Bank of Palestine (BOP) celebrated the inauguration of its new branch in Bethlehem on March 26, 2013, in a ceremony attended by Dr. Jawad Al-Naji on behalf of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, Dr. Jihad Al-Wazir, governor of the Palestine Monetary Authority (PMA), and Hashim Shawa, Chairman and General Manager of BOP. Palestinian businessmen in Chile, Jose Said and Albeto Kassiss, and Patriarch Fuad Tawal were also present, in addition to a number of dignitaries and government officials. The new branch in Bethlehem adds to BOP's network of 48 branches and offices spread throughout the country, serving our clients in every city and village. The inauguration ceremony included a tour around the new building, in which a cultural heritage exhibition, "400 Years of Innovation" by collector George Al-A'ama, is featured on the third floor. The rest of the ceremony took place in nearby Jacir Palace hotel.
Shawa welcomed the guests of the ceremony to the opening of the newest branch in BOP's network of 48 branches around Palestine- the largest in the country. A new achievement marking BOP's growing expansion, Shawa stated that it is part of the bank's effort to reach out to its clients wherever they may be and to provide them with the best services and products available.
Shawa unveiled BOP's future expansion plans in different regional markets, which started with buying a strategic share in InvestBank in Jordan, and opening representative offices in the UAE and Chile, which are both home to the large Palestinian Diaspora populations. Shawa expressed his gratitude to the Palestinian Diaspora in Chile, who were able to lead Chile's economy by establishing major financial and economic institutions there, while proving loyalty to Palestine. This strong connection prompted BOP to establish the Diaspora Unit, which aims at reaching out to the 7 million Palestinians in the Diaspora to provide them with banking and business advisory services.
Furthermore, Shawa restated BOP's 2012 financial results, with assets reaching over USD 2 billion, and net profit at USD 38,347,397 for the year 2012; an increase of 13% compared with 2011. The volume of loans granted to different segments amounted to around USD 1 billion. Moreover, BOP's Board of Directors recently recommended the distribution of USD 26,050,000 from realized profits in 2012 to shareholders after its Annual Assembly General Meeting, which is scheduled to take place on April 26, 2013.
Dr. Al -Wazir, governor of the PMA, stated that with the opening of the new BOP branch in Bethlehem, for which he laid the foundation stone two years ago, the number of bank's branches in Palestine reached 232, connected by a durable and strong banking system. In an effort to further enhance this system, the PMA has recently launched the International Bank Account Number (IBAN) system, which facilitates the process of transferring internal and external funds with fewer errors. Further, the PMA has started using the "Barq", a cash settlement system for trading in the stock market which completes settlements within three days instead of five. The PMA has also increased its educational efforts in the banking and finance fields through several initiatives, including the Banking Conference, and the Children's Banking Awareness Week which was held in cooperation with all banks in the country.
Dr. Al-Naji, Minister of the National Economy, delivered the greetings of Prime Minister Fayyad, stressing the support of the Palestinian Authority to the banking system and to the Palestinian economy. Al-Naji further stated that BOP's new achievement embarks on the bank's continuous success, especially with the bank's deposit market share at 20% of the total deposits in the banking sector. Dr. Al-Naji praised the efforts of the PMA to strengthen the banking system, with a loan to deposit ratio provided by the banking system at 56% compared to only 24% a few years ago.
Jose Said, a prominent Palestinian businessman in Chile, added that there are at least 350,000 Palestinians in Chile seeking job opportunities. Said further stated that the strong bonds between the Palestinian community in Chile and Palestine are highlighted by the partnership that exists between the community and BOP, adding that BOP's invitation for him to participate in the new branch's opening proves his loyalty to the homeland.