Frustration mounting over dual exchange rates in Lebanon

Depositors had withdrawn their deposits from banks at the start of the crisis and kept them at home, says money changer. (AFP)
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Updated 21 January 2020

Frustration mounting over dual exchange rates in Lebanon

  • Anger directed at money changers as well as banks over accusations of profiteering

BEIRUT: As banks have rationed working with dollars, refrained from exchanging Lebanese pounds into the US currency and vice versa, and decreased cash flow to customers, the Lebanese money changers’ market has recovered and there are now two exchange rates for the dollar.

The first is the official rate adopted by banks, and is stable at 1,517 Lebanese pounds. The second is controlled by supply and demand, and has led the dollar to reach 2,500 Lebanese pounds due to lack of optimism over the country’s ability to overcome the economic and political crisis it has been facing for more than three months.

“Some people are exchanging money without a license. They collect capital from each other, trade in dollars and collect daily profits of up to 1 million Lebanese pounds,” Mahmoud Murad, head of the Syndicate of Money Changers, told Arab News.

“I’ve submitted a complaint against those 20 days ago to the Central Bank and the judiciary. I’m waiting for the investigation’s results. Those people … must be prosecuted and referred to the anti-money laundering department.”

Some money changers told Arab News off the record that large quantities of money are being shipped unlawfully to Lebanon on board private planes.

“Licensed money changers have no limit in regards to bringing foreign currencies into the country,” said Murad.

“The Central Bank obliged us to present detailed reports on all our operations every Monday and Tuesday, particularly in light of accusations that money changers raise the dollar exchange rate at the beginning of the week and lower it by the end of the week to make profits by controlling the price of the dollar,” he added.

“Depositors had withdrawn their deposits from banks at the start of the crisis and kept them at home. The Central Bank estimated them at $3 billion,” Murad said.

“They resort to transferring them to the Lebanese pound according to the market price. We shouldn’t be accused of controlling the dollar’s price.”

Popular anger has been directed at money changers as well as banks. “The Syndicate of Money Changers asked caretaker Interior Minister Raya Al-Hassan to provide money changers with security personnel to protect them just like the banks, but she said there’s a shortage of personnel,” said Murad.

“We’re having to resort to private security agencies. We have the right to carry a licensed weapon, but doing that might implicate changers in crimes.”
 


Nissan’s new CEO willing to be fired if no turnaround at Japanese giant

Updated 18 February 2020

Nissan’s new CEO willing to be fired if no turnaround at Japanese giant

  • Makoto Uchida, who took over the top job in December, put his job on the line at the automaker’s shareholders’ meeting
  • Uchida pleaded with shareholders to be patient while he comes up with a plan by May to recover from crumbling profits

YOKOHAMA: Nissan’s new chief executive said on Tuesday he would accept being fired if he fails to turn around Japan’s second biggest automaker which is grappling with plunging sales in the aftermath of the scandal surrounding ex-chairman Carlos Ghosn.
Makoto Uchida, who took over the top job in December, put his job on the line at the automaker’s shareholders’ meeting, where he faced demands ranging from cutting executive pay to offering a bounty to bring Ghosn back to Japan after he fled to Lebanon.
Nissan’s worsening performance has heaped pressure on Uchida, formerly Nissan’s China chief who became its third CEO since September, to come up with aggressive steps to revive the company.
On Tuesday, Uchida, who was repeatedly heckled by shareholders, said he was ready to face dismissal if he failed to improve profitability at the company, which is on course to post its worst annual operating profit in 11 years.
“We will make sure that we steer the company in an effective way so that it is visible in the eyes of viewers. I will commit to this: if the circumstances remain uncertain you can fire me immediately,” he said.
Uchida, 53, did not give a timeframe for improving Nissan’s performance.
The new boss must prove to the board he can accelerate cost-cutting and rebuild profits at the 86-year-old Japanese giant, and that he has the right strategy to repair its partnership with France’s Renault, sources have told Reuters.
Uchida pleaded with shareholders to be patient while he comes up with a plan by May to recover from crumbling profits and a corporate shake-up following Ghosn’s arrest in Japan in late 2018 over financial misconduct charges.
“If you can be patient a little bit longer, on a day-to-day basis you will be able to sense we are changing,” he said.
Ahead of the meeting, some shareholders demanded more clarity about Uchida’s plan.
“I just want to know what the plan for recovery is. At the moment, the share price has dropped again, and the value of the company has plummeted,” said a 70-year-old former employee who owns shares in the company.
“If this is the situation, part of me thinks that we would be better off with Ghosn ... If we don’t get a clearer vision of the path the company is taking, it will be a worry.”
Nissan’s shares are trading around their lowest level in more than a decade following its latest earnings.
Last week, Nissan cut its dividend outlook to its lowest since the 2011 financial year, after dwindling car sales drove the company to post its first quarterly net loss in nearly a decade.
Shareholders gathered at the extraordinary meeting in Yokohama to vote in new directors including Uchida and Chief Operating Officer Ashwani Gupta.
Their appointments highlight a changing of the guard at Nissan, as shareholders were also voting on motions for former company stalwarts, CEO Hiroto Saikawa and COO Yashuhiro Yamauchi, to leave their board director positions.