Monday, March 22, 2004

Iraqi banks

Iraqi banks are looking for Lebanese and Arab partners:

A number of Iraqi private banks are looking for Lebanese and Arab banks to take on as partners in a bid to prepare for the imminent entry of big international private banks into the once state-controlled banking sector.

The Central Bank of Iraq, which recently gained full independence, is expected to soon finalize licenses for three foreign banks, HSBC, National Bank of Kuwait and Standard Chartered. The three banks, which were picked out of 15 applications, are the first private banks to enter Iraq in nearly four decades.

The Iraqi banking sector was and still is dominated by two large state banks, Al-Rasheed and Rafidain, which control around 90 percent of the market. The ousted regime of Saddam Hussain only allowed Iraqi private banks to enter the market in the 1990's after the United Nations trade sanctions were imposed, restricting the inflow of cash into the war-ravaged country.

"We have held talks with Fransabank of Lebanon and we are waiting to hear from them," said Saad al-Bunnia, chairman of Warkaa Investment Bank and head of the Federation of Banks in Iraq, who attended the Iraq Economic Forum that ended Friday in Beirut.


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