Doing Business in Lebanon
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Lebanon a Brief Survey
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Business Environment

 
THE LEBANESE ECONOMY

Lebanon has a long tradition of domestic free trade and investment policies, with free market pricing for most goods and services, unrestricted exchange and trade system and extensive links with the developed world in practically all economic activities. The Government has maintained a generally non-interventionist position toward private investment, and public ownership has generally been limited to infrastructure and utilities. There are no restrictions on the movement of capital and goods by residents and non-residents of the Republic, including on entry or exit of firms or on access to foreign exchange, which makes Lebanon a supportive system for private sector development.

The Government continues to favor a strong role for the private sector in a liberal policy environment. It welcomes foreign investment in the economy. There are no legal restrictions on setting up and operating private businesses in Lebanon. Investment in infrastructure activities historically has been undertaken by the public sector. The freedom of exchange in Lebanon allows foreign investors to import and export capital freely in any form they wish.

The Lebanese economy, characterized by freedom of exchange and transfers, is based on private initiative. The private sector contributes over 80% to aggregate demand and includes industries such as agriculture, manufacturing, construction, trade and tourism, in addition to services such as banking and finance, hotels and restaurants, media and advertising, and consulting and engineering. The manufacturing and industrial sectors contribute approximately one-fifth of the national income. They are provided only with a limited level of protection from international competition.

THE STOCK EXCHANGE

Lebanon stock exchange essentially refers to the Beirut stock exchange. Lebanon stock exchange plays a pivotal role in the economic sector, specifically in the financial reconstruction of the country.

On tracing the history of the stock exchange of Beirut it can be clearly noticed that it has experienced a number of ups and downs over the years of its existence. Established in 1920, by the Lebanese Government, the Lebanese Stock Exchange dealt mostly in gold and foreign currencies. Lebanon Stock exchange was the first of its kind in the whole of Middle East and it attracted plenty of foreign investments, especially from France and Syria.

The stock exchange in Lebanon underwent a number of amendments. The fate of Lebanon Stock exchange suffered a heavy blow when the stock exchange was closed down in 1983 as a result of the Lebanese war. Today, the Beirut stock exchange has regained life once again and is making a substantial effort in rebuilding the economic and financial sector of the country. Stocks, Shares, company bonds etc are principal features of the Lebanon stock exchange.

The Lebanon stock exchange is, at present, assisting in the process of recovery of the other sectors in the Lebanese economy.

FREE ZONES

Despite Lebanon's shaky political and economic situation, millions of dollars have been invested in state-of-the-art warehouse facilities in Beirut in an attempt to re-establish the Lebanese capital as a regional trading and transport hub.

The focus has been "Beirut Free Trade Zone", established in 1995 and which offers business and financial incentives, including the possibility of 100% foreign ownership, customs exemptions for goods entering and leaving the free zone, long-term, low-cost land and building leases and low-cost utility rates for industries.

In addition to Beirut port, Lebanon has free trade zones in Tripoli port and Selaata, and a duty free shop at the Beirut International Airport.

INSURANCE

The insurance sector started to witness significant growth since the year 2007 backed by a relatively stable political situation that raised Lebanese citizen and foreign investors' confidence in the country. According to Lebanon's Insurance Association, ACAL, there are 58 international and local insurers operating in Lebanon. Lebanon's insurance penetration rate at 3.1% of GDP is the highest in the Middle East and North Africa.

TOURISM

The tourism industry in Lebanon has been historically important to the local economy and remains to this day to be a major source of revenue for Lebanon. Before the Lebanese Civil War, Beirut was widely regarded as "The Paris of the Middle East," often cited as a financial and business hub where visitors could experience the Levantine Mediterranean culture.

Lebanon's diverse atmosphere and ancient history make it an important destination which is slowly rebuilding itself after continued turmoil. Lebanon offers plenty: from ancient Roman ruins, to well preserved castles, limestone caves, historic Churches and Mosques, beautiful beaches nestled in the Mediterranean Sea, nonstop nightlife, to mountainous ski resorts.

In 2011, Jeitta Grotto was nominated among the Seven Wonders of the World. Significant private investment is currently being made in the modernization and expansion of this sector and international hotel companies have returned to Lebanon. Casino du Liban, which historically constituted a major tourist destination, reopened in 1996. Lebanon is the only country in the Arab world that offers skiing and related winter sports activities. The largest ski resort in the country has been expanded and modernized. The Government believes that, because of the return of peace and stability to the country and with the development of the necessary infrastructure, tourism contributes significantly to Lebanon's economy. Lebanon's tourism industry also relies on the large number of Lebanese living abroad, who return regularly to the country during the summer season. back to top

AGRICULTURE

Agriculture contributed about 4.7% to GDP.

Principle crops are citrus, grapes, tomatoes, apples, vegetables, potatoes, olives, and tobacco.

Livestock farming is mainly sheep, goats and cows.  Back to top

NATURAL RESOURCES

Lebanon's natural resources are limestone, iron, salt and arable land. Moreover the sacristy of water in the region and the surplus of water in Lebanon prove that water is a valuable natural resource.

Currently Lebanon starts the onshore oil and gas exploration expected source from this. The indicator shows that Lebanon will have a material source from the oil for the coming ten years. back to top

MANUFACTURING

Manufacturing accounts for 10% of GDP. The production of food and beverages was the largest manufacture sector which accounted for 26.9% of value added and 25.3% of industrial employment; among other major sectors were nonmetallic mineral products, electrical machinery and chemical products. back to top

IMPORTS

Main imports are petroleum products, cars, medicinal products, clothing, meat and live animals, consumer goods, paper, textile fabrics, tobacco, electrical machinery and equipment and chemicals.

Import partners: France 10.6%, US 9.2%, Syria 9.2%, Italy 6.8%, China 6.8%, Germany 5.4%, Ukraine 4.4% and Turkey 4.4%. back to top

EXPORTS

Main exports are jewelry, base metals, chemicals, miscellaneous consumer goods, fruits and vegetables, tobacco, construction minerals, electric power machinery and switchgear, textile fibers and papers.

Export partners: Syria 25.8%, UAE 14.3%, Saudi Arabia 6.8%, Switzerland 5.6% and Qatar 4.4%. back to top

INFRASTRUCTURE

 Lebanon enjoys an extensive, though aging, infrastructure that was severely damaged during the civil war. The country is served by a network over 7,000 kilometers of primary and secondary roads, 6200 kilometers of which are paved. Since 1991, the government has given much attention to rebuilding the infrastructure. back to top

BANKING SECTION

The Lebanese economy is a typical open economy with a large banking sector equivalent to more than 2.5 times its economic sector and providing an important support to aggregate demand. From the 1950s to the start of the conflict in 1975, Beirut was the region's financial services center. At the start of the oil boom in 1960s, Lebanon-based banks were the main recipients of the region's petrodollars.

Currently, the main financial services offered are commercial banking, investment banking and insurance. The commercial banking sector remains a centerpiece of the Republic's service-oriented economy. The banking sector witnessed unprecedented growth during the period from 1992 to the present. Lebanon currently hosts the following banks:

Commercial Banks Operating in Lebanon:

  • França Bank SAL
  • Banque Misr Liban SAL
  • Arab Bank PLC
  • HSBC Bank Middle East Limited
  • Rafidain Bank
  • Banque Libano-Francaise S.A.L.
  • B.L.C. Bank S.A.L.
  • Near East Commercial Bank SAL
  • Blom Bank S.A.L
  • Federal Bank of Lebanon S.A.L
  • Saudi National Commercial Bank
  • Societé Générale de Banque au Liban S.A.L
  •  Bank Med S.A.L
  • Audi Saradar Private Bank S.A.L
  • BBAC S.A.L
  • Audi Saradar Investment Bank S.A.L
  • Syrian Lebanese Commercial Bank S.A.L
  •  Banque Pharaon and Chiha s.a.l.
  • Banque de Crédit National S.A.L.
  • Byblos Bank SAL
  • Banque de L'habitat S.A.L
  • Banque de L'industrie et du Travail S.A.L.
  • IBL Bank S.A.L.
  • Credit Libanais S.A.L.
  • Bank Audi SAL - Audi Saradar Group
  • Fenicia Bank SAL
  • North Africa Commercial Bank S.A.L.
  • Lebanese Swiss Bank SAL
  • Bank Saderat Iran
  • Société Nouvelle de la Banque de Syrie et du Liban S.A.L.
  • National Bank of Kuwait (Lebanon) S.A.L.
  • Bank of Beirut SAL
  • Jammal Trust Bank S.A.L.
  • Ahli International Bank S.A.L.
  • Habib Bank Limited  
  • Arab African International Bank
  • Emirates Lebanon Bank S.A.L.
  • Banque BEMO SAL
  • Lebanon and Gulf Bank SAL
  • Standard Chartered Bank SAL
  • Al-Mawarid Bank S.A.L.
  • Credit Bank S.A.L.
  • United Credit Bank S.A.L.
  • First National Bank S.A.L.
  • Al Baraka Bank SAL
  • MEAB SAL
  • Blom Invest Bank S.A.L.
  • Med Investment Bank SAL
  • Credit Libanais Investment B - S.A.L.
  • CitiBank, N.A.
  • França Invest Bank SAL (FIB)
  • Byblos Invest Bank SAL
  • Arab Finance House SAL (Islamic Bank)
  • Lebanese Islamic Bank SAL
  • Blom Development Bank S.A.L
  • Gazprombank Invest (MENA) SAL
  • FFA SAL(Private bank)
  •  Bank of Beirut Invest S.A.L
  • Bank of Baghdad (Private S.A. Co.)
  • CSC Bank SAL
  • Al- Bilad Islamic Bank for Investment & Finance P.S.C.
  • IBL Investment Bank SAL  
  • Qatar National Bank (Qatari Societe Anonyme)
  • Cedrus Invest Bank S.A.L.
  • Saudi Lebanese Bank SAL
  • Finance Bank S.A.L.
  • Arab Investment Bank S.A.l back to top

Brokerage Institutions:

  • Highbury Finance SAL
  • Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith (Middle East) S.A.L.
  • World Investment Services SAL
  • Arab International Development & Investment Mpany S.A.L.
  • Beirut Brokerage Corporation S.A.L.
  • Optimum Invest S.A.L.
  • Lebanese Dealers SAL
  • Aksys Capital S.A.L.
  • Royal Forex Trading S.A.L
  • Master Capital Group SAL
  • Accurate Investment Brokers SAL
  • Premuim Capital Group S.A.L
  • Berytus Capital S.A.L back to top

Financial Institutions

  • Arab Finance Corporation SAL
  • Credit Commercial et Foncier S.A.L. (C.C. &F.)
  • Sogelease Liban S.A.L.
  • Société D'investissements Financiers SAL.
  • Société Financiere du Liban S.A.L.
  • Bemo Securitization S.A.L.
  • Fidus S.A.L.
  • Capital Investment Services S.A.L.
  • Lebanon Invest S.A.L.
  • Gulf Finance & Investment Company SAL
  • Libano-Française Finance S.A.L.
  • G.T. Asseily & Co. S.A.L.
  • Saradar Investment House SAL
  • Middle East Capital Group (MECG) SAL.
  • Allied Business Investment Corporation S.A.L
  • BLC Finance S.A.L.
  • Halawi Investment Trust S.A.L.
  • Credit Financier S.A.L.
  • Kafalat S.A.L Guarantees for Loans to Small and Medium Enterprises
  • Capital Finance Company SAL
  • Société Libanaise de Factoring S.A.L. - SOLIFAC S.A.L.
  • AM Financials SAL - Lebanon
  • Credit Trust S.A.L.
  • MENA Capital S.A.L.
  • HSBC Financial Services (Lebanon) SAL
  • Capital Investment Corporation S.A.L.
  • BOB Finance S.A.L.
  • AMEX (Middle East) B.S.C. (closed)
  • Credit Financier Invests S.A.L.
  • International Finance Company – Lebanon SAL
  • Credit Suisse (Lebanon) Finance S.A.L.
  • Investa Financial Planning Services S.A.L  
  • Credit Agricole Suisse (Liban) Financial Services S.A.L
  • Société Financière de Beyrouth Bnpparibas S.A.L
  • Bogofinance S.A.L
  • Al Mustathmer S.A.L.
  • Credilease S.A.L.
  • Ameen S.A.L
  • EFG - Hermes Lebanon S.A.L
  • Med Securities Investment S.A.L
  • LCB Finance S.A.L.
  • Outlook Finance S.A.L.
  • Financial Management Enterprises (FME) Capital S.A.L
  • 56 Iris Capital Securities S.A.L (I.C.S.)
  • 57 Ahli Investment Group S.A.L.
  • ECE Capital S.A.L.
  • Levantum S.A.L.
  • Cscfinance S.A.L.
  • Excillis Finance Co. S.A.L.
  • Alpha Capital Management S.A.L. (Financial Institution)
  • MENA Invest S.A.L.
  • Emkan Finance S.A.L.
  • Amana Capital S.A.L  back to top

PORT OF BEIRUT

The Port of Beirut plays an important role in Lebanon's commercial activities. After World War II, Beirut became the most important Arab port on the Eastern Mediterranean serving the Arab world. A free-port area for re-exports added to Beirut's port success. A project for the rehabilitation and expansion of the Port of Beirut is underway. back to top

SERVICES

The Lebanese economy is based primarily on the service sector, which accounts approximately 79.4% of GDP. Major subsectors are commerce, tourism and financial services. Other components include health care and higher education. back to top

HEALTH AND SOCIAL WELFARE

The standard of medical care in Lebanon is one of the highest in the area. Hospitals are to be found in all parts of the country. The larger hospitals in and around Beirut are equipped with modern technology and have doctors and technicians in virtually all fields of specialization. back to top

EDUCATION

Lebanon has a long history of emphasizing education. A large system of private schools grew up long before education was made compulsory in the 1960s. Today, more than half elementary and secondary students still receive their education in privately financed schools. Nevertheless, public funding for education constitutes a high priority, with almost 10% of the government's budget is devoted to education.

Universities in Lebanon are considered as the most reputed in the region. Lebanon places a center of attraction mainly to the Arab and African people to receive their higher education from these universities such as:

  • American University of Beirut
  • Lebanese American University
  • Beirut Arab University
  • Saint Joseph University
  • Ecole Superieure des Affaires
  • Many other universities   back to top

CULTURE

 Lebanon's diverse population, composed of different ethnic and religious groups, has further contributed to the country's festivals, musical styles and literature as well as cuisine. When compared to the rest of the Southwest Asia, Lebanese society as a whole is well educated. Lebanese society is very modern and similar to certain cultures of Mediterranean Europe. It is often considered as Europe's gateway to Western Asia as well as Asia's gateway to the Western World. back to top

MEDIA

The media sector in Lebanon is freer than any other in the Arab world, and produces work to a higher standard than most countries in the region.

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Last Update: 03 April 2012

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