Lebanon - Country Commercial Guide
Distribution & Sales Channels

Discusses distribution network from how products enter to final destination, including reliability of distribution systems, distribution centers, ports, etc.

Last published date: 2020-09-29

Most imported products enter Lebanon via the Port of Beirut or Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport (RHIA).  After the August 4 explosion at the port, goods were rerouted to the Port of Tripoli.  As of August 10, the Port of Beirut resumed partial operations, with 12 out of 16 cranes at the container port fully or partially working.  Foreign exporters rely on local companies to clear imported products and to distribute them domestically.  Most consumer goods are distributed through modern retail stores, shopping malls, department stores, and supermarket chains.

Major shopping malls and department stores in Lebanon include ABC Malls, Beirut City Center, Beirut Mall, Beirut Souks, CityMall, and Le Mall.  The main supermarket chains include Carrefour, Le Charcutier Aoun, Fahed Supermarket, Metro Superstore, Monoprix, and Spinneys.

Using an Agent to Sell U.S .Products and Services

U.S. companies generally work with a Lebanese agent or distributor when doing business in Lebanon.  The agent may take the form of a partnership, a sole proprietorship, a joint-stock company, or a limited liability company.  The agent may act on behalf of the U.S. company to bid on government contracts and to market its products.  The U.S. Commercial Service can assist U.S. companies with finding reliable agents through the International Partner Search (IPS).

Establishing an Office

A foreigner who would like to establish a business branch in Lebanon must first apply for a residency permit from the Directorate of General Security (Sûreté Générale in French) and a work permit from the Ministry of Labor.  Foreign companies also require a license to operate from the Ministry of Economy and Trade.  U.S. 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 register at one 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 in investors for all the key sectors.

Franchising

Franchising in Lebanon has experienced notable growth since the late 1990s with the successful establishment of international brand names across the country.  According to the Lebanese Franchise Association (LAF), the franchising sector employs nearly 100,000 employees, or an estimated nine percent of total workers in the country.  However, due to Lebanon’s current economic crisis and restrictions imposed after the spread of COVID-19, the franchising sector has experienced major decreased in activity, especially in the hospitality and retail sectors.

Before the crisis, there were approximately 744 companies in the franchising sector in Lebanon constituting around 6% of total companies operating in Lebanon.  The industry contributed close to $1.5 billion to the national economy, or about four percent of the entire GDP.  Approximately 44 percent of franchises in Lebanon originate in Europe, 38 percent from the United States and Canada, and 13 percent by local Lebanese franchisors. 

Franchising opportunities are extensive in the food service industry.  Major U.S. brands present in Lebanon include:  Burger King, Chili’s, Domino’s Pizza, Dunkin Donuts, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC),  McDonald’s, Pinkberry, Pizza Hut, and Starbucks.  Lebanese consumers value U.S. brand-names in clothing and professional service companies.  These include Berlitz Languages, Florsheim, Century 21 Real Estate, Coldwell Banker, Hertz, Avis, New Horizons, RE/MAX International, Ziebart, and Regus.

Hotel franchises have also witnessed growth in Lebanon.  Many local hotels are partnering with international chains to the benefit of local proprietors who capitalize on the chains’ name recognition and international reservation networks.  U.S. brands Hilton and Sheraton compete in Lebanon with major international chains, such as Four Seasons, Movenpick, Crowne Plaza, and InterContinental hotels.  However, hotel occupancy was extremely low in the wake of Lebanon’s economic crisis and the spread of COVID-19.  Occupancy of four and five-star hotels in Lebanon reached only 14 percent in the first five months of 2020 versus 68 percent during the same period in 2019. 

The Lebanese Franchise Association (LFA) was established in 2006 in response to the needs of a fast-growing franchise industry, with the mission to develop franchising in Lebanon, and to promote Lebanese franchises worldwide. LFA hosts the annual Beirut International Franchise Forum (BIFEX), which offers significant opportunities for U.S. businesses to meet franchisors and potential franchisees from around the Middle East.  More information is available on  LFA’s website. 

Direct Marketing

Lebanon’s annual advertising expenditures consistently rank amongst the highest in the region.  After having peaked in 2010 at $161.4 million, advertising spending slumped in the following years as Lebanon’s economic situation worsened.  However, a gradual recovery occurred in 2014 when annual advertising expenditures rose to $160.1 million.  Now, given the economic crisis, experts predict a major decrease in advertising expenditures in the coming few years. Television advertising represents the largest share of total advertising with a value annually exceeding $50 million.  Out-of-home and cinema advertising represents the second largest share of total advertising, exceeding $25 million, of which cinema advertising remains below $2 million per year.  Newspaper advertising represents approximately 15 percent of total advertising spending and exceeds $20 million per year.  Magazines account for seven percent of total advertising expenditures.  Digital advertising has steadily expanded over the past several years with over $15 million in spending, and radio advertising surpassed $5 million.

International fairs offer additional marketing opportunities. Please visit Trade Fairs in Lebanon.

Joint Ventures/Licensing

Joint ventures in Lebanon are established through the following six steps:

1 - Completion of preliminary legal tasks

2 - Payment of share capital

3 - Registration at the Trade Register

4 - Registration at the Bar Association

5 - Payment of duties at the Ministry of Finance

6 - Release of capital

Please find detailed information at IDAL‘s website.

Express Delivery

Local and international express delivery companies are common and reliable in Lebanon.  LibanPost provides national postal service.

There are several local and international freight service companies such as Expeditors, FedEx, Beirut Cargo Center, UPS, Aramex, TNT, and DHL that provide air, ocean, and ground transportation shipments to and from Lebanon.  Air shipping time from the United States to Lebanon is estimated to be between one to three days, whereas ocean shipping time from the U.S. to Lebanon is in the range of 25 to 45 days.

Due Diligence

U.S. firms should conduct due diligence on potential business partners in Lebanon.  To verify the bona fides of Lebanese companies, U.S. firms may request the U.S. Commercial Service International Company Profile (ICP) service.  The ICP report includes factual data on the Lebanese firm’s management, business activities, product lines, financial condition, credit-worthiness, trading experience, market coverage, and business connections in the country, as well as an embassy evaluation to help U.S. firms assess risks, reliability, and capability.