Al Hilal Bank mulls overseas expansion to tap demand for Shariah finance

Published: Tuesday, 16 September, 2008, 12:56 AM Doha Time

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ABU DHABI: Abu Dhabi government-owned Al Hilal Bank, the newest of eight Islamic banks in the United Arab Emirates, plans to make overseas acquisitions from 2009 to tap surging demand among Muslims, the bank’s CEO said.
The lender will also roll out 50 branches by 2013 as it looks to grow both organically and through acquisitions, Mohamed Berro told Reuters in an interview yesterday.
Al Hilal, a retail, corporate and investment bank, was set up last year by Abu Dhabi Investment Council, one of the emirate’s sovereign wealth funds and has a start-up capital of 1bn dirhams ($272.3mn).
“Our strategy will take priority next year when we will have a competitive operating model,” Berro said without elaborating. “It could be the world … where there is a Muslim population or where there is strong trade between the UAE and that country.”
The lender, the second Islamic bank in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi, will compete with the likes of Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, Noor Islamic Bank and Dubai Bank, both of which are on the acquisition trail.
Hilal has four branches in the UAE currently, two in Abu Dhabi, one in Dubai and one in Al Ain.
“We will close 2008 by adding six or seven more branches across the UAE and plan to open 10 branches each year to have around 50 by 2013,” he said.
The bank is in the process of setting up its wholly-owned Takaful (insurance) subsidiary with a capital of 100mn dirhams, a real estate subsidiary and a brokerage arm.
“All these will become
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