Interview with Mr. Brahim Hajji, CEO Banque de l'Habitat, Tunisia, November 2012

Business Focus: There is a lot of potential in the housing sector that needs to be backed up by the finance sector, how is Banque de l’Habitat tapping this sector?

Mr. Brahim Hajji: Banque de l’Habitat is unquestionably the leader in the financing of real estate in Tunisia. Banque de l’Habitat has held this leadership position for 30 years and the contribution of Banque de l’Habitat in urbanism and in the development of real estate in general is huge.

Business Focus: What is your mission?

Mr. Brahim Hajji: We have a 60% share of the Tunisian mortgage market, with this amount comprising credit to construction companies and households. We are the only bank in this field and are the intermediary between the government and the beneficiaries of those credits. But this is not our sole activity, as we grant credit to citizens from different economic standings. It is important to note that the real estate sector has never suffered from a crisis and the percentage of non-performing loans is very low too.

Banque de l’Habitat is unquestionably the leader
in the financing of real estate in Tunisia.

Business Focus: The real estate sector is a very resilient sector. You have nevertheless been faced with challenges; can you tell us what your plans are to overcome them?

Mr. Brahim Hajji: The past two years have been difficult because of the various social changes that negatively affected the liquidity of the banking sector as a whole, but the economy is now showing positive growth. Security and stability have also returned so 2013 will witness a very rapid recovery and economic growth of at least 4.5%.

Business Focus: What role do you want to play in this economic recovery?

Mr. Brahim Hajji: The banking sector in general and Banque de l’Habitat have always continued to finance the economy, even in 2011 and 2012. The banking sector financed 95% of the economy and therefore plays a crucial role and is continuing now under the strict rules and guidelines of the Central Bank. Banque de l’ Habitat has consistently shown an increase in profits, even during the difficult times of the past two years. We enjoyed positive results in 2012, which shows all the difficulties are now behind us and Banque de l’Habitat will continue to grow stronger and bigger. The environment is now much more open to investment, it is democratized and safer and Tunisia can send a message of trust to all the potential investors.

Business Focus: You have plans to participate in the creation of banks specialized in mortgage lending in the countries that represent the most opportunities in your sector, can you tell us about that?

Mr. Brahim Hajji: We are already present in Congo-Brazzaville where the State and Banque de l’ Habitat possess 21% of the capital, and also in Burkina Faso. We are working on reaching the Ivory Coast and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as they want to benefit from the experience of Banque de l’ Habitat and its role in the development of real estate and granting of credit to households. These states want to benefit from our valuable expertise in the financing of the housing sector.

Business Focus: What are your competitive advantages?

Mr. Brahim Hajji: The real estate sector is very competitive. But we have the know-how, the image of the Bank is very good as we are a real estate leader and have the support of the State, which is our main shareholder. We aim to become even more competitive in terms of profitability.

Business Focus: What is your message to all the investors and readers of the Observer?

Mr. Brahim Hajji: After the Revolution, it is natural for the country to go through transitional stages and that can be a difficult process, but I think all the positive elements are extremely encouraging for the future of the country and foreign investor because there is now fundamental freedom and transparency. The environment for investment is safer and more transparent, which is going to persuade investors to choose Tunisia because the country has a strong background in terms of its human capital, experience, open-mindedness, especially now that we have acquired our freedom. All those elements should attract investors to Tunisia.




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