BEIRUT: Most Lebanese bankers have apparently coalesced around the candidacy of François Bassil as head the Association of Banks in Lebanon ahead of the group’s July 5 election, sources said Wednesday. “Bassil is a veteran banker with long experience in running the association. Lebanese bankers believe that this is not the time to nominate other bankers because the situation is too delicate,” the source told The Daily Star.
The current president of the association, Joseph Torbey, and most board members also fully support the nomination of Bassil, the source said.
However, Bank of Beirut chairman Salim Sfeir, who declined to make any public comment, did not give a clear indication about whether he would run against Bassil.
“Sfeir is a qualified banker but some bankers feel that the presidency should go to Bassil. The association is one of the few organizations which managed to coordinate with the government and the private sector. They [the association] did a very good job and there is no need to change the board for the time being,” another source said.
Bassil invited the heads of all the banks that are members of the association for lunch Tuesday, but Sfeir was one of few bankers who did not attend.
Sources said although bankers were likely to unite around Bassil’s candidacy, Sfeir was still highly respected by his colleagues.
ABL groups most of the banks operating in the country. ABL has been instrumental in holding talks with the government over key issues that impact the banking sector and closely coordinates with the Central Bank on numerous issues.
Sources said there would likely be no major changes in the names of the board members.
Apart from Torbey and Sfeir, the board members include Mohammed Hariri (BankMed), Saad Azhari (BLOM), Farid Roufai (BLF), Tanal Sabbah (Lebanese-Swiss Bank ), Raymond Audi (Audi Bank), Antoine Sehnaoui (SGBL), Ghassan Assaf (BBAC), Nadim Kassar (Fransabank) and Marwan Kheir al-Dine (Al Mawarid Bank).