Tunisia - Banking and securities

The Central Bank of Tunisia (Banque Centrale de Tunisie-BCT), established in September 1958, is the sole bank of issue. The Tunisian Banking Co. (Société Tunisienne de Banque-STB) was established in 1957; it is the leading commercial and investment bank; the state holds 52% of the STB's capital.

The banking system is a mixture of state-owned and private institutions which offer a variety of financial instruments and services. There are 13 commercial banks; eight development banks; eight leasing companies; eight offshore banks; a savings bank; five portfolio management institutions; two merchant banks. Commercial banks include Citibank, Amen Bank, Banque International Arabe de Tunisie (BIAT), Banque Nationale Agricole (BNA); and one merchant bank is International Maghreb.

Of the 12 commercial banks, one is fully state-owned and four others are part-owned by the state. These five banks control 70% of total bank assets. Total estimated assets of these banks amounted to $8.9 billion in 1997. In 1999, the World Bank approved a $159 million loan to support banking reform efforts in Tunisia. The weak banking system is under government duress and has a low average credit line. Commitments under the WTO and EU free trade agreement will begin to liberalize the banking sector.

The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand deposits—an aggregate commonly known as M1—were equal to $4.8 billion. In that same year, M2—an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual funds—was $11.3 billion. The money market rate, the rate at which financial institutions lend to one another in the short term, was 6.04%.

A stock exchange began operations in Tunis in May 1970. While its activities have been expanding steadily, they remain limited to transactions in securities issued by the state and the stocks of a few private or government-owned firms, including 46 companies, 13 of them banks. Between 2000 and 2001, the Tunisian stock exchange reported a 30% loss. The exchange completed a shift to fully electronic trading, but remains under the government eye.

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