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MIDEAST: Lack of products makes investors demand more

Supply of both Islamic-compliant and conventional instruments has so far failed to keep up with the voracious levels of demand across the Middle East, but there are signs that product-starved investors might now begin to see a steadier flow, though far-reaching challenges remain. Kathryn Wells reports.

A NEW SHARIAH-COMPLIANT bank, the European Islamic Investment Bank, incorporated in London in January 2005, hopes to receive a licence from the UK’s Financial Services Authority by the end of this month. It is on course to begin its first phase of operations in the second quarter of the year.

As the first independent Islamic investment bank in Europe to be established and managed on a wholly Shariah-compliant basis, the EIIB has been viewed with a mixture of surprise and interest in the Gulf region, where, according to its managing director, John Weguelin, there is a great deal of appetite for doing business with a London-domiciled institution of this type.

The bank’s founding shareholders comprise Gulf-based individuals and institutions, including several Islamic banks, as well as individuals and companies in Europe.

Subject to FSA authorization and consent, the bank plans to increase its capitalization from an initial £110 million to approximately £300 million ($521 million) shortly after the bank begins operations, through a public offering in the UK and other jurisdictions and a parallel private placement in the Gulf and Asia. The EIIB also intends to list on London growth market AIM.

The bank plans to access a market niche in Europe that few conventional non-Islamic banks have attempted to enter, as well as becoming a leading player in the market for Islamic securities, treasury and investment products.

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