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In this page: FDI in Figures | What to consider if you invest in Lebanon | Protection of Foreign Investment | Procedures Relative to Foreign Investment | Office Real Estate and Land Ownership | Investment Aid | Investment Opportunities | Sectors Where Investment Opportunities Are Fewer | Finding Assistance For Further Information

 

FDI in Figures

Lebanon has traditionally been open to foreign direct investment, although recent political instability, macroeconomic imbalances and a foreign currency crisis have dampened the country's attractiveness. According to the 2021 World Investment Report published by the UNCTAD, FDI inflows were estimated at USD 3 billion in 2020. The stock of FDI reached only USD 18 billion in 2020.The stock of FDI reached only USD 18 billion in 2020. In the past, FDI has fuelled job creation and boosted the information, technology and industrial sectors, but regulatory and institutional bottlenecks affected the prospects for FDI diversification. In the last two years Lebanon has been hit by a series of shocks: an economic and financial crisis, followed by the COVID-19 pandemic, a political crisis and finally, the explosion at the port of Beirut on 4 August 2020. The unprecedented economic crisis has had large and persistent negative impacts that continued affecting the country in 2021 and deterred FDI. The main investors are France, the United Arab Emirates, the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Jordan and Egypt. FDI are mainly oriented towards trade, real estate, services, tourism and agriculture.
The serious economic and political crisis that Lebanon is going through, the sovereign default and the effects of the Syrian crisis will continue affecting investor confidence. Other factors already impeded FDI including high unemployment, brain drain, energy supply shortages and regulatory obstacles (UNCTAD Investment Policy Review, 2018). The country is ranked 143rd out of 190 economies by the World Bank in its Doing Business 2020 report (down 1 position compared to the previous report, in which Lebanon had already lost 9), one of the lowest rankings in the Middle East. Since October 2019, the Lebanese financial sector has imposed ad hoc capital controls, preventing most Lebanese from transferring money abroad, despite the fact that 75% of accounts in Lebanese banks are denominated in dollars. On 7 March 2020, Lebanon announced its intention to default and restructure its nearly $31 billion of dollar-denominated debt.  Despite the economic plan implemented by the government to restructure its financial sector, Lebanon has signed an official request for IMF assistance.  Most analysts see Lebanon's short to medium-term economic future as bleak, with probable fiscal austerity, persistent capital controls, further devaluation, and potential impairment applied to wealthy depositors to recapitalise the banking sector. These developments will affect Lebanon's potential as a destination for foreign investment, degrading its position in the years to come.

 
Foreign Direct Investment 201820192020
FDI Inward Flow (million USD) 2,6582,0553,067
FDI Stock (million USD) 65,96568,02017,752
Number of Greenfield Investments* 6124
Value of Greenfield Investments (million USD) 14929096

Source: UNCTAD, Latest available data.

Note: * Greenfield 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.

 

FDI INFLOWS BY COUNTRY AND INDUSTRY

Main Investing Countries 2018, in %
France 11.2
United Arab Emirates 9.3
United States 9.1
Germany 6.6
United Kingdom 4.6
Netherlands 4.6
Jordan 3.2
Egypt 3.2
Qatar 3.2
Algeria 3.2
Saudi Arabia 3.2
Canada 1.9
Main Invested Sectors 2018, in %
Trade 18.0
Real estate 16.0
Service 16.0
Tourism 11.0
Agriculture 7.0
Technology 7.0
Industry 5.0
Infrastructures 5.0

Source: Investment Development Authority, Annual Report 2019 - Latest available data.

 
Form of Company Preferred By Foreign Investors
Limited Company
Form of Establishment Preferred By Foreign Investors
Subsidiary
Main Foreign Companies
Foreign companies operating in Lebanon include Philips, Majid Al Futtaim, Pzifer, Apple, Zara, H&M, McDonald's, etc.
Sources of Statistics
IDAL

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What to consider if you invest in Lebanon

Strong Points

With its liberal economy, Lebanon has attracted foreign investors for many years. Advantages for FDI in Lebanon include:

  • The country can represent a gateway to other countries in the Middle East and to many emerging economies thanks to its geographical location
  • The relatively westernised workforce is highly skilled
  • Few restrictions exist for investment and there are still important investment opportunities in the fields of reconstruction of basic and productive infrastructure, construction and supermarkets
  • The large diaspora (there are more Lebanese outside the country than inside) guarantees recurrent financial flows to the country, thereby injecting liquidity into the national economy
  • The discovery of offshore natural gas deposits should enable the country to reduce its energy dependence and offer numerous opportunities for related sectors.
Weak Points

Disadvantages for FDI in Lebanon:

  • Exposure to geopolitical tensions in the region
  • Political instability: the political landscape is divided according to religious, political and cultural criteria
  • Social unrest driven by a decline in public services and growing food insecurity
  • A lack of transparency in the licensing system
  • Complicated customs procedures, high taxes and fees
  • Since October 2019, Lebanon’s financial sector has imposed ad hoc capital controls
  • In 2020, the local currency lost more than 60% of its value on secondary exchange markets
  • Economically, the country's very high public debt remains one of the main obstacles to FDI (in March 2020, the government announced it would default on and restructure its nearly USD 31 billion in dollar-denominated debt).
Government Measures to Motivate or Restrict FDI
Lebanese business law, which is very liberal in terms of business freedom, is in principle very open to all traditional forms of investment. In addition, in order to facilitate all investor business establishment administrative formalities, 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 named zones and start from a set investment amount. Likewise, the agency has the power to issue the necessary licenses and permits. Furthermore, IDAL established the Business Support Unit (BSU), which provides free legal, accounting, and financial advice to startups across sectors.
Lebanon’s Investment Law No. 360 introduces tailored incentives through package deals for large investment projects, including tax exemptions for up to 10 years, reductions on construction and work permit fees, and a total exemption on land registration fees.

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Protection of Foreign Investment

Bilateral Investment Conventions Signed By Lebanon
To see the list of investment treaties signed by Lebanon, consult UNCTAD's International Investment Agreements Navigator.
International Controversies Registered By UNCTAD
Refer to UNCTAD's Investment Dispute Settlement Navigator.
Organizations Offering Their Assistance in Case of Disagreement
ICCWBO , International Court of Arbitration, International Chamber of Commerce
ICSID , International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes
Member of the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency
Lebanon is a member of the MIGA convention.
 
Country Comparison For the Protection of Investors Lebanon Middle East & North Africa United States Germany
Index of Transaction Transparency* 9.0 6.4 7.0 5.0
Index of Manager’s Responsibility** 1.0 4.8 9.0 5.0
Index of Shareholders’ Power*** 5.0 4.7 9.0 5.0

Source: Doing Business - Latest 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.

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Procedures Relative to Foreign Investment

Freedom of Establishment
Foreign investors may establish, acquire, and dispose of interests in business enterprises and may engage in all types of remunerative activities. However, restrictions apply to manufacture and trade products related to defense and weapons, political newspapers and all broadcast media, where only Lebanese nationals can obtain licenses. Furthermore, only Lebanese citizens are permitted to practice law.
Acquisition of Holdings
Foreigners are allowed to own and manage 100% of limited liability companies (SARL), unless the company engages in certain commercial activities such as exclusive commercial representation (in such cases, Lebanese citizens must hold a majority of capital, and the manager must be a Lebanese national).
Concerning joint-stock companies (Société Anonyme Libanaise – SAL), one-third of the board of directors should be Lebanese; board members can be either shareholders or non-shareholders; one-third of capital shares should be held by Lebanese for companies that provide public utility services; and capital shares and management in cases of exclusive commercial representation are limited (Legislative Decree No. 34 dated August 5, 1967). Banking, insurance, and cargo, which can only operate as SALs, are required to have a Lebanese majority on the board, making them, in practice, restricted for FDI.
For holding and offshore companies, all board members may be non-Lebanese.
Obligation to Declare
It is required of each foreign company wishing to do business in Lebanon to inform the Ministry of  Economy and Trade in a formal document prior to registering in the Commercial Registrar.
Competent Organisation For the Declaration
Investment Development Authority of Lebanon (IDAL)
Requests For Specific Authorisations
IDAL has the authority to award licenses and permits for new investment in specific sectors.
The law does not permit offshore banking, trust, and insurance companies to operate in Lebanon.
Banking, insurance, and cargo, which can only operate as SALs, are required to have a Lebanese majority on the board, making them, in practice, restricted for FDI.
Several restrictions apply to the real estate sector as well (cabinet approval is required for acquisitions of land above 3,000 square meters).

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Office Real Estate and Land Ownership

Possible Temporary Solutions
Consult Instant Offices, CoWorker, Property Finder, etc.
The Possibility of Buying Land and Industrial and Commercial Buildings
Lebanese regulations permits foreigners to acquire up to 3,000 square meters of real estate without a permit, whereas cabinet approval is required for acquisitions exceeding this threshold. The cumulative real estate acquisition by foreigners may not exceed 3% of total land in any district (10% for Beirut).
Risk of Expropriation
According to the Lebanese Constitution, expropriation must be for a public purpose and calls for fair and adequate compensation. However, land expropriation is relatively rare.

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Investment Aid

Forms of Aid
Incentives may take the form of tax benefits, facilitating permits for foreign labor, reductions on construction and work permit fees, exemptions on land registration fees, tailored incentives through package deals for large investment projects, etc. However, the Lebanese government generally does not issue guarantees or jointly finances foreign direct investment projects.
For further information, consult the dedicated page on the website of the Investment Development Authority of Lebanon (IDAL).
Privileged Domains
Job creation, company relocation, tailored incentives through package deals, incentives for investments in specific zones, etc.
For further information, consult the dedicated page on the website of the Investment Development Authority of Lebanon (IDAL).
Privileged Geographical Zones

Specific investment incentives are available for sectors such as information technology, telecom, media, tourism, industry, agriculture, and agro-industry. For detailed information about the incentives available for specific sectors, consult the "Sectors in Focus" section on the portal of the Investment Development Authority of Lebanon (IDAL).

Free-trade zones
Industrial investments in rural areas benefit from tax exemptions of 6 or 10 years, depending on specific criteria. Exemptions are also available for investments in South Lebanon, Nabatiyeh, and the Bekaa Valley. The website of the Investment Development Authority of Lebanon (IDAL) provides detailed information about investment incentives available in each of the 8 governorates in which the country is divided.
Furthermore, Lebanon has one duty-free zone at Beirut-Rafik Hariri International Airport and two free trade zones, the Beirut Port and the Tripoli Port.
Public aid and funding organisations
Investment Development Authority of Lebanon (IDAL) 
 
 

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Investment Opportunities

The Key Sectors of the National Economy
ICT, healthcare, safety and security, waste management, and franchising have historically attracted foreign investments.
For detailed information about the incentives available for specific sectors, consult the "Sectors in Focus" section on the portal of the Investment Development Authority of Lebanon (IDAL).
High Potential Sectors
The most attractive sector is the energy sector, particularly for power production, renewable energies, and oil and gas exploration.
Privatization Programmes
The High Council for Privatization and Partnerships (HCP) manages privatization and public-private sector partnership projects. Although laws were approved to privatize the telecom sector (Law 431) and the electricity sector (Law 462), no progress has been made.
In 2017, the Ministry of Energy and Water launched tenders for solar power plants under the IPP law, and has issued three wind power plants licenses since then. Tenders for two combined cycle gas turbine IPPs were supposed to be launched in September 2019, but the plan was delayed.
Finally, the Beirut Stock Exchange (BSE) should have been privatized following a decree by the Capital Markets Authority (CMA), however the corporatization has yet to occur.
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

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Sectors Where Investment Opportunities Are Fewer

Monopolistic Sectors
The fixed-line telephony and energy transmission sectors are closed to domestic and foreign investors as they are currently operated by state-owned enterprises, which have a de facto monopoly.
The Central Bank owns 99.23% of the air carrier Middle East Airlines, whose monopoly is scheduled to end in 2024.

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Latest Update: June 2022