What is your analysis of the country’s situation two years after the revolution?
Within the context of a major revolution, -2% GDP growth in 2011 was not that catastrophic. Other countries fared far worse. The severe events in Libya and the crisis in Europe were aggravating factors. Growth in 2012 should stand at around 3%, which is very good for a country in the midst of a democratic transition. The main demands of the population related to employment and regional develop-
ment have yet to be met.
Why is domestic investment taking longer to pick up than Foreign Direct Investment?
The lack of visibility and the situation of businessmen linked to the old regime weigh heavily on investment intentions. The state needs to invest in infrastructure to open the regions to private investment. New roads are wanted, as well as telephone and Internet infrastructure, and quality industrial areas. Long-term visibility and the necessary public investment would create the right conditions for the participation of private investors.
What is your analysis of the health and performance of the banking sector in Tunisia?
There is considerable fragmentation and the average size of Tunisian banks is small. Today, ten banks account for 90% of total volume in the banking sector, while a further 13 account for the remaining 10%. Everybody agrees on the need for restructuring through mergers and an increase in equity. In spite of this, the Tunisian banking sector, involved in 85% of all investments and financing of the country’s economy, has proved perfectly able to meet current needs. Public banks also need more flexibility to successfully operate in a highly competitive market. The State has recently launched a « full audit » to determine the steps required to inject capital into its banks and possibly carry out mergers. Private banks are also expected to undergo restructuring, in a manner as yet unspecified, in the coming years. The World Bank is considering the best options for the merger of these banks based on capital requirement criteria. This process may take place quite soon, leading to a reduction in the number of players in the sector.
Could you give an overview of Banque de Tunisie’s activities and positioning?
Banque de Tunisie, created in September 1884, is a medium-sized bank with an 8% market share. The CIC group has always been a shareholder. Its stake recently increased from 20% to 33% following the transfer of the State’s interest. We probably have the largest number of small shareholders, and also the largest market capitalisation in the country, at 1.45 billion dinars. We seek to maintain our position without necessarily gaining size, focusing instead on reliability and profitability of the bank´s own funds. Our ratios are among the best in the market.
We focus on medium-sized rather than large businesses, in all sectors. We have an array of affiliated companies and vehicles. In insurance, our company ASTREE, quoted on the Tunis stock exchange since the latter’s creation, has a market share of around 8%. We have financial corporations, including Placement de Tunisie, also traded on the stockmarket. We also have venture capital investment (SICAR), variable capital investment (SICAV) and high-yield companies. All these entities allow us to provide comprehensive support to our customers.
What message would you give to our readers?
This country has all it takes to successfully complete the difficult journey towards the establishment of a true democracy in Tunisia. We are and will be a profitable country, offering growth, open to the world and to modernity. Today we need your trust and support so that together we may reap the full benefits of success in the coming years.