Middle East: Lebanese banks step back from Syria
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Middle East: Lebanese banks step back from Syria

Several banks write off Syrian operations; they continue to be big shareholders.

The Syrian central bank prevents Lebanese banks from closing operations
in the country

Lebanese banker Georges Sayegh has long been associated with Blom Bank, the Beirut-headquartered financial institution. In 2004, when Blom set up Bank of Syria and Overseas (BSO), its Syrian operation, he was its first general manager. To this day he remains Blom’s representative on the board of BSO, as well as an adviser to the general management of Blom.

But that is about to change. During a recent meeting in Beirut, he told Euromoney that, at the next general meeting of the board of BSO in Damascus, he would step down from the board. He will then seek re-election as an individual rather than as a representative of Blom.

“My seat will no longer say Blom Bank, it will say Georges Sayegh,” he explains. He smiles and with his fingers mimics a pair of scissors cutting through what links the two banks. 

His decision is symptomatic of a wider trend. Lebanon’s big banks, which have had a large presence in Syria ever since that country’s banking privatization drive in the early 2000s, are beginning to distance themselves from it. 

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