Bank Audi finalized its sale of a majority stake in its LIA unit for $46 million to Morocco based Saham Finances, a top player in the African insurance market. Casablanca-based Saham Group – an insurance holding company that boasts a presence in 15 African countries (including Morocco) through its ownership of 20 insurance companies, one reinsurance company and two support companies – acquired an 81 percent capital stake in LIA under the terms of the deal unveiled at the Beirut Bank Audi headquarters.
For Bank Audi, the partnership was a chance to get out from under restrictive local regulations and achieve some business synergy with a well-placed African-based insurance player.
“Our objective to disinvest from the insurance business is tied to the regulatory constraints which are becoming more and more restrictive on insurance companies held by banking groups,” said Raymond Audi, the bank’s chairman.
“Bank Audi will continue to offer to its customers the range of LIA’s bancassurance products and thus maintain and develop the existing cooperation with LIA.
“We are confident that our new partnership with Saham Finances will be productive and will benefit our customers. The fact that Saham … intends to use Lebanon as its main hub to support its expansion strategy in the Middle East constitutes additional proof of … its [Lebanon’s] attractiveness to foreign investment,” he added.
Under the terms of the agreement, Saham will retain the current management team of LIA as part of its expansion plans.
Incorporated in 1975, LIA has a business base in a range of insurance products including car and health insurance, and has a large in-country bancassurance network encompassing 80 branches. The insurance subsidiary is present in Beirut, Tripoli, Saida, Zahle, Hazmieh, Msaitbeh and Zouk.
The Daily Star