Lebanon Businessnews News

Bank Audi is not
merging with Bankmed
Baz: “We are redeploying employees not laying them off”
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Bank Audi is not considering a merger with any big bank, and claims that it is in talks to acquire Bankmed are baseless, according to Freddie Baz, Vice Chairman and Strategy Director of the Bank Audi group.

Mega mergers cannot happen in Lebanon because the Governor of the Central Bank has repeatedly stated that such kinds of mergers are not encouraged under current circumstances. Since the global financial crisis in 2008, international and local regulators have become more wary of oversized banks. “It is true that the circumstances have improved significantly, but we are still observing persisting volatility, and the regulator is saying the time has not come yet to allow mega mergers,” he said. The regulator believes that it is not in the country’s interest to have banks that are huge relative to the size of the economy.

Baz denied another rumor alleging that Bank Audi is collectively laying off employees and said that the bank doesn’t have such a policy. The bank’s local workforce grew by 42 last year to 2,918 employees. According to Baz, the bank has discontinued the service of part-time seasonal workers in Turkey, which contributed to the drop in the consolidated number of the Audi Group’s employees worldwide in 2017.

“We are redeploying our human capital in a more effective way, to serve the personal aspirations of our employees, and the bank’s interest at the same time,” Baz said.

The human resource redeployment is the main part of an overall redeployment effort that also includes the bank’s technical and financial capital. “The aim is to better adjust to the low-growth environment in the region,” he said. According to Baz, the bank is following a performance management strategy as the overall circumstances in the region have not settled yet in terms of geopolitics and the impact on the overall macroeconomy. Operating conditions in the broader Middle East, where we do business, are still very tough, he said. “When macroeconomic aggregates are growing at a very low pace, they will have an immediate impact on the banks’ aggregates and thus banking activity does not grow at the desired level.”

Baz said that Bank Audi is focusing on its operating conditions, such as spreads, credit quality, and operating expenses, in order to sustain the requested level of annual increase in the bottom line amid very limited economic growth.

Bank Audi is the largest bank in the country in terms of total assets, which stood at $43.5 billion at the end of March 2018. It is the largest private sector employer, if the Middle East Airlines (owned by the Central Bank) is excluded, according to Baz. The bank had a workforce of 6,541 employees in 2017.
Reported by Shikrallah Nakhoul
Date Posted: Jul 17, 2018
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