Libya plans to sell its second bank

TRIPOLI — The Libyan government plans to sell a second state-owned bank to private investors as part of reforms to expand the private sector role in the oil dependent economy, the North African country's central bank chief said.

By (Reuters)

Published: Thu 30 Jun 2005, 10:34 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 2:49 PM

"The privatisation of state-owned banks is beginning with the sell-off of Sahari and Wahda banks. We announced early this month the sale of Sahari bank and now an assessment operation of Wahda bank is under way before its privatisation," Ahmed Al Menissi told Reuters late on Tuesday on the sidelines of a meeting of Maghreb central bank governors in Tripoli.

He did not say when Wahda's privatisation might start in earnest and gave no details on the sell-off of Sahari bank but said Libya was seeking to prepare the country's banking system to withstand foreign competition.

Officials had said earlier that Libya would partly privatise five banks before the end of this year and let foreign banks hold up to 50 per cent. The move is part of Libyan efforts to liberalise its economy as it recovers from years of sanctions and political isolation.

U.N. sanctions were lifted in 2003 after Libya took responsibility for the 1988 Lockerbie aircraft bombing and agreed to a compensation deal.

The United States then revoked a broad trade embargo in 2004 but keeps Tripoli on a U.S. list accusing it of being a state sponsor of terrorism, which means some restrictions remain.

"The new banking law approved this year allows foreign banks to operate in Libya but we need time to strengthen our banks and enable them to face competition," Menissi said.

"Our banks will be able to compete against foreign banks at home when they cut costs and shed some branches and likely cut the workforce," he added.

He gave no details on the Sahari and Wahada banks but other officials said the two are among the leading five state banks.

Menissi said planned reforms of the local banking system include restructuring and mergers.

He said he and counterparts from Algeria, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia gathered for the one-day meeting in Tripoli to prepare for the meeting of Africa's central bank chiefs next month.

The five countries form the Arab Maghreb Union, with Libya holding the grouping rotating presidency.

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