UPDATE 2-Foreign banks suspend Ivory Coast operations

Thu Feb 17, 2011 1:24am GMT

* Societe Generale latest bank to close Ivory Coast unit

* BNP Paribas, Citi, Standard Chartered, Access Bank shut

* SocGen and BNP make up over two thirds of banking system

By Tim Cocks

ABIDJAN, Feb 17 (Reuters) - Ivory Coast's biggest bank, a unit of Societe Generale, said it was suspending its activities on Thursday, the latest in an exodus of foreign banks that is turning political crisis into financial meltdown.

"Owing to the situation and despite all out efforts, we regret to inform you that SGBCI is obliged to provisionally suspend its activities from Feb. 17 2011," a website statement said, the fifth international bank to pull out this week.

The financial system in the world's top cocoa grower is in on the brink of collapse after disputed incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo cut the country's ties with West Africa's central bank because it would not recognise his signature on state accounts.

French bank BNP Paribas's Ivorian unit, the second biggest bank, and Citibank suspended operations on Monday and Nigeria's Access Bank and Standard Chartered followed suit on Wednesday.   Continued...

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