capital.
The decree stipulates that the minimum capital of a commercial bank should be $32 million. The law also called for the creation of bank secrecy laws similar to the ones existing in Lebanon. All new banks will be under the general supervision of the Central Bank of Syria. The Syrian Parliament is expected to approve the proposal and guidelines soon.
The banking sector in Syria has been under state control for the past four decades and lacks the basic financial products of a modern economy such as loans, teller machines and credit cards. Total deposits in the Syrian banking sector stand at about $5 billion compared to more than
$36 billion in Lebanon. — ( Lebanon Invest )
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )