The FINANCIAL — The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) completed an equity investment on March 16 in Bank Audi sal, the largest banking group in Lebanon, which ranks among the leading regional banking institutions in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).
This marks the EBRD’s first-ever investment in Lebanon, and its first equity investment in a banking institution in the southern and eastern Mediterranean (SEMED) region.
The EBRD will acquire common ordinary shares of Bank Audi listed on the Beirut Stock Exchange, representing approximately 2.51 per cent of Bank Audi’s total common shares outstanding, according to the EBRD.
In making this investment, the EBRD is seeking to support the Lebanese financial markets and act as a catalyst to influence the broader economy in Lebanon, potentially playing a pivotal role in expanding and strengthening the financial sector.
Bank Audi is looking to consolidate and reinforce its leadership in Lebanon and market positioning across its core countries of operations, in particular in Egypt and Turkey.
Sir Suma Chakrabarti, President of the EBRD, said: “We are delighted to launch our activities in Lebanon, signing the first EBRD investment with a key regional player such as Bank Audi. The Lebanese financial sector is the backbone of the country’s economic stability and international reputation. Supporting Bank Audi’s operations and corporate governance is crucial in maintaining its resilience in the challenging environment in the region.”
Mr. Samir Hanna, Chairman and Group CEO of Bank Audi, said: “We are very pleased to deepen our strategic partnership with the EBRD, which has already been a key partner for us in recent years in our operations in Egypt and Turkey. This investment in Bank Audi helps send a positive signal on the growth potential of the local economy and represents a strong vote of confidence in the resilience of the Lebanese banking sector amid an unsettled regional environment. We believe there is a strong role to play for the EBRD in Lebanon and we look forward to working closely with the Bank as its activities develop in the country.”
Bank Audi is a longstanding partner of the EBRD, with investment supporting small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as trade in Bank Audi sae (Egypt) and in Odea Bank in Turkey, in which the EBRD has also invested in equity.
Lebanon became an EBRD economy of operations in September 2017, joining the Bank’s southern and eastern Mediterranean (SEMED) region, with Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia, where the EBRD has been investing and engaged in policy reforms since 2012, as well as the West Bank and Gaza, since May 2017. To date, the Bank has invested over €6.5 billion in 170 projects across the SEMED region.