Lebanon’s Blom Bank has entered exclusive talks with Bahrain’s Arab Banking Corporation (Bank ABC) to potentially sell ownership in its Egyptian subsidiary Blom Bank Egypt.
“Both parties will consequently enter into negotiations in order to reach a final agreement, however, there is no certainty that any transaction will be completed,” the Lebanese lender said in an emailed statement on Wednesday.
In September, Bank ABC, Bahrain's second-largest lender, said it was in preliminary talks to buy Blom Bank Egypt.
Blom Bank owns 99.42 per cent of the issued share capital of Blom Bank Egypt, the statement said.
Earlier this year, Emirates NBD, Dubai’s largest lender by assets, said it was also in talks to buy Blom Bank’s unit in Egypt.
Blom's Egyptian unit could raise as much as $300m for the Lebanese lender, according to an earlier Reuters report. Blom Bank Egypt operates 39 branches in the North African country.
Blom Bank, like other Lebanese lenders, needs to fulfill a requirement from Lebanon's central bank to increase its equity.
The regulator issued the requirement last year as Lebanon faces its worst economic crisis in three decades. Lenders who are unable to raise their capital by 20 per cent by the end of February 2021 will have to get out of the market.
In May, First Abu Dhabi Bank, the UAE’s largest lender by assets, mutually agreed to suspend talks to buy the Egyptian subsidiary of Lebanon's Bank Audi “due to the unprecedented circumstances and the uncertain outlook relating to the Covid-19 pandemic". Bank Audi's Egyptian subsidiary has 50 branches with total assets of $4.4bn at the end of September.
The Lebanese economy is in a downward spiral after defaulting on about $31 billion of eurobonds in March.
Its currency has plunged about 80 per cent against the US dollar in the black market and inflation surged to 137 per cent in October.