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Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Mauritanian Islamic bank within a year says International Islamic

DOHA: International Islamic and a group of Qatari investors’ who are planning to set up an Islamic bank in Mauritania, hope the financial institution will be ready for take off within a year.“We have been offered a 100% stake in the proposed bank by the authorities there but we have decided to carry local investors with us to give it a Mauritanian touch,” International Islamic chief executive officer, Abdulbasit A al-Shaibei said in an interview with Gulf Times.Al-Shaibei said though the initial capital of the proposed bank was not finalised, it would not be less than $24mn. “I believe it will be much higher when we decide on the start up capital. Also our holding in the Islamic bank could be between 60% and 70%,” he pointed out.Al-Shaibei said it could take up to six months to obtain the final license for the bank. “We need another six months to set it up. So we are looking at mid-2008 to launch the bank in Mauritania,” al-Shaibei said.He said the joint venture bank would not get into retail business in the short to medium term.“Our focus will be on the corporate side. There are lots of opportunities for corporate financing in Mauritania. Our own Qatari Diar is now developing properties in that country,” al-Shaibei pointed out.Asked whether Mauritania’s political stability was a matter of concern he said, “Yes, there are challenges. Having said that they had very fair and transparent elections recently. The country’s current president got elected on popular mandate. We met him recently and he had offered all assistance to us. He is keen to develop Mauritania’s banking system in particular and the financial sector in general.”Another “encouraging” factor, al-Shaibei said, was the good relationship Qatar enjoyed with Mauritania. “This might have been a reason why we were offered up to a 100% stake in the proposed bank. Not many countries in the Arab world will do that,” al-Shaibei said.On International Islamic’s proposed bank in Morocco he said the proposal now was to offer Islamic products in a joint venture with a Moroccan bank.“Morocco does not have dedicated Islamic banks now. However, some traditional banks in the country offer Islamic products. As a first step, we are trying to go through this corridor,” al-Shaibei said.He said the first branch of Syrian International Islamic Bank (SIIB, whose major promoter is International Islamic) would be opened within two months. Three sites have already been purchased for SIIB expansion.SIIB will start with with two technology-driven branches – one in Damascus and the other in Halab.Al-Shaibei said the bank would be among the first listed companies on the Damascus Stock Exchange, which is expected to begin trading by the year-end. As of now Syria does not have a stock market.Al-Shaibei said the recent IPO for a 51% stake in the bank with an initial capital of Syrian Lira 5bn was oversubscribed by 300%. Of the remaining 49%, International Islamic will have 30% and the rest will be with Qatari investors.The chairman of SIIB board of directors would be from the Qatari side. “Our overseas activities are in line with our policy of launching independent and full-scale Islamic banking operations abroad rather than going the branch route. We carry investors with us whenever we foray into the international market. We will not set up our own branches abroad. In that line came the Islamic Bank of Britain, which now functions with many branches across that country,” al-Shaibei added.

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