The International Finance Corporation (IFC) approved new financing commitments of $910 million for the Middle East and Central Asia in the year to the end of June 1996, compared to $614 million in the same period of 1995.

The IFC, the private sector development arm of the bank, is concentrating on developping the financial infrastructure of the region. It said in its annual report that 60 per cent of the investments approved in financial 1996 were directed towards capital markets. Other current priorities include supporting small and medium-sized businesses and developing countries’ physical infrastructure.

The IFC’s total committed portfolio in the area, including loans and equity held in regional projects, rose slightly in financial 1996 to $1,170 million from $1,081 million.

Worldwide, the organisation had a total of $9,844 million in committed funds from its own account in 1996.

The IFC cannot invest more than 25 per cent of a given project’s capital and commonly uses its own funds as seed money to draw in private investment, so that the sig nificance of the investments is much larger than the numbers suggest. In the Middle East, the IFC was involved with a wide range of projects in the 12 months to 30 June 1996. These include:

Co-founding a new regional investment house, the Beirut-based Middle East Capital Goup (MECG). The IFC has a 10 per cent stake in the company (MEED 7:6:96).

Agreeing to subscribe up to 25 per cent of the capital of Arab Palestine Investment bank and providing a $15 million credit line to finance small and medium-sized Palestinian businesses.

Setting up Egypt’s first leasing company in partnership with a leading local bank (MEED 8:3:96, Egypt).

Underwriting the first global depositary receipt issue by a Moroccan domestic bank (MEED 29:3:96, Morocco).

Providing technical assistance for a $250 million private equity investment fund, which will begin investing in the Middle East in October or November 1996.

This fund is managed by a US fund manager, Siguler Guff & Company (MEED 20:9:96).