February 5, 2008

Islamic bank plans UK acquisitions

by Gill Montia

Story link: Islamic bank plans UK acquisitions

Noor Islamic Bank, which is based in Dubai, has ambitious expansion plans that involve acquiring controlling stakes in UK financial institutions.

The bank opened in January with ten branches across the UAE. This month it will launch an investment-banking division through which it expects to make its first international purchase by the end of 2008.

Noor aims to become the world’s largest Sharia lender within five years and is seeking to gain a presence in European markets, where demand for Islamic banks is growing.

It plans to spend up to £507 million on each acquisition and is looking for opportunities in Asia and North Africa as well as Europe.

However, the UK is now considered the world’s leading centre for Islamic finance outside the Middle East and acquisition of British banking assets is a strong feature of Noor’s expansion strategy.

Hussain al-Qemzi, Noor’s chief executive, has made it clear that potential targets will not be limited to Sharia-compliant banks.

He also maintains that Islamic banking is less risky than finance in the West explaining: “One of the things we don’t do is sub-prime … because it’s prohibited for us.”

The Government of Dubai owns 25% of Noor; a further 25% is held by Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum, the bank’s chairman.



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