Oasis Crescent opens London office

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Oasis Crescent, one of the world's largest Sharia asset managers, has opened an office in London and launched six funds, hoping to attract business from Britain's estimated two million Muslim population.

The South African firm, which manages £2.5 billion ($3.9 billion) in assets, is launching products - such as bond, equity and property funds - which adhere to Islamic principles including a ban on interest.

Achieving scale will be critical, with 70 per cent of the 800 Islamic funds globally falling short of $100 million in assets, financial services firm Ernst & Young has estimated.

Also, the size of the industry has only marginally changed in the past two years as fund managers struggle to gain traction and find adequate distribution channels.

The main competition to Oasis Crescent, which has had an office in Dublin since 2003, will be established by British financial services groups that offer some Sharia products.

"There is the potential that this could be a £10bn business on a 5-10 year view in the UK," Oasis Crescent founder and chief executive Adam Ebrahim said.

"This is a real growth story and could turn the UK into a hub for the Islamic space."

His targets are ambitious in a country which, whilst the largest Islamic finance centre in Europe, is home to less than $1.55 billion out of global Sharia fund assets of $58bn, according to E&Y.

These assets are mostly centred on the Middle East and Malaysia and represent only a fraction of the overall mutual fund industry, at $25 trillion, estimates Investment Company Institute.

Oasis sees potential for the British market to reach £120bn-£160bn over 10 years.

"As the market broadens and deepens with more institutions entering the Islamic investment space, this will assist in driving market stimulation," said Ebrahim. "Market penetration for conventional funds is very high in Britain, there is no reason Sharia penetration cannot also be as high."

Ebrahim said there was a "dormant" pool of money from Muslims in Britain who give away any interest they might earn from conventional bank accounts.

The income fund alone is aiming to grow to £1bn in three years, buoyed by sovereign sukuk from Qatar, South Africa and Turkey expected to launch later this year which will tap into growing appetite for Sharia-compliant assets as traditional investments are battered by the global financial crisis.

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