By Sami Zaptia.
Tripoli, 23 July 2013:
Sitting in the business class section of the latest Airbus A330-200 to be delivered to Libyan . . .[restrict]Airlines, Gumhouria Bank Chairman Musbah Akkari looked even more contented than most of the invited guests.
The short flight over Tripoli was organized by Libyan Airlines for a group of VIPs and media to celebrate the new Airbus’s arrival.
“We provided finance for the purchase of this plane”, he said proudly. “There are other banks involved in the loan: Sahara (BNP-Paribas), National Commercial Bank, Wehda and the Libyan Foreign Bank”, but we are the leading lender”, Akkari added.
The loan Mr Akkari was referring to was a LD 1.4 bn loan to Libyan Airlines to help finance its aircraft purchasing programme taken out in 2010 for the order made for Airbuses in 2007 .
Akkari says that Gumhouria bank holds a 45 percent share of the Libyan banking sector and is therefore in a strong position to take the lead in new products and services, including the provision of loans.
However, Akkari agrees that the sector is facing challenges. These include bad debts, banks’ inability to seize collateral and the weak legislative Libyan environment, have all served to weaken the sector.
This has meant that banks have had to be extra careful in dispensing loans in order to protect their assets. This includes demanding extra guarantees which has made giving loans more bureaucratic, Akkari admits.
Nevertheless, Akkari points out to progress being made, such as Gumhouria bank being one of the first to offer Sharia banking products. The bank Chairman is very confident about the future of Sharia banking to the extent the in April the bank decided to gradually switch the whole bank to Sharia-compliant products.
Back onboard the new Airbus, the Gumhouria bank chairman explained that Libyan Airlines is purchasing 14 aircraft. “It has received seven A320’s and two A330’s and there are four A350’s and another A330 to arrive in 2014 and 2015”, the man providing the single biggest chunk of money explained.
Libyan banks have been coming for some stick for sitting on pools of cash and leaving the economy hungry for financial support. “People say we don’t lend”, retorted Akkari, “but when we find appropriate guarantees, we lend. Look at this huge loan (to Libyan Airlines), for example”, he said.
“Where there are adequate guarantees, we are very happy to lend. We have initiated discussions with various ministries, for example the Ministry of Housing to propose loans and projects in the housing sector as well as the Ministry of Economy to propose loans for SME projects and to help the unemployed and for development up to half a billion dinars”.
“We have also made proposals for loans to the Ministry of Electricity for three solar power stations. We are also meeting the Ministry of Transport to discuss the possible loan to finance a proposed port in Shahat (Cyrene)”, he added listing various areas where his bank was hoping to provide loans.
“So you see, Gumhouria Bank is ready to give loans so long as there are adequate guarantees. We are ready to fund large projects on our own or jointly through a syndicate. We are ready to help the development of Libya”.
The Gumhouria Bank Chairman confirmed that Libya and its financial sector, private and public, have the money to self finance their future growth and development.
“The Libyan banking sector can provide loans of up to LD 100 bn”, Akkari explained. “This can go up to LD 400 bn with leverage”, he added. “We can help raise the standard of Libya’s economy and help its development and economic diversification to a high standard within four to five years”, predicted the confident Gumhouria Bank Chairman. [/restrict]