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Thursday, 2 October 2008

Ireland - $25m Islamic funding for Blue Ocean

DUBLIN-BASED maritime communications group Blue Ocean Wireless has secured access to debt funding of $25 million (€17 million) from Bank of London and The Middle East plc (BLME), a Sharia'a-compliant wholesale bank based in the City of London.
This is thought to be the first time that an Irish company has availed of Islamic finance, a form of ethical banking based on the principles of Sharia'a law.
The funds will be used to support the growth of Blue Ocean's GSM mobile phone service for crew aboard merchant ships. To date the Irish company has been debt free.
"The money will be used to provide the capital for fitting out ships with our kit and support the general infrastructure of the business," Blue Ocean chairman Dómhnal Slattery told The Irish Times.
Commenting on the agreement, BLME chief executive Humphrey Percy said: "This is our first financing deal in Ireland, which reflects the growing appeal that Sharia'a finance has in the global market.
"We're pleased to be working with Blue Ocean to support its growth plans."
Blue Ocean provides mobile phone sim cards to merchant seamen to enable them to use their phones to contact home while at sea on cargo ships and oil tankers.
It is the first company to provide such a service, and has used software developed by Tralee-based company Altobridge, which has a large stake in the communications company.
Previously, crew members had been required to use a ship's onboard phone, which was more expensive and lacked privacy.
Backed by Kuwait's ruling family, BLME launched in the UK on July 9th, 2007, and is regulated by the Financial Services Authority.
It made a pre-tax profit of £1.7 million in the six months to the end of June, and had more than £600 million worth of assets.
BLME's board includes Islamic scholars who advise on its compliance with Sharia'a law.
Earlier this month Blue Ocean sold an 11.5 per cent stake in the company for $10 million to NTT DoCoMo, Japan's biggest mobile phone group.
This valued Blue Ocean at $87 million just 18 months after it was launched.
The deal was arranged by Claret Capital, the private equity group led by Mr Slattery.
Claret is Blue Ocean's biggest shareholder. Other investors include Bank of Scotland (Ireland) and Smart Communications, which is based in the Philippines.
(The Irish Times)
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