Union de Banques Arabes & Francaises (UBAF), the Paris-based consortium bank, raised its net profits by 47 per cent in 1996 to FF 81.7 million ($15.6 million at end-1996) as it captured a growing share of trade-related business in the Arab world. The bank is strengthening its presence on the ground there and has begun advising on joint ventures between French and Arab firms.

UBAF is 44 per cent owned by France’s Credit Lyonnais: Arab banks own the rest of its shares. Its core businesses are trade and export credit agency finance and trading in Arab debt. Total assets rose to FF 17,900 million ($3,417 million), because of an increase in short-term lending. Commercial banking accounted for about 40 per cent of total revenues, which have been helped by the boost given to trade by relatively high oil prices in 1996. UBAF opened a representative office in Dubai in October that will cover the Gulf and the Indian subcontinent, and has a licence to open another in Beirut to cover the Levant and, once UN sanctions are lifted, Iraq. It is also reinforcing its Cairo office.

UBAF already has a sizeable foothold in trade finance in East Asia: chairman Guy de Jacquelot told MEED in an interview in Paris earlier this year that its Seoul branch covers about 30 per cent of South Korean exports to the Arab world and about 8 per cent of Japanese exports. The bank is also doing more advisory work in the Middle East. ‘With the help of Credit Lyonnais, we are involved in advising French companies which are looking to create joint ventures in countries like Egypt and Algeria. We know these countries quite well, and we know the companies that would be interested.’ The bank is currently working on several joint venture deals in Egypt, mostly in the textile sector, and hopes to conclude four or five by the end of this year.