British companies to search for Lebanon’s offshore oil and gas?


British companies could soon be involved in the search for oil and gas off Lebanon’s shores.

At least that’s the hope of the UK government who are asking British companies to register an interest in searching for oil and gas in Lebanon’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). They have until the end of February 2013 to respond.

According to the UK government’s UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) website, Lebanon’s government has said it will launch the pre-qualification round for companies interested in participating in Lebanon’s first tender for offshore oil and gas exploration on February 1st 2013.

The Lebanese government will publish the list of qualified firms by March 21st and start receiving their formal applications on May 2nd.

The UKTI says, “The cabinet has appointed the board of directors of the petroleum sector authority for a six-year term in November 2012.

“The ministry claims that recent seismic surveys on half of Lebanon’s EEZ suggest the presence of up to 25 trillion cubic feet.”

But it’s not just oil and gas which is of potential interest to foreign investors. Lebanon has a vibrant financial sector with business banking and other trade services highly valued by both national and foreign corporate clients. Trade is certainly at the heart of Lebanon’s relationship with the UK.

Lebanon is the UK’s second largest trading partner in the Levant and the UK’s sixth largest trading partner in the Middle East. It is the UK’s 60th largest market overall.

The Lebanese government welcomes UK involvement in its reconstruction programme. A privatisation programme is currently planned, notably in power, water, telecommunications and aviation.

There are business opportunities in a range of sectors, says the UKTI, from construction to healthcare, consumer goods to oil and gas and in service sectors such as financial services including insurance, other consultancies, tourism and leisure, and education.

In its guide, Doing business in Lebanon, the UKTI argues Lebanon’s financial services sector is the main plank of the economy. The consolidated assets of the banking sector now stand at US$110 billion, which is more than three times the size of GDP.

“The sector has developed over more than a century through effective regulation from the Central Bank, a loyal and wealthy customer base, one of the strongest secrecy laws in the world, and a well-deserved reputation for crisis management developed during the civil war years.”

The UKTI guide highlights the building and construction sector, describing it as one of Lebanon’s most active.

The guide says, “This is a result of a high level of investment by Lebanese expats and Gulf Arabs, mainly in the building of hotels, tourist resorts, commercial and residential buildings. In addition, the government has a reconstruction and development programme.”

Other sector’s singled out by the guide include Lebanon’s pharmaceutical and healthcare market, worth more than $600 million a year, and the Lebanese ICT industry, estimated to be worth between $460 million to $500 million in terms of total sales.

According to the guide, software development is a leading area and supports the overall expansion of the sector. In 2012, 559 ICT companies were created in Lebanon. More than 70% operated in hardware, just under 20% in software, almost 6% in web and ISP activities, and just under 1% in telecommunications. Lebanese ICT companies supported the five key industries of banking, retail, education, distribution and general trade.

For more information, visit the UKTI website.