SHARM AL-SHEIKH, Egypt Jan 31 Bahrain’s Al
Baraka Islamic Bank “BARKA.BH plans to open a sharia-compliant
bank in France next year as the lender seeks to expand into
Europe, Chief Executive Adnan Ahmed Yousif said on Sunday.
France has one of the largest Muslim populations in Europe
but cultural and legal obstacles have impeded the development of
its Islamic finance industry.
“We were in the midst of launching an Islamic bank in
France, but with the global financial crisis the project was
halted, so we are now looking to revive the project again,” he
said on the sidelines of a banking conference in Egypt’s Sharm
Some Gulf-based Islamic banks that have expanded in Europe
have gone elsewhere. Qatar’s Masraf Al Rayan owns Al Rayan Bank
in the United Kingdom, while Kuwait Finance House’s Turkish arm
opened its first branch in Germany last year.
Al Baraka, which has operations across the Middle East, Asia
and Africa including Pakistan, Jordan and South Africa, also
plans to acquire a bank in Indonesia either this year or in 2017
and was in talks with the Indonesian central bank governor,
Indonesia has been seeking to boost its Islamic banking
sector, which is small despite being the world’s largest Muslim
nation, by adjusting rules including loosening foreign ownership
limits on local banks.
“We have a representative office in Indonesia, and now is
the right time to buy a bank there,” Yousif said.
Al Baraka also wants to launch banking operations in China
this year and is awaiting a decision in March from Morocco’s
central bank about its plans to enter the market there, he said.
(Reporting by Ehab Farouk; Writing by Hadeel Al Sayegh; Editing
by David French and Raissa Kasolowsky)