Dr. Salim Sfeir Speech - Moscow
Posted on 17/04/2017
 
Friends and Colleagues,
 
Success doesn't happen overnight, otherwise it’s called luck. In Lebanon our banking sector is successful but also lucky. Since the establishment of the modern statehood in the Middle East, Lebanese financial institutions and commercial banks asserted themselves as regional leaders and an engine of economic growth in Lebanon and in the Middle East. And we are lucky because of our geographic location and because of our talented Human Resources which until now continue to meet local demands and support the region’s growing needs.
 
The free flow of capital and earnings into and out of the country and the sound monetary policy of our Central Bank helped our banking sector weather the 2008 global financial crisis and once again proved that Lebanon’s banking sector is safe and stable for investors and depositors. In fact, deposits in Banks increased by 40% in Lebanon from 2008 to 2009.
 
The Banking Sector in Lebanon is very large as compared to its economic output. In fact, USD 205 billion total assets held by our local banks represent around 400% of our GDP.
 
We have 65 Banks operating in Lebanon, with more than 1,000 local branches, employing 25,000 staff. Total Deposits of the local banking sector reached USD 164 billion. Total loans to the private sector reached USD 57 billion, or 100% of the GDP. We are also funding the public sector by USD 35 billion, representing 48% of the total gross public debt. Currently, the sector has USD 19 billion in Shareholders’ Equity.
 
Accordingly, our banking sector enjoys very healthy liquidity buffers, with a Loan to Deposit ratio of 35% and with placements at the Central Bank of Lebanon representing 43% of total assets.
 
The Central Bank of Lebanon’s FX reserves coupled with gold cover 85% of the net public debt Moreover, resident Lebanese institutions and individuals hold 92% of the gross public debt which means a resilient bank deposit base can sustain government funding needs. 
 
According to Moody’s rating agency consumers, investors and depositors remain confident about the fiscal state of the country.
Liquidity stems from the steady flow of remittances from Lebanese abroad, who continue to send billions of dollars back to the country each year. 
 
Lebanese banks remain adequately capitalized maintaining an equity-to-asset ratio of around 9% over the past five years. The Capital Adequacy Ratio reported in conformance with Basel III stipulations exceeded 15% at end of 2016. 
 
IMF has acknowledged Lebanon’s strong bank regulations and supervision, as ensured by the Central Bank of Lebanon.
 
Our banking sector enjoys an excellent reputation and is in compliance with international standards, laws and regulations set by the IFRS, Basel Committee, FATCA, Common Reporting Standard (CRS),  as well as with various sanctions programs imposed by the United Nations, the European Union, and the United States  which has shielded Lebanese banks from the repercussions of sudden shocks that directly or indirectly hamper the sector’s performance. 
 
Lebanese banks are spread across Africa, Europe, Asia and Australia Given the extensive Lebanese diaspora the strategy of our banks is to expand into international markets that host large or affluent Lebanese populations. Out of 65 operating banks in Lebanon, 18 have foreign affiliates spanning 5 continents, 32 countries, 86 cities and 432 branches, establishing jobs for 10,000 individuals with total assets of around USD 40 billion.
 
Dear Russian colleagues,
 
I am sure you are wondering how can Lebanon be strategic and instrumental to Russia?
 
If you seek a place to invest in the Middle East, Lebanon is an attractive choice.
 
Lebanon’s strategic location free market economy and liberal financial environment play a key role in making Lebanon one of the most favored destination for investors.
 
The vast range of financial services guarantees and incentives provided to investors coupled with a vibrant banking system render Lebanon a friendly environment for investors.
 
And we cannot forget the historical relationship between Russia and Lebanon. Russia has always stood by Lebanon in the darkest days, and we still believe that we can take our relationship to higher levels of cooperation for the best interest of our people.
 
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