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Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Sri Lanka Islamic investment group to go rural

July 22, 2007 (LBO) - ABC Investments, a new Sri Lankan Islamic investment group, plans to expand their business with branches outside the capital Colombo, especially in areas with large concentrations of Muslim people. The firm which provides Barakah Islamic financial services, looks to cross the 300 million deposit mark before December while operating only in Colombo.
They plan to move into Kattankudy in the island's east and Kandy in the central hills by January. At the moment they manage 1000 accounts in Colombo and hope to reach 10,000 within a year as they move into the other regions. “We will manage both Matale and Katugastota areas from Kandy and by March open a unit in Puttalam (in the north-west) as well,” says Managing Director of the ABC Investments Mohammed Razeek. These are areas with significant concentrations of Muslim people who make up the island's third largest ethnic group after Sinhalese and Tamils. The Islamic finance firm also said that they want to become a full fledged Islamic bank as soon as regulators allow it. “The Central Bank is studying the Islamic banking concepts at the moment and once the provisions are altered in the banking act we are ready to become a fully fledged bank,” Razeek said. Sri Lanka has allowed Islamic banking to be carried out in licensed commercial banks as a regulated and legal activity. The firm says that senior Muslim ministers in the government are backing moves to allow Islamic banks in the country. The firm also says that they have a strong funding backing from different countries and has already signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Central Bank of Sudan to get experts to work with the firm. These professionals will help the firm in their takaful insurance sector. “We will be working closely with Sudan and we will also look at Bahrain and Malaysia for the funding in takaful insurance,” Razeek said. The firm hopes to get funds from Al Subair Charity foundation and is looking to invest 100 million rupees as they plan to start off with general insurance. ABC Investments also plans to provide apartments to middle and lower class sectors as part of their real estate programme. The investment group has already purchased 150 perches in Piliyandala, near Colombo, where they plan to start their project for middle class housing. “We will not go into providing luxury apartments as a lot of companies already have done that.” ABC Investments is one of the recent investment groups looking to promote the Islamic financing concept in Sri Lanka. First Global Group, another investment company, recently concluded a seminar ‘Know It All’ to educate the business community on Islamic banking. The Islamic Takaful insurance concept has a growing customer base in Sri Lanka with Amana Takaful.

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