Through a $100 million equity investment in 2010, IFC helped Lebanon’s Byblos Bank move forward on its strategy of building a broad network of banks and financial institutions in frontier and emerging markets.
Lebanon has suffered more than it's fair share of setbacks. After barely coming to terms with the repercussions of protracted civil war, the destruction of 2006 took a heavy toll on the country. Now, having weathered the financial crisis, the shadow of Syria's crisis threatens to engulf its neighbor.
Despite these setbacks, and the associated political, economic, and social pressures, Lebanon has earned a reputation as a banking hub in the Middle East and North Africa.
Thanks to a generous Lebanese diaspora around the world, and a healthy entrepreneurial spirit back home, Lebanese banks have navigated regional and global crises to emerge as a key figure in the efforts to realize Lebanon's potential.
IFC is active in the country and works with local banks and financial institutions, as well as the real sector, to help the private sector find sustainable solutions to the challenges facing Lebanon, create jobs and grow the economy.
IFC’s strategy in Lebanon focuses on supporting the country’s private sector through these turbulent times. IFC investment and advisory activities in Lebanon focus on trade financing, facilitating access to finance for small businesses, and empowering women in business.
In fiscal year 2013, IFC invested $507 million in Lebanon, primarily supporting cross-border trade as part of IFC’s Global Trade Finance Project. Since 2005, IFC has provided trade finance guarantees worth over $1 billion to financial institutions in the country to help their client businesses access global markets—guarantees that help drive trade and create jobs.
IFC also committed $2 million to Ameen MF Lebanon in 2013, to help the company expand its lending to smaller businesses, supporting economic growth across the country.
We invested $124 million in the Mediterranean and Gulf Insurance and Reinsurance Company (Medgulf) in fiscal year 2012 to help the firm extend its health and commercial risk insurance services across the Middle East and North Africa, where low coverage rates hinder economic development.
We also helped create jobs and supported the development of Lebanon’s technology sector through a $2 million equity investment in software company MobiNetS. IFC's investment helped the client secure its first contracts with major international telecom operators, more than double its workforce and attract additional equity from private investors.
Most recently, the IFC Capitalization Fund, managed by the IFC Asset Management Company, agreed to provide subordinated loans of $150 million to Bank Audi, the largest bank in Lebanon. The loans will expand Bank Audi’s capital base and support its regional growth plans, strengthening economic integration between developing economies and creating jobs.
IFC is equally busy providing advisory services, to complement our investments by supporting private sector development, help increase access to finance, enable small and medium enterprises to grow and create jobs, and improve the investment climate.
Some of our recent initiatives in the country include targeting women-owned businesses and ramping up our activities to promote sustainable energy finance and cleaner production – two ways IFC and business can help reduce the effects of climate change.
We have partnered with BLC Bank Lebanon to increase access to finance for women. The number of active female borrowers increased by 49 percent and the number of deposit accounts went up by 20 percent in the 2013 fiscal year. We also supported BLC Bank with business capacity programs known as the SME toolkit. The project team won the first runner up spot for the 2013 IFC CEO Gender Award for the Women in Banking program.
We conducted a risk management training workshop with Credit Bank in Lebanon, and assisted in the establishment of two mediation centers, one within the Chamber of Commerce of Beirut and the other within Tripoli Bar Association, with a total of 35 accredited mediators. We have also conducted a series of corporate governance assessments for clients. Working with the World Bank, IFC is helping the central bank strengthen its payment system.
We continue to support regulatory reform and an automation project that will streamline licensing processes, while also creating a model for ICT-based regulatory reform, with one-stop shops to be applied across a number of sectors. This is in addition to our work on improving the insolvency regime and secured lending legal framework.
Finally, continued capacity building activities with Banque Libano-Francaise are designed to enable greater access to finance for sustainable energy opportunities.