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Libya gets some eager international help

Private lenders sold to foreign groups; Decisions awaited in bank licence auction

International banks are rushing to Libya to secure a foothold in an oil-rich economy until recently almost completed untouched by foreign lenders.

Two international groups announced acquisitions of private banks in Libya this spring, and the central bank is set to auction two new banking licences to foreign groups to operate on a standalone basis.

UK banks HSBC and Standard Chartered, Italy’s UniCredit, and Gulf lenders Emirates NBD, Mashreqbank, and Qatar Islamic Bank passed the pre-qualification stage in the auction and were provided with application packages in April. These must be returned to the central bank by June 15.

They hope to follow in the footsteps of Bahrain’s Ahli United Bank (AUB), which has bought a 40% stake in United Bank for Commerce and Investment (UBCI). AUB paid $53.8 million, according to a statement posted on the Bahraini stock market in March. In April, Portugal’s Banco Espírito Santo (BES) announced that it had bought 40% of Aman Bank, another privately owned firm, for €39.8

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