Qatar's top bank has purchased a major stake in one of Libya's leading privately held financial institutions. The deal strengthens the commercial ties between two countries already bound together politically in the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings.
Following months of negotiations, Qatar National Bank, the energy-rich Arabian Peninsula kingdom's largest financial institution, paid an undisclosed sum for a 49 per cent stake in the Bank of Commerce and Development.
According to a press release, the deal was announced at an extraordinary April 12 meeting in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi.
Qatar's strident backing of the Libya uprising raised suspicions it was seeking commercial advantage in a post-Gaddafi Libya. Many Libyans now are leery of alleged Qatari meddling in their country ahead of its June 19 parliamentary elections. But the exceedingly rare foreign investment will likely be welcomed by Libyans: most international firms have been scared off by the country's continued instability. During the meeting in Benghazi, Qatar National Bank chief executive Ali Shareef al-Emadi said he was expecting "record, healthy growth" in Libya that would ensure the banking sector's success, according to the press release.
Though no one disclosed the deal's worth, Bank of Commerce and Development chairman Jamal Abdelmalak said the agreement would result give his Benghazi-based bank fresh capital that would allow it to expand. The bank, opened in 1996 as the country's first private bank in decades, already has branches in the Libyan capital of Tripoli as well as the cities of Misurata, Zawiya, Tobruk, Beida and Sirte. It has assets totalling $2bn.
Qatar National Bank, co-owned by the ruling royal family's Qatar Investment Authority and private investors, operates branches, subsidiaries and representative offices in 24 countries.