By Shane McGinley
Lender aiming to regain control of banking unit it owns in Libya months after exiting
Arab Bank, Jordan’s largest lender, is aiming to regain control of a banking unit it owns in Libya, months after it was forced to exit the country during violence which led to the overthrowing of former Libyan ruler Muammar Qaddafi.
“As a result of the events which took place in Libya, we have not been involved in the management of Al Wahda bank since early 2011,” Arab Bank chairman Sabih Al Masri told the Bloomberg news agency.
“We hope to be in a position to discuss with the new authorities in Libya how we might reengage our presence in the country.”
Amman-based Arab Bank has a 19 percent stake in Al Wahda, which has around 70 branches across Libya.
Al Masri, who took over as chairman last month, is also looking to reenter the Iraqi market after its branches there were nationalised in 1964. Upon his announcement as the new chairman Al Masri pledged to help Arab Bank, which has a US$45.6bn balance sheet spread across 30 countries and five continents, maintain the steady growth it has shown in recent years.
"All the financial ratios point to a solid financial position and to continued growth in every aspect of the balance sheet," he said.
The firm is one of the Arab world's largest privately owned banks. Over 20 percent is owned by the family of Lebanon's former prime minister, Rafik Al-Hariri, who was assassinated in 2005. Jordan's social pension fund has a 15.5 stake.
The Shoman family owns 5 percent. Other shareholders in Arab Bank, which owns 40 percent of Saudi Arabia's Arab National Bank, include the Saudi Ministry of Finance with 4.5 percent and Qatar with 1.65 percent.