The Societe Generale Libano-europeenne de Banque (SGLEB) is the first international private bank to open a branch in a free zone in Syria, an advertisement said Monday, December 4, in the press.
The SGLEB branch will offer its services to transport, industrial and trading companies established in the free zones, the advert said.
"This will contribute to revive trade in these zones and develop the Syrian economy", the bank said. The SGLEB has two shareholders, Societe Generale-France and the Lebanese Sahnaoui group.
In June, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government allowed foreign banks to operate in free zones, in a first effort to liberalize the banking sector, which has been entirely controlled by the state since 1963.
Five other banks have asked authorization to open a branch in Syrian free zones. "Their applications have or will soon be accepted", Ghaftan Rifai, who is in charge of Syria's free zones, told AFP.
The five candidates are Fransabank, Banque Europeenne pour le Moyen-Orient (BEMO), Banque du Liban et d'Outre-Mer (BLOM Bank), Bank of Beirut and Arab countries (BBAC) and Societe Bancaire Arabe (SBA), a French-based bank with Syrian capital.
Syria created free-trade zones from 1972 in Damascus, Adra, 35 kilometers (23 miles) north of the capital, the northern city of Aleppo and the Mediterranean ports of Tartus and Latakia.
The ruling Baath party gave its green light Saturday to the establishment in Syria of private banks in the form of private or mixed shareholding companies, and also approved the creation of a stock exchange and a law on banking secrecy — (AFP)
© Agence France Presse 2000
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)