Lebanon gas prices drop by 1,200LBP

(BEIRUT, LEBANON) — Gas prices in Lebanon continued to decrease on Wednesday as Brent crude fell to a five-and-a-half-year low of less than $57 a barrel a day earlier.

95-octane and 98-octane gasoline fell by LL1,200 and are now priced at LL23,100 and LL23,800, respectively.

Only two weeks ago, both 95-octane and 98-octane gasoline were priced at LL26,400 and LL27,100, respectively.

The price of diesel dropped Wednesday by LL1,000 and is now LL17,100, according to the state-run National News Agency.

Lebanon has witnessed a sharp decrease in fuel prices over the past month.

According to a Reuter’s report published Wednesday, Brent fell $1.14 a barrel to $56.74, its lowest since May 2009, before recovering to trade around $57.70, down 18 cents, by 1440 GMT. U.S. crude was up 10 cents at $53.71 after hitting $52.70 – also its lowest since May 2009.

Beirut 37th in the world for expensive rent

(BEIRUT, LEBANON) — Beirut was ranked as the 37th most expensive city for retail rental locations among 65 other cities in a recent survey conducted by property consultant company Cushman & Wakefield.

Beirut was also ranked as the third most expensive city in the Middle East and Africa region, and the second most expensive out of five Arab cities included in the survey.

The study evaluated retail rental prices between September 2013 and September 2014 in 330 locations in 65 countries around the world.

The most expensive retail rental location in Beirut is the ABC Mall in Ashrafieh, at around $2,000 per sqm, 61 percent higher than the Middle East and Africa average of $1,223 per sqm.

Out of the 24 locations evaluated in the Middle East and Africa region, the survey found that the ABC Mall in Ashrafieh ranks as the fourth most expensive.

The Beirut Central District is in 14th place at $1,000 per sqm, Verdun Street in 19th place at $800 per sqm and Kaslik Street and Hamra Street in joint 20th place at $700 per sqm each.

Retail rents fell by an average of 7.1 percent in the Middle East and Africa year-on-year; rents declined in 12 of the locations surveyed, increased in three other locations and were unchanged in eight locations, while Manama did not have historical data.

Retail rents went up by an average of 2.4 percent globally, and rents rose in 139 of the 330 locations surveyed, declined in 50 others and remained stable in 138 locations, while three locations lacked historical data.

New York’s Upper 5th Avenue replaced Hong Kong as the world’s most expensive retail location, at $37,065 per sqm a year.

Salameh: New anti-laundering laws

(BEIRUT, LEBANON) — Lebanese Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh revealed new measures taken by Banque Du Liban to tackle money landering in Lebanon on Thursday.

“Lebanon issued Law No. 318 on fighting money laundering, which gave birth to the SIC (Special Investigation Commission), an independent entity affiliated to BDL, whose mission is to efficiently fight all kinds of money laundering activities,” said Salameh.

Salameh announced these measures at the two-day “Governance, Risk and Compliance Summit” hosted by Thomson Reuters, which gathered regional and international bank leaders to discuss monetary trends in Lebanon and the Middle East.

Salameh said the new measures will regulate cross-border transportation of cash and tackle tax evasion. He also introduced the “Financial Stability Unit,” which will monitor the financial sector in Lebanon.

“We are in the process of establishing a Consumer Protection Unit to ensure that banks deal equally with all their customers in a transparent manner,” he said. “We have issued circulars requesting banks to establish compliance and risk management units, to appoint independent members in their board of directors, and to create a remuneration committee whose members are chosen among the board’s non-executive members.”

Bank Audi says 2014 profits up 7.1 percent

(BEIRUT, LEBANON) — Lebanese lender Bank Audi’s net profit in the first nine months of the year was up 7.1 percent at $280 million, it said on Thursday.

The bank said in a statement that the increase came after the allocation of $71 million of net loan provision charges.

Last year Audi reported a drop of 5.5 percent in its nine-month profits, weighed on by the costs of launching its new Turkish subsidiary Odeabank.

“This performance stems from a sustainment of profitability levels in all entities within the context of Odea Bank reporting positive net profits after provisions and taxes starting the month of May 2014, well ahead of set timing,” the statement said.

The bank, which operates in 13 countries, said its consolidated assets in the first nine months of 2014 increased to $39.9 billion while its customer deposits went up to $33.9 billion, an increase of 9.1 percent since the end of 2013.

Over the first nine months of 2014, Lebanon’s economic performance was modest, as confirmed by most real sector indicators, with overall activity somehow in line with the 1.8% real GDP growth recent forecast by the IMF for the year, according to the press release.

Bank Audi says its actions of “diversifying sources of activity and profitability” helped reinforce the Bank’s financial standing.

Beirut airport: More travelers but fewer goods

(BEIRUT, LEBANON) — The Directorate General for Civil Aviation said despite a 4 percent increase in passenger traffic at Beirut’s Rafic Hariri International Airport, air freight dropped 17 percent in the first three quarters of 2014.

According to a report released on Monday, slightly more than 5 million passengers went through Beirut airport in the first nine months of this year, compared to 4.82 million during the same period in 2013.

The numbers of passengers who used the airport in August and September were estimated at 814,297 and 640,546, recording an increase of 12 and 19 percent compared with August and September 2013.

The report added that the number of passengers transiting through Beirut had dropped by 46 percent from last year.

The total volume of goods airlifted in and out of Beirut airport until end of September was estimated at 7.5 million tons. The figure includes 4.31 million tons of imported goods and 3.19 million of exported merchandise, according to the directorate.

Lebanon bans import, production of alcoholic energy drinks

(BEIRUT, LEBANON) — Lebanon will ban the import, manufacture, and marketing of energy drinks containing alcohol in the country, after the health minister urged the economy minister to take immediate action.

Health Minister Wael Abu Faour sent a note to Economy Minister Alain Hakim asking him to commit to his predecessor’s decision regarding the beverages on Friday.

The ban on the alcoholic energy drinks was originally announced by former Economy Minister Nicholas Nahas and Health Minister Ali Hasan Khalil in February and was set to take effect in June.

After many traders filed petitions calling to extend the deadline by three months, the Economy Ministry forwarded the requests to the Health Ministry who did not reply, according to Friday’s statement.

However, the Economy Ministry has decided to go ahead and implement the ban, on the basis of research showing the mixture of alcohol and the stimulants in the energy drinks has serious side effects on the consumer’s health.

This decision does not affect the purchase or mixture of drinks at local bars or pubs. Consumers may also mix their own beverages at home without violating the law.

The ban includes, but is not limited to, alcoholic beverages containing the common stimulants caffeine and taurine. According to the decree, the decision was made based on a suggestion by a committee acting with the Consumer Protection Association.

Bank Audi increases capital by $300M

(BEIRUT, LEBANON) — Bank Audi announced Tuesday that it has completed a $300 million capital increase by offering $240 million in common shares initially to existing shareholders (including GDR holders) of the bank and a $60 million subscription of common shares by International Finance Corporation (“IFC”), a member of the World Bank Group. The IFC now controls 20 percent of the new shares and became a minor shareholder of the total outstanding shares of the bank.

With the new capital increase, Bank Audi’s shareholders equity is now $3 billon.

According to the statement of the bank, the subscription price per common share was $6, and eligible subscribers were allocated three warrants per common share subscribed entitling to purchase one common share of the bank’s Turkish subsidiary, Odea Bank, for each warrant.

Over $25 million of Bank Audi shares were traded on the Beirut bourse Monday as part of efforts to raise the capital of the bank.

Bank Audi’s statement said $50 million in common shares were issued in the capital increase, as well as 149,528,847 warrants, representing approximately 10.0 percent of Odea Bank’s common shares.

“There was an initial take-up of 87.1 percent of the rights issue by existing shareholders (including a take-up of 94 percent by holders of the Bank’s Global Depositary Receipts (GDRs), with the balance taken up in full through residual subscriptions by existing shareholders),” the statement added.

It said the proceeds of the capital increase would be used to extend the bank’s financial flexibility, strengthen its regulatory capital and support its business development within and mostly outside Lebanon.

Samir Hanna, Group CEO of Bank Audi, commented: “We are very satisfied with the success of this transaction, which was conducted in difficult regional conditions and showed the confidence of existing and new shareholders, including IFC, in the bank’s performance and direction. The partnership with IFC will further assist the bank in expanding our access to underserved segments, such as small and medium enterprises and support our planned expansion to new jurisdictions, in particular where IFC has significant in-country knowledge and experience.”

Bank Audi, the largest Lebanese bank in terms of assets and deposits, operates in 13 countries. As of June 30, 2014, Bank Audi’s consolidated assets stood at some $39.3 billion, private customers’ deposits were $34 billion and shareholders’ equity was $2.7 billion (pre-capital increase). Bank Audi recorded a net profit of $190 million in the first half of 2014, slightly higher than the same period of last year.

Freddie C. Baz, General Manager-Group Chief Financial Officer of Bank Audi, told The Daily Star earlier Audi hopes its subsidiaries and branches abroad will increase their share of the bank’s total profits.

At present, nearly 70 percent of Bank Audi’s profits come from Lebanon operations.

Source: The Daily Star

Study: Lebanese among most pessimistic in the world about economy

(BEIRUT, LEBANON) — A recent study published by the Pew Research Center says the Lebanese population is one of the most pessimistic about its economic future and dissatisfied with how its country is doing.

Only beaten by Greece, Ukraine, Spain and Italy, Lebanon had 91 percent people respond that the economy was performing “bad.” 46 percent of the Lebanese said it would be worse “over the next 12 months.”

According to the same study, Lebanon is the country who worries the most about the gap between the rich and the poor.

But while less than half the Lebanese surveyed expect more hard times, the IMF forecasts Lebanon’s economy to accelerate from 1% growth in 2014 to 2.5% in 2015.

84 percent of the Lebanese said they thought economic inequality was a “very big problem.” 92 percent said the most dangerous of economic issues was the rising prices, or inflation.

Car sales in Lebanon up 7% since 2013

car-sales-lebanon(BEIRUT, LEBANON) — Figures released by the Association of Automobile Importers in Lebanon (AIA) indicate that 22,004 new passenger cars were sold in the first seven months of 2014, constituting an increase of 7.2% from 20,521 cars sold in the same period last year, Byblos Bank ‘Lebanon This Week’ reported.

Korean cars accounted for 43.1% of total sales, followed by Japanese cars with a 33% share, European automobiles with 17.8%, American vehicles with 4.6%, and Chinese cars with 1.5%.

The number of Japanese cars sold rose by 38.1% year-on-year, constituting the highest rise in new car sales; while the number of new Chinese cars sold declined by 19% from the same period last year, followed by American vehicles with a 12.8% fall, European automobiles with a 4.1% decrease and Korean cars with a 1.3% drop in sales.

Kia is the leading brand in the Lebanese market with 5,177 cars sold in the first seven months of 2014, followed by Hyundai with 4,310, Nissan with 2,913 cars sold, Toyota (2,555), Renault (769), Mitsubishi (627) and Chevrolet (511).

In parallel, 1,333 new commercial vehicles were sold in the first seven months of 2014, constituting a drop of 3.5% from 1,381 vehicles sold in the same period of last year and a decrease of 3.3% from 1,379 vehicles sold in the first seven months of 2012.

The number of new vehicles sold by the country’s top five distributors reached 17,244 in the first seven months of 2014 and accounted for 74% of new vehicles sold. NATCO sal sold 5,177 vehicles in the covered period, equivalent to 22.2% of the total, followed by Century Motor Co. sal with 4,409 (18.9%), Rasamny Younis Motor Co. sal with 3,180 (13.6%), Boustany United Machineries sal with 2,796 (12%), and Bassoul Heneine sal with 1,682 (7.2%).

The AIA indicated that the combined number of registered new and imported used cars stagnated in the first seven months of 2014 compared to the same period of 2013, while it decreased by 8.2% from the first seven months of 2012. It said that the luxury car segment accounted for only 3.5% of total new registered cars. It reiterated that about 90% of new cars sold were small automobiles that cost on average about $11,000 each.

Nadine Mneimneh — a Lebanese fashion success story

(BEIRUT, LEBANON) — Having grown up in Paris, Nadine Mneimneh returned to Lebanon in 2001 and subsequently obtained her BBA from the American University of Beirut.

Interested in fashion, she attended a fashion and design course at Instituto Marangoni and then pursued a BA in fashion design and pattern making at École Superieure des Arts et Technique de Mode (ESMOD). With six years’ work experience in the fashion industry, she launched her own ready-to-wear label in 2010.

Nadine met the program manager of AMIDEAST’s Cisco Entrepreneur Institute during Global Entrepreneurship Week Lebanon 2011 and decided to enroll in its “Starting a Business” workshop. With plans to open her own atelier, she wanted to make sure she had the knowledge and tools needed to run a successful business.

Upon completion of the workshop, Nadine opened an atelier on Beirut’s Hamra Street. Her line is being sold in Europe and the Middle East.

Nadine’s last collection was showcased during the Ecoluxe fashion show, an event that gathered international designers with an ethos of sustainability, as part of London Fashion Week. Her work continues to receive international press coverage, both on television and in printed press and fashion blogs.

Nadine’s design philosophy follows some principles the slow fashion movement, which includes keeping traditional methods of producing garments, favoring quality over quantity with utmost attention to finishing and minimizing fabric waste. Her style is defined by a loose and minimal silhouette hinting at femininity, with the lines and volumes sharpened by the use of refined menswear fabrics.

Nadine credits the course she attended with helping her to consider every aspect of running a small business, teaching her to focus on a niche market and providing her with valuable information on leasing a location. She also valued the guest speakers and many opportunities for networking that were built into the program.

“One guest speaker, a real estate agent who advised us on leasing versus buying a location, supported me outside of the workshop. Both her presentation and her additional feedback left me confident and fully prepared to negotiate the rental contract for my atelier. Maya Nohra (a photographer who attended the same workshop) supported me by taking photos for my press kit at no charge; in turn, the mention of her name on my press materials helps to build her reputation.”

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