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In this page: FDI in Figures | Why You Should Choose to Invest in Lebanon | Procedures Relative to Foreign Investment | Investment Opportunities

 

FDI in Figures

Lebanon is a country that, by tradition, remains open to foreign direct investment. Over the last nine years, the Government of Lebanon has passed several laws and decrees to encourage such investment. According to the 2013 World Investment Report published by the UNCTAD, Lebanon is the fourth largest recipient of FDI in West Asia after Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

FDI inflows into Lebanon rose during the global economic crisis of 2008-2009. The relatively healthy Lebanese banks avoided the crisis and benefited from an increase in their deposits. Hardly exposed to toxic assets, they acted as a refuge. Other investment concern primarily the telecommunications sector, building infrastructures (mostly through public/private partnerships), tourism and construction. The instability of Syria and the economic crisis in Europe however led to a 68% decline in FDI in 2012 compared to 2011 and a 21% decline in 2013 compared to 2012. The discovery of gas in Lebanese waters could stimulate FDI in the future.

 

Country Comparison For the Protection of Investors

  Lebanon Middle East & North Africa United States Germany
Index of Transaction Transparency* 9.0 6.0 7.0 5.0
Index of Manager’s Responsibility** 1.0 5.0 9.0 5.0
Index of Shareholders’ Power*** 4.0 9.0 5.0
Index of Investor Protection**** 5.0 5.0 8.3 5.0

Source: Doing Business - Last Available Data.

Note: *The Greater the Index, the More Transparent the Conditions of Transactions. **The Greater the Index, the More the Manager is Personally Responsible. *** The Greater the Index, the Easier it Will Be For Shareholders to Take Legal Action. **** The Greater the Index, the Higher the Level of Investor Protection.

 
Foreign Direct Investment 201120122013
FDI Inward Flow (million USD) 3,4853,6742,833
FDI Stock (million USD) 49,09752,77155,604
Performance Index*, Ranking on 181 Economies 10--
Potential Index**, Ranking on 177 Economies 92--
Number of Greenfield Investments*** 261916
FDI Inwards (in % of GFCF****) 27.229.221.6
FDI Stock (in % of GDP) 122.5124.2125.5

Source: UNCTAD - Last Available Data.

Note: * The UNCTAD Inward FDI Performance Index is Based on a Ratio of the Country's Share in Global FDI Inflows and its Share in Global GDP. ** The UNCTAD Inward FDI Potential Index is Based on 12 Economic and Structural Variables Such as GDP, Foreign Trade, FDI, Infrastructures, Energy Use, R&D, Education, Country Risk. *** Green Field Investments Are a Form of Foreign Direct Investment Where a Parent Company Starts a New Venture in a Foreign Country By Constructing New Operational Facilities From the Ground Up. **** Gross Fixed Capital Formation (GFCF) Measures the Value of Additions to Fixed Assets Purchased By Business, Government and Households Less Disposals of Fixed Assets Sold Off or Scrapped.

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Why You Should Choose to Invest in Lebanon

Strong Points
Lebanon has many advantages. Firstly, it is very open to trade and foreign investment. Its economy really is a free market economy. In addition, the non-control of foreign companies' capital and trade movement is also an undeniable advantage. Finally, it should be emphasized that there is a very educated and qualified workforce in the country, a very good standard of living and limited investment restrictions. Today there are considerable investment opportunities in the field of reconstruction of basic and productive infrastructures, in construction and in supermarkets. Lebanese law does not differentiate between local and foreign investors, except in land acquisition.
Weak Points
Foreign business people who have settled in the country are exasperated by corruption problems, the relative nature of arbitration in the issuing of licenses, customs procedures that are too complicated and the partiality of justice.
Government Measures to Motivate or Restrict FDI
Lebanese common law, characterized by the freedom to do business, is in principle very open to all traditional forms of investment. In addition, in order to facilitate all the investor business establishment administrative formalities, the law n°360 of 16 August 2001 on investment promotion formed a government agency IDAL (Investment Development Authority of Lebanon). This agency, which is under the direct authority of the Prime Minister, grants numerous tax exemptions, or offers exceptional regimes, as long as the investment is in defined sectors of activity, in zones designated by name, and starting from a certain invested amount. Likewise, this agency has the power to issue the necessary licenses and permits. The IDAL has also launched an  "investors matching service" program to facilitate the creation of partnerships between local and foreign firms, in the form of joint ventures, capital holdings, acquisitions or other. In 2006, the government signed a plan with the IMF to facilitate registration procedures for companies. In 2007, the law to facilitate investment made it possible to reduce by half the time, cost and number of procedures for forming a company. Lastly, the country has launched an ambitious privatization plan, which has led namely to the privatization of the telecommunications and electricity sectors. The country has two operational free zones, one in the port of Beirut and one in the port of Tripoli. The Lebanese government has just launched a plan to attract foreign investors. It provides the creation of special economic zones, tax-free and specialized in high potential sectors like medical tourism, media, high-tech and food processing. Each of these areas should receive special infrastructure and customs facilities. The plan also provides for the improvement of the country's image amongst foreign investors by developing  the Lebanese Agency for the Promotion of Investment website.

The government continues to upgrade and expand telecommunications services; the Ministry of Energy and Water launched tenders to increase electricity production by 700 megawatts (MW) and contracted two barges to provide 270 MW of additional power. The cabinet also appointed the Petroleum Authority (PA) Board and launched the first offshore licensing round for oil exploration.

Bilateral Investment Conventions Signed By Lebanon
Lebanon signed bilateral agreements with about fifty countries. On the Mediterranean Basin Lebanon signed bilateral agreements with Cyprus, Egypt, Spain, France, Italy, Morocco, Tunisia and Turkey. 46 agreements can be downloaded on the UNCTAD website.

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Procedures Relative to Foreign Investment

Freedom of Establishment
A foreign investor can set up business in Lebanon in the same conditions as a Lebanese and must make sure he is on the Register of Commerce. Foreign investors must produce an employer's work permit and a residence permit. The employer's work permit specifies that foreign holdings in capital cannot be less than 67,000 USD, and that the employer has at least three Lebanese workers registered with the social security office. In addition, buying property is sometimes limited. In the same way, some investment projects are subject to conditions in some sectors or according to the origin of the investor.
Acquisition of Holdings
A holding company may not hold directly more than 40% of the shares of two companies that are active in the same sector.
Obligation to Declare
There is no obligation to declare. Lebanon assures and guarantees total freedom of local and foreign capital.
Competent Organization For the Declaration
Lebanese Stock Exchange website.
Requests For Specific Authorizations
These are the restrictions on foreign investment in Lebanon:
- the media, inaccessible to foreign companies;
- commercial representation: the capital of a joint stock company (SAL) must be made up of registered shares held predominantly by Lebanese, and 2/3 of the capital of a limited liability partnership company (SARL) must be held by Lebanese;
- the exploitation of a public service. In the case of a joint stock company (SAL), a third of the capital must be held by Lebanese;
- the real estate sector: a branch office cannot exercise in this sector (in the case of a subsidiary, the capital must predominantly be held by Lebanese and an authorization from the Cabinet is necessary);
- banking and insurance sectors, those of capitalization, savings, capital investment, organized air transport: it is impossible to create a limited liability partnership company (SARL) in these sectors.

Learn more about Foreign Investment in Lebanon on Globaltrade.net, the Directory for International Trade Service Providers.

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Investment Opportunities

Investment Aid Agency
Investment Development Authority of Lebanon (IDAL)
Tenders, Projects and Public Procurement
Tenders Info, Tenders in Lebanon
DgMarket, Tenders Worldwide
Council for Development and Reconstruction (CDR), Information on projects to be awarded and ongoing and projects.
Other Useful Resources
Central Bank of Lebanon.
Directory listing all the institutions likely to aid foreign investment.
 
 

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Learn more about Investing in Lebanon on Globaltrade.net, the Directory for International Trade Service Providers.

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Last Updates: October 2014