July 1, 2010 / 4:35 PM / 9 years ago

Libya to award new banking licences by end-July

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Libya has set the end of July as the deadline for awarding two new joint-venture banking licences for which foreigners have been allowed to bid for the first time, a central bank official said.

The six banks shortlisted for the licences are HSBC, Standard Chartered, UniCredit, Mashreq Bank, National Bank of Dubai and Qatar Islamic Bank.

“The committee (to choose the winning bids) has started ... studying the applications from the six banks and will finish its work by the end of July,” said the central bank official, who did not want to be identified.

The licences will allow the winning foreign bidders to own 49 percent of the new banks, with Libyan partners holding the rest of the equity.

All Libya’s banks were state-owned for decades but in the past few years the sector has started to open up as part of tentative steps by the government to reform the economy.

Libya has sold minority stakes in three of its existing banks to foreign investors keen to gain access to Libya’s immense wealth from oil exports.

In the latest deal, Portugal’s Banco Espirito Santo said in April it had bought a 40 percent stake in Aman Bank.

BNP Paribas acquired a stake in Sahara bank in 2007, and a year later Jordan-based Arab Bank took a share in Libya’s al-Wahda bank.

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