BankMuscat awarded Islamic license

Lender is one of several to be granted license in Gulf state as demand for industry grows

BankMuscat, Oman’s biggest bank by market value, has received a license to offer Islamic products and services.

The lender will open seven Islamic windows this year operating under the brand Meethaq Islamic Banking, the firm said in a statement.

Authorities in the Gulf state have approved licenses for two Islamic banks in the last year. Al Izz International Bank was granted a license to operate as a Sharia-compliant bank in 2011 while Bank Nizwa launched its services this month.

Oman’s central bank in December adopted a strict regulatory environment for Islamic banks, setting higher standards for the industry than many other countries.

The new regulations cover areas including banks’ liquidity management, the administration of boards of Sharia scholars and the operation of conventional banks' Islamic windows. In many cases the rules appear to be considerably stricter and more detailed than regulations in other countries.

Islamic banking assets in Oman could account for up to a tenth of the total within a year of the lender’s starting services, Hilal Al Barwani, vice president of banking supervision at the central bank, said in October.

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