Byblos Bank Belgium (BBB), the only Brussels-based Middle East bank, trebled its profits to BF 43.7 million ($1.3 million) in 1993. It was the first year that the London and Paris branches of the Lebanese- owned Byblos Group had been fully integrated into the Belgian bank’s accounts. Comparative figures for 1992 have been adjusted accordingly in the bank’s 1993 annual report.

Reconstruction in Lebanon, new opportunities in Jordan and Egypt, and steady trade finance business in markets including Latin America contributed to increased business in 1993, general manager Nicholas Robinson says. The performance of Byblos’ London and Paris arms was particularly good, but he adds that: ‘The results were helped by the international bond and equity markets last year which we can’t say will be the case so far this year.’

The London and Paris operations have been largely subsumed into BBB to create a European network based around the Belgian operation, regulated by the Belgian Commission Bancaire and Banque Nationale de Belgique (central bank) under the EU’s second banking directive. Byblos and four Moroccan institutions are the only Arab-owned banks based in Brussels.

BBB’s assets rose by 17.5 per cent to BF 7,911 million ($233 million) in 1993. In his preface to BBB’s annual report, Byblos Group chairman Albert S Nassar says close comparison of figures year-on-year is not possible because of the full takeover of the London branch by Brussels from 1 January 1993. Nassar says this produced a 17 per cent increase in balance sheet footings, which translates into a 19 per cent increase in sterling-denominated assets from London and a small shrinkage of the Brussels assets.