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Syria allows investment banks

Around 13 private sector banks now operate in the country, alongside six government banks.


July 26, 2010 9:27 by

Syria said it would allow investments banks to do business in the country, as the government extends its liberalisaton of the financial sector.

The official news agency said the government had set 20 billion Syrian pounds ($429 million) as the minimum capital at which investment banks could open and would allow the transfer of profits from operations abroad for foreign shareholders and Syrian expatriates.

Egyptian investment bank EFG-Hermes said earlier this year it planned to set up an operation in Syria, which needs tens of billions of dollars to repair its crumbling infrastructure.

Privately owned commercial banks opened in Syria seven years ago. It marked a big shift in the economy, which was heavily nationalised after the ruling Baath Party took power in 1963, and banned any opposition and imposed emergency law still in force.

Around 13 private sector banks now operate in the country, alongside six government banks. The government banks still have a dominant share of the market, although most non-government business goes to the private banks.

U.S. sanctions, which were first imposed on Syria in 2004, have discouraged Western investors from doing business in the country.

(Reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis; editing by Karen Foster)


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