BLOM bank net profit up 13 percent, report

Lebanese BLOM Bank said first-half net profit rose 13.1 percent compared with the year-ago period to $156 million, supported by a buoyant domestic economy and strong consumer demand for loans.

BLOM, one of the top banks in Lebanon, also reported on Friday that second-quarter net profit was $82.8 million, up from $73.6 million in the first quarter.

“In Lebanon we witnessed … continued strength in the economy, mainly led by consumer spending,” the bank’s Chairman and General Manager Saad Azhari told Reuters.

“There was strong demand for loans for cars, for houses and for corporate loans,” he said.

BLOM Bank’s total assets for the first half rose 10.8 percent from the year-ago period to $21.5 billion and deposits rose 11.9 percent to $18.7 billion, the bank said.

Azhari said the bank had been expanding outside Lebanon and had a presence in 12 countries, offering resilience in case of any domestic downturn.

“But all signs are that the growth in Lebanon is even higher than in neighbouring countries,” he said, adding the bank was “very positive” about the second half of the year.

The International Monetary Fund raised its forecast last month for Lebanese economic growth in 2010 to at least 8 percent from 6 percent, citing domestic stability and prudent economic policies.

Lebanon’s banking sector, one of the cornerstones of economic growth, emerged unscathed from the financial crisis due to conservative policies by the central bank which prohibited exposure to risky instruments.

In April, Moody’s lifted the bank’s long-term foreign currency deposit ratings to B1 from B2.

Azhari said BLOM’s recent launch of a banking card which gives a percentage of the transaction towards demining work in southern Lebanon, littered with tens of thousands of unexploded mines, had been popular with customers.

“We just started a few weeks ago and it’s having a lot of success,” he said. “It’s the first time in any country there’s been such a card”. Reuters