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Sunday, 16 September 2007

New Islamic bank licensed in Kenya

The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) has licensed a new bank that will operate on Islamic banking laws. Gulf African Bank will be the first financial institution to operate on Sharia principles. ‘‘Though it will also open its doors to non-Muslims, the bank will operate to meet the religious requirements of the Muslim community and offer an alternative banking system that is more transparent, ethical and user friendly to non-Muslims as well,’’ the bank’s chairman, Mr Suleiman bin Shahbal said on Thursday in Nairobi. He said he expects the bank to grow into a regional financial power house within East and Central Africa region in the next eight years. "We are going to create a strong, well capitalised bank, operating to the highest international standards and in accordance with Sharia’h principles serving the entire Kenyan community. The longer term vision is to develop Gulf African Bank into a regional bank in East and Central Africa within the next eight years," he said. The bank, which is backed by a consortium of leading Arab investors, the Government of Dubai and the PTA Bank, has a capital base of Sh1.75 billion, and will offer Sheri’ah compliant products such as non-interest based banking. ‘The bank was envisioned by a group of Kenyan professionals with the objective of establishing a bank that will act as a bridge between surplus capital in the Arabian Gulf countries and opportunities in Kenya and East Africa as whole,’’ said Shahbal.The bank plans to woo more Arab investors through a range of products and services, such as the capital markets, noted Shahbal. "We plan to develop an investment banking unit that will focus on investment match making that is identifying good investment opportunities and introducing them to potential capital investors from the Gulf States," said explained Shahbal at while addressing the Press at the bank’s offices located at Upper hill area. The bank’s other shareholders include institutional as well as high net worth international investors. They include the Bahrain based Bank of Muscat International, which is jointly owned by the rulers of Oman and Bahrain respectively, Istithmar (owned by the Government of Dubai) and Global Investment House of Kuwait, among others. Istithmar is the private Equity Investment wing of the Government of Dubai and holds investments in excess of $15 billion globally, noted Shahbal. A leading Saudi gold dealer, Sheikh Abdalla Alromaizan, whose net worth is over $15 billion, is one of the individual shareholders. Shahbal said that PTA Bank, which is a regional institution, would play a key role in the bank’s regional goals. "The PTA Bank is looking forward to partnering with this bank to build a platform for structuring Shari’h compliant products for PTA Bank clients across the region," he said. Shahbal, however, clarified that Sharia’h banking principles complies with Central Bank of Kenya requirements. "We will adhere to CBK regulations and guidelines and international industry best practices," he added. "We are going to offer tailor made services to all our clients.’’ - (TS, 15 Sep 07)
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