The Lebanese banking sector has proved itself to be resilient to the wider global malaise in international finance. After the collapse of Lehman Brothers in late 2008 and the subsequent government takeover of major lending institutions in the US and the UK, Lebanese depositors lost confidence in foreign banks. As a result, funds have been pouring into the country's local banks, which are enjoying record levels of profits and liquidity. These inflows allowed Lebanese banks to boost their lending to the domestic economy by $5bn last year, and as this year's Top 1000 rankings show, assets are significantly up.

Total assets in 2009's rankings were up 11% to $80.2bn, compared with $70.9bn in 2008's rankings. Byblos Bank was the strongest performer in terms of asset accumulation. It increased its assets by 18.4%, compared with 2008's rankings, to $11.2bn. Importantly, the average return on those assets, across the sector, grew by an impressive 18% to 1.28% this year, from 1.09% in last year's rankings.

This year's Top 1000 rankings also indicate that profits across the sector were up. According to those Lebanese banks that are listed both this year and last, total pre-tax profits across the sector were up nearly 27% to $1.1bn.

By far the strongest performer in 2009's rankings in terms of profit was Fransabank. Its pre-tax profits increased 53.6% to $110m, compared with the pre-tax profit in 2008's rankings of $71m. Lebanon's big hitters also gave a solid performance. Blom Bank increased its profits by 25.4% compared with the figures in 2008's rankings, Byblos Bank increased its profits by 20%, and Bank of Beirut increased its profits by 34.8% on last year's rankings. Lebanon's biggest bank by Tier 1 capital remains Audi Saradar Group. However, the bank did not provide updated figures for this year's listings.

Looking ahead, a period of sustained political stability can only benefit Lebanon's banks. A history of political turmoil taught the banks to be cautious, and in the recent global economic turmoil such caution has proved to be an invaluable asset. The sector's almost complete insulation from the complex derivative instruments that brought down banks in the West has increased local confidence in the sector, and as such, deposits and assets are both growing strongly. The recent re-election of the pro-Western March 14 coalition government, led by Saad Hariri, after a peaceful and closely fought election, also bodes well for the country's banks. Such was the feeling of elation after the election that the country's stock market surged. The Lebanese Blom index rose 14% in the week following the victory, having risen 21% in the year to date.

Top Lebanese Banks by Assets

Top Lebanese Banks by Assets

Top Lebanese Banks by Profits

Top Lebanese Banks by Profits

Top Lebanese Banks by Return On Assets (ROA)

Top Lebanese Banks by Return On Assets (ROA)


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