BEIRUT: Bank Audi, the largest Lebanese lender in terms of assets and deposits, withdrew its bid to acquire Standard Chartered Bank’s retail business, bankers said Friday.
“Bank Audi has decided not to take part in the bidding to acquire the retail business of Standard Chartered. The efforts to acquire this bank are now confined between Cedrus Invest Bank and First National Bank,” a banker familiar with the talks told The Daily Star.
Bank Audi was not available for comment on the subject.
Sources said that Bank Audi was not interested in acquiring Standard Chartered’s relatively small operations in Lebanon.
“This bank has deposits of less than $100 million. Why would a large bank like Audi be interested in this acquisition when any of its main branches has more deposits than Standard’s Chartered entire operations in Lebanon?” a banker asked.
Sources said that Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh has encouraged Audi to take part in the bidding because he prefers to cancel Standard Chartered’s license.
The management of Standard Chartered in Beirut has refused to comment on the ongoing talks to acquire the bank.
“It seems that the bank is studying the offers with the management in London. I feel it will take some time before the bank takes a final decision on the offers,” another banker said.
None of the banks bidding for Standard Chartered revealed any details about the offers they made.
One of the key issues that lenders will have to take into consideration is the fate of Standard Chartered’s existing employees.
Most foreign owned banks are seeking to exit the Lebanese market amid fierce competition from well-established Lebanese banks.
“I don’t think foreign banks can compete with the leading lenders who control 80 percent of the market share,” Francois Bassil, the head of the Association of Banks in Lebanon, told The Daily Star earlier.