WASHINGTON, D.C., July 3, 2000 — The
International Finance Corporation today signed an agreement with the Banque
du Liban (BdL), Lebanon's central bank, to act as lead advisor in the divestment
of BdL's shares in Middle East Airlines (MEA), the country's flagship carrier.
The Banque du Liban currently owns 99.37% of the shares in MEA.
Over the past several years, the Lebanese economy has undertaken dramatic
modernization and, as a result, air traffic through Beirut International
Airport has grown at an above average pace. In order to satisfy this demand
and to reposition MEA as a major player in the international air carrier
market, the Government of Lebanon decided to pursue a strategic partnership
with a strong international airline. The partnership is expected to provide
the capital and expertise needed to integrate MEA into the global airline
IFC will help design and implement a divestment plan for BdL's shares in
MEA, identify potential investors, market the project, and organize and
implement an international tender for the strategic partnership.
Mr. Riyadh Salameh, Governor of the Banque du Liban, called the divestment
a milestone for Lebanon that will provide momentum to the country's privatization
program and pave the way for further restructuring of the economy. IFC's
track record for transparency, and its ability to deal effectively with
both governments and the private sector in structuring successful transactions
make the Corporation the right choice for this program, he added.
In addition to strengthening MEA's position in the international air carrier
market, this strategic alliance will help contribute to the further
growth of the Lebanese economy, said Mr. André Cracco, Director of IFC's
Corporate Finance Services. IFC believes that there is a strong potential
for growth for MEA.
The mission of IFC, part of the World Bank Group, is to promote private
sector investment in developing countries, which will reduce poverty and
improve people's lives. IFC finances private sector investments in the
developing world, mobilizes capital in the international financial markets,
and provides technical assistance and advice to governments and businesses.