Lebanon: Fransabank pushes on the frontiers of risk
"You should come to Beirut soon. The situation has improved a lot," Adnan Kassar, chairman of Lebanon’s Fransabank, advises Euromoney.
"Going into countries where the competition is cut-throat or the taxes are high is good for your prestige, but is not nearly as rewarding"
Some Lebanese banks have reacted to the fragile political situation at home by growing their businesses in more stable Middle Eastern countries. But the strategy of Fransabank, which has nearly 100 branches in Lebanon, is to exploit its wartime experiences by growing, primarily in retail, in other countries at the lower end of the political risk spectrum.
It is, for example, in the final stages of acquiring Golden Taler Bank in Belarus. The US says Belarus is Europe’s sole "outpost of tyranny". But Kassar says some banks enjoy more than 40% annual growth in the country’s retail market. With just one branch, Golden Taler Bank is among the smallest banks in Belarus. Nevertheless, Kassar, who was once Lebanon’s minister of economy and trade, claims his bank has already received an offer for Golden Taler Bank that is four times the price Fransabank had agreed to purchase it.
Northern Iraq, then, begins to seem less adventurous.