France’s Banque Worms has increased its stake in Societe Bancaire Arabe (SBA) and another European institution is negotiating to buy into the Paris-based bank. SBA expects to increase its capital, but the size of the rise will depend on the finalisation of negotiations with the new partner, SBA general manager Mustafa Janoudi says.

Worms has increased its stake in SBA to 19 per cent by purchasing the 7 per cent held by Bahadine al-Basataneh. Worms plans to raise its holding further, to 30 per cent.

Janoudi will not identify the new European shareholder until a deal is signed. ‘Negotiations are under way and they only need some time,’ he said in a 24 October telephone interview.

Janoudi’s strategy is to transfer SBA from family to institutional control. This will require an increase in its FF 260 million ($50 million) capital. ‘We want institutions to come in – it’s better for the future of the bank, they are more solid and more sound,’ Janoudi said.

Other private shareholders to sell their shares include Damascus industrialist Saeb Nahas, whose 12 per cent stake was taken up by existing shareholders last year (MEED 14:5:93, Syria).

SBA’s main business is with Syria, but it has also developed operations in Lebanon. It operates from Paris and from its offshore banking unit in Cyprus and Geneva affiliate. The bank provides trade finance and letter of credit confirmation for Syrian public and private-sector companies.

After experiencing heavy losses, the Geneva-based Societe Bancaire Arabe (Suisse) has been converted into a finance company. ‘It is working fine now, covering its expenses and even gaining money,’ Janoudi said.