Most of the products imported to Lebanon enter either
through Beirut International Airport (BIA) or Beirut Port.
Foreign exporters rely on local companies to clear and
receive the imported products from the Customs Authority at
Beirut Port and BIA, and to distribute them in the market.
Although traditional markets and souks exist in Lebanon,
most imported products are distributed through modern retail
stores and supermarket chains spread throughout the country.
Market Entry Strategy
Foreign companies interested in doing business in Lebanon are advised to
hire a Lebanese agent or distributor. Networking and lengthy investigation
are necessary to find an appropriate partner. The Investment Development
Authority of Lebanon (IDAL), a public agency responsible for promoting
investments in Lebanon, has a “One-Stop Shop” service to issue permits and
licenses for investors.
Using an Agent or Distributor
Foreign companies are advised to establish a branch or rely on a Lebanese
agent when doing business in Lebanon. The agent may be a partnership, a sole
proprietorship, a joint-stock company or a limited liability company. The
agent can act on behalf of the foreign company to bid for government tenders
and best market its products.
Branch offices may undertake
any business activity permitted by Lebanese law with no minimum capital or
performance requirements. A foreigner who wishes to establish a branch in
Lebanon must have a residence permit from the Sûreté Générale and a work
permit from the Ministry of Labor. Foreign companies need a license to
operate from the Ministry of Economy and Trade. Foreign companies may
operate through local branches provided they obtain a “Receipt of
Acknowledgement” from the Ministry of Economy and Trade and register in a
local commercial court. For trade activity, the company must be registered
at any of the four regional Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
The Investment Development
Authority of Lebanon (IDAL) has a “One-Stop Shop” service to issue permits
and licenses for investors. IDAL coordinates with all concerned Ministries
and public authorities.
With the successful establishment of international brand names and their
continuous expansion across the country, franchising has become one of the
fastest growing business sectors in Lebanon. The most commonly known are
international fast food outlets. Franchises are also available for many
other products and services in Lebanon.
A Lebanese Franchise
Association was launched in 2007 to promote the franchise sector in Lebanon
and help Lebanese franchises expand in the region. Many Lebanese food
franchises already opened branches in UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
With around $100 million spent annually on advertising, the
advertising industry has proven to be the most effective marketing channel
in Lebanon. Advertising can be through TV, radio, billboards and trade
fairs. Numerous international fairs and trade shows are held in Lebanon,
with significant participation from European, Asian, Middle Eastern, and
U.S. At least one show, fair, or exhibition is scheduled for each month of
Lebanese law does not consider joint ventures to be separate legal entities
and does not require them to be registered in the Commercial Register. Joint
ventures are established through a contract between at least two partners
without publicizing formalities.
Selling to the Government
The Lebanese government comprises 19 ministries. Each ministry is
responsible for its own procurement that is usually carried out via public
tenders and published on the ministries’ websites. Companies can apply
directly for these tenders or can rely on local agents to bid on their
The Council for Development
and Reconstruction (CDR), a public authority established in 1977, is the
public unit responsible for large government projects. These are usually
carried out through public tenders. However, there are occasional purchases
via direct contract when attractive financing protocols are made available
by the foreign companies' governments.
The Lebanese market is generally characterized as being free and price
sensitive. Sales material can be in English, French or Arabic. Many European
and Asian brands introduced into the market have managed to earn a
considerable market share. However, high quality products are still valued
by high-end consumers who appreciate quality, technology, innovations and
E-commerce is in growing stage in Lebanon. Some e-commerce
ventures, such as online shops, auctions, services, and content publishing,
have been established. However, these ventures remain limited because there
is no appropriate legal and regulatory framework for e-transactions. The
reliability of online transactions has not gained widespread acceptance by
the Lebanese population. Internet and telecommunications prices remain high.
In 2004, the European Union financed the establishment of a project in
Lebanon to promote the development of e-commerce.
Prices of imported goods are subject to Customs fees and a
Value-Added Tax (VAT) of ten percent. The Consumer Protection Department at
the Ministry of Economy and Trade controls prices on bread and petroleum
derivatives. The Technical Center for Price Control at the Ministry of
Economy and Trade surveys supermarket prices of consumer goods every two
months. The Ministry of Health also controls the price of pharmaceuticals.
Sales Service/Customer Support
Customer service is highly valued in Lebanon. A number of leading
Lebanese companies have a sales service and customer support unit. Such
services are critical to maintaining market share. In January 2005, Lebanon
passed a new Consumer Protection Law, which calls for the establishment of a
number of mechanisms for better protection of consumers.