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Saturday, 7 February 2009

Singapore Islamic Bank Seeking Gulf Expansion

KUALA LUMPUR: The Islamic Bank of Asia, backed by Southeast Asia's top lender, is on the hunt for acquisition opportunities in Malaysia and Indonesia to gain a foothold in the populous Muslim retail markets.
Asia is Islamic Bank of Asia's immediate priority for expansion although it is also keen on Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait.
Islamic banks are turning to retail consumer demand for growth as the explosive rise of the Sharia bond or sukuk market slows markedly amid the global credit crisis.
Rising demand for ethical investments and growing interest by non-Muslims in Islamic finance have also turned the retail business into a potential major growth market.
Singapore-based Islamic Bank of Asia is considering various options to enter Malaysia and Indonesia, including taking a stake in banks in these countries, the lender's chief executive Vince Cook said yesterday.
"Singapore presents a very good platform for wholesale and cross-border business and both Indonesia and Malaysia would complement that by giving us the ability to build a very sizeable retail business," Cook said.
"In Malaysia, sometime during this year we will certainly have decided exactly how we want to proceed. We've surveyed the existing institutions...there hasn't been one as of yet that sort of become clearly the preferred target."
The lender, which was set up in 2007 and has a capitalisation of $500 million, currently focuses on commercial banking, corporate finance, capital market and wealth management services.
Singapore's DBS, Southeast Asia's biggest bank by assets, has a 50 per cent stake plus one share in Islamic Bank of Asia. Other shareholders include Gulf investors.
DBS has been keen to make inroads into Islamic banking, especially as growth weakens in its two main markets Singapore and Hong Kong as those economies slide deeper into recession.
Singapore itself has ambitions to become an Islamic finance centre and has been aggressive promoting the concept.
"We don't close off any options at this early stage ... but my expectation is that we would actually start in those markets with our own representation in our own name," he said on the Gulf expansion.
(Gulf Daily News)
Note: The editor of GIFC has been invited to give lecture in Singapore on Islamic finance topics every month starting from March 2009.
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