(Adds quotes, background)
By Mariam Karouny and Mirna Sleiman
BEIRUT Nov 16 Lebanese banks' operations in
neighbouring Syria have lost a combined $400 million during the
20-month-old conflict there, Lebanon's central bank chief Riad
Salameh told Reuters on Friday.
He gave no breakdown for individual lenders, but Audi Bank
said last month it had seen its asset base in Syria shrink by
two-thirds since the start of the uprising against President
Bashar al-Assad. Overall, however, the Lebanese bank posted a 14
percent rise in nine-month net profit to $309 million.
Salameh said that the government is also planning to
exchange $1.5 billion of Eurobond debt when it matures in 2013,
and he said that a public share offering for the Beirut stock
exchange would be ready in "one or two years."
In September, the International Monetary Fund blamed weak
government policies for a slowdown in investment in Lebanon,
though many economists also cite the Syrian conflict as a
Salameh said Lebanon's economy is expected to grow by 2
percent this year, marking a sharp slowdown from last year. The
government says the economy grew 5.2 percent in 2011 but
economists are sceptical.
The central bank chief declined to estimate a growth figure
for 2013 but said that new loan facilities would be available.
He said: "We want to prop up growth in 2013 as the situation in
all the Arab World is not really growing."
(Writing by Oliver Holmes; Editing by John Stonestreet)