Two Lebanese Banks Target Iraq

By John Lee.

Lebanon's biggest bank, Bank Audi, plans to enter the Iraqi market late next year.

Chief Executive Samir Hanna (pictured) told Reuters that its new Iraqi operation will be a subsidiary of its Turkish business, which it launched in October and which is trading "more than 50 percent ahead" of the bank's target.

Turkey is Iraq's biggest trading partner, which Hanna said would provide Bank Audi with a captive customer base, serving Turkish clients who do business with Iraq.

The new venture will begin by focusing on areas such as trade credit and will not be a retail bank, he said.

The bank, which held $29 billion of assets at the end of Septmber, also has a "Plan B" to quit Syria if the situation deteriorates further.

Byblos, Lebanon's third-largest bank with with nearly $17 billion in assets, became the first Lebanese bank to venture into Iraq in 2007. Its general manager, Sami Haddad, views the country as "grossly under-banked" and said that Byblos intends to add two branches to the three it already has in the country.

"You would have to be stupid not to make money," he said.

(Source: Reuters)

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