Lebanon central bank reassures foreign investors about deposits

Lebanon’s Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh speaks during a news conference at Central Bank in Beirut, Lebanon, November 11, 2019. (Reuters/File Photo)
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Updated 25 January 2020

Lebanon central bank reassures foreign investors about deposits

  • Khalaf Ahmad Al-Habtoor asked if there was any risk to dollar deposits
  • The heavily indebted country’s crisis has shaken confidence in banks

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s central bank said on Saturday there would be no “haircut” on deposits at banks due to the country’s financial crisis, responding to concerns voiced by a UAE businessman about risks to foreign investments there.

Emirati Khalaf Ahmad Al-Habtoor, founder of the Al-Habtoor Group that has two hotels in Beirut, posted a video of himself on his official Twitter account asking Lebanon’s central bank governor if there was any risk to dollar deposits of foreign investors and whether there could be any such haircut.

“The declared policy of the Central Bank of Lebanon is not to bankrupt any bank thus preserving the depositors. Also the law in Lebanon doesn’t allow haircut,” the Banque Du Liban (BDL) said in a Twitter post addressed to Al-Habtoor, from Governor Riad Salameh.

“BDL is providing the liquidity needed by banks in both Lebanese pound and dollars, but under one condition that the dollars lent by BDL won’t be transferred abroad.”

“All funds received by Lebanese banks from abroad after November 17th are free to be transferred out,” it added on its official Twitter account.

The heavily indebted country’s crisis has shaken confidence in banks and raised concerns over its ability to repay one of the world’s highest levels of public debt.

Seeking to prevent capital flight as hard currency inflows slowed and anti-government protests erupted, banks have been imposing informal controls on access to cash and transfers abroad since last October.

A new government was formed this week, and its main task is to tackle the dire financial crisis that has seen the Lebanese pound weaken against the dollar.

Al-Habtoor had asked Salameh for clarity for Arab investors concerned about the crisis and those thinking of transferring funds to Lebanon to try to “help the brotherly Lebanese.”


Lee’s death sparks hope for Samsung shake-up, dividends

Updated 26 October 2020

Lee’s death sparks hope for Samsung shake-up, dividends

  • Shares in the company and affiliates rise; around $9bn in tax estimated for stockholdings alone

SEOUL: Shares in Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and affiliates rose on Monday after the death a day earlier of Chairman Lee Kun-hee sparked hopes for stake sales, higher dividends and long-awaited restructuring, analysts said.

Investors are betting that the imperatives of maintaining Lee family control and paying inheritance tax — estimated at about 10 trillion won ($8.9 billion) for listed stockholdings alone — will be the catalyst for change, although analysts are divided on what form that change will take.

Shares in Samsung C&T and Samsung Life Insurance closed up 13.5 percent at a two-month high and 3.8 percent, respectively, while shares in Samsung SDS also rose. Samsung Electronics — the jewel in the group’s crown — finished 0.3 percent higher.

Son and heir apparent Jay Y. Lee has a 17.3 percent stake in Samsung C&T, the de facto holding firm, while the late Lee was the top shareholder of Samsung Life with 20.76 percent stake.

“The inheritance tax is outrageous, so family members might have no choice but to sell stakes in some non-core firms” such as Samsung Life, said NH Investment Securities analyst Kim Dong-yang.

“It may be likely for Samsung C&T to consider increasing dividends for the family to cover such a high inheritance tax,” KB Securities analyst Jeong Dong-ik said. Lee, 78, died on Sunday, six years after he was hospitalized due to heart attack in 2014. Since then, Samsung carried out a flurry of stake sales and restructuring to streamline the sprawling conglomerate and cement the junior Lee’s control.

Investors have long anticipated a further shake-up in the event of Lee’s death, hoping for gains from restructuring to strengthen de facto holding company Samsung C&T’s control of Samsung Electronics, such as Samsung C&T buying an affiliate’s stake in the tech giant.

“At this point, it is difficult to expect when Samsung Group will kick off with a restructuring process as Jay Y. Lee is still facing trials, making it difficult for the group’s management to begin organizational changes,” Jeong said.

Lee is in two trials for suspected accounting fraud and stock price manipulation, as well as for his role in a bribery scandal that triggered the impeachment of former South Korean President Park Geun-hye. The second trial resumed hearings on Monday.

Lee did not attend the trial on Monday, as Samsung executives joined other business and political leaders for the second day of funeral services for his father.