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Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Malaysia eases rules on Islamic finance businesses

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 13 (Reuters) - Malaysia's central bank eased rules on Monday to allow all banks to do Islamic banking business in foreign currencies as it stepped up efforts to become a global hub for Islamic finance. Commercial banks and investment banks licensed under the Banking and Financial Institutions Act 1989 can now carry out Islamic banking business in foreign currencies, central bank chief Zeti Akhtar Aziz said. Previously, only Islamic banks could conduct such business."We aim to develop Malaysia into a centre for the origination, distribution and trading of sukuks to provide further impetus to the development of an increasingly vibrant and progressive bond market in Malaysia as well as in the Asian region," Zeti told an Islamic banking forum.Islamic finance bans interest payments and profits earned from alcohol, pornography, pork or gambling. Mostly Muslim Malaysia has the world's largest Islamic bond market, accounting for about $47 billion or two-thirds of total Islamic bonds outstanding worldwide. The Southeast Asian country has an Islamic finance industry with $38 billion of assets ranging from stocks and insurance to home loans and pawnbroking. Islamic banking assets make up over 12 percent of total bank assets.Singapore, London, Bahrain and Dubai all covet leadership of the $1 trillion Islamic finance market.

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