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Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Bank Audi could actually be exiting Egypt

M&A WATCH- Bank Audi could actually be exiting Egypt: Lebanon’s Bank Audi is “considering” selling its Egypt arm if it receives a suitable offer, CFO Tamer Ghazaleh tells Reuters in an about-face from its statement on Monday denying media reports that it is planning to exit the country. Confirming original reports in local media, Ghazaleh said that investors have expressed significant interest in its Egypt operations as the bank mulls a potential offloading of some of its foreign assets.

The ongoing banking crisis in Lebanon is forcing the bank’s hand, Ghazaleh said. “For us, we would not have considered thinking of it if the situation was different in Lebanon. We have our own ambition and expansion plan in Egypt,” he said, in a nod to the bank’s attempt to acquire the National Bank of Greece’s Egypt arm. Bank Audi was among three Lebanese banks downgraded by S&P Global in November. The ratings agency cut its rating to CCC from B-, maintaining a negative outlook due to the potential for a liquidity crisis at the bank. It is also trying to meet the Lebanese central bank’s new capital requirements, which call for banks to increase capital reserves by 10% in an effort to shore up the country’s fragile financial system.

Lebanese banks could be “forced to close”: Banks are reportedly under threat of closure if the country’s political paralysis continues, Lebanon’s union of banking employees said yesterday, according to Bloomberg. “The situation is dangerous and cannot continue as such without an executive authority, and we might reach a point where we are forced to close,” MTV television reported yesterday. Lebanon has been without a functioning government since Saad Hariri and his government resigned at the beginning of November.

Meanwhile, the political crisis continues: Protesters went back to the streets yesterday and rallied outside the Lebanese central bank chanting against the lack of a functioning government and the worsening financial crisis, Bloomberg reports.

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