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byblos bank logoByblos Bank SAL, the third-largest Lebanese lender by assets, acquired Solidaire Banque Internationale, a private bank in the Democratic Republic of Congo, as part of a plan to expand into emerging markets.

“The expansion in the DRC falls within the Group’s strategy of asset diversification and expansion in emerging markets and developing economies,” the Beirut-based bank said in an e-mailed statement today. “The bank’s objective is to diversify its assets and sources of income by expanding in selective markets with strong economic growth and low levels of bank penetration.”

The DRC has 18 privately held banks, including 16 with foreign majority ownership, the bank said in the statement, citing the International Monetary Fund. Congo’s economy has a low banking penetration rate, with consolidated assets of about $1.4 billion and $1.23 billion in deposits, equivalent to about 11.4 percent of gross domestic product and 10.6 percent of GDP, respectively, at the end of 2008, Byblos Bank said.

The economy is forecast to grow 5.4 percent in 2010 compared with 2.7 percent growth in 2009, according to the IMF. The African country holds 4 percent of global copper reserves. It is also among the world’s largest producers of cobalt and industrial diamonds and is Africa’s largest producer of tin ore.

Byblos Bank didn’t say how much it paid. The newly acquired bank, renamed Byblos Bank DR Congo, will operate as an independent subsidiary of the Byblos Bank Group. It will offer corporate and commercial banking services, trade finance, consumer banking, and investment services.

Byblos Bank has, in the past few years, expanded its operations globally with a presence in Syria, Sudan, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Nigeria, Armenia, Belgium, France, the U.K., and Cyprus. The bank aims to derive at least 40 percent of its assets and income from its international activities in the next few years, it said in the statement. bloomberg

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