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Wed 6 Feb 2008 01:42 PM

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Albaraka eyes expansion across Muslim world

Bahraini lender targets $60mn Indonesia acquisition, $40mn Pakistan share sale.

Bahrain Islamic lender Albaraka Banking Group said on Tuesday it was eyeing an Indonesian acquisition of about $60 million and a $40 million share sale in Pakistan to expand the industry's largest branch network.

Albaraka, which sold shares in a Turkish unit last year, is also on track to raise $100 million in an initial public offering (IPO) in Syria this year, Chief Executive Adnan Yousif told the newswire Reuters Islamic Finance Summit in Manama.

"Our next target is going to be the Asian market, both the Far East as well as India," he said.

Albaraka operates about 250 branches in 12 countries, from South Africa to Pakistan, which Yousif says gives his bank a wider reach than any other lender that complies with Islam's ban on interest.

The Indonesian acquisition, worth between $50 million and $60 million, could be announced this month, Yousif said.

"We don't take minority interests. Either it is a majority stake, or a minority stake with a management contract," he said.

The share sale in Pakistan could be completed this year. Albaraka hopes to sell 40% of a $100 million subsidiary it plans to create in Pakistan to take over operations in that country from its Bahrain-based business.

"It is our intention that we want to localise our branches in Pakistan," he said.

Pakistan and Indonesia are the world's most populous Muslim countries.

Albaraka's Syrian affiliate is on track to sell 36% of its shares to the public this year, Yousif said. Albaraka would keep 49% of the unit, he said.

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