HSBC to pull out of Libya after 55 years in the country

Peter Spence
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HSBC has held a presence in Libya since 1959 (Source: Getty)

HSBC is set to close its representative office in Tripoli, Libya, which manages investments for the bank in the North African country, according to The Telegraph.

The bank opened the office in 2006, after nearly 50 years of operations in the state. The Tripoli branch was most recently closed in 2011, during a civil war that saw then leader Muammar Gaddafi unseated.

In 2011 HSBC chairman Douglas Flint said that Libya had been rehabilitated by the international community in 2006, which explained the expansion, allowing it to enjoy access to the international financial system again.

HSBC's Tripoli office currently employs fewer than 10 people, and the close sees the bank continue to narrow the scope of its operations. The Telegraph says that the close of the Tripoli base is understood to be a continuation of a strategy that sees HSBC retreat from many markets where it is not a major player.

The 1959 purchase of the The British Bank of the Middle East saw HSBC add offices in Libya as well as Saudi Arabia, Aden, Sharjah, Qatar, Tunisia, Morocco, and Abu Dhabi.

In March of last year Quartz reported that HSBC was shutting down the accounts of almost all customers across the Middle East, including in Iran, Libya, and Sudan after the bank was made to pay a $1.9bn settlement for processing banned transactions from those countries.

Only wealthier clients served by relationship managed accounts were able to continue banking with HSBC. A spokesman for HSBC Middle East then said that the bank would close any accounts that showed "any data, activity or pattern that we consider irregular or in violation of our due diligence standards".

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