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Sun 22 Jul 2007 12:05 AM

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Kuwait firm launches British Islamic bank

Investment firm Securities House is looking to tap demand from the UK's 1.8 million Muslims.

Kuwait's Securities House said on Saturday it wanted to start an Islamic bank in Britain to tap demand among the country's 1.8 million Muslims for investments that comply with their beliefs.

Securities House has set up a 200 million pound ($410 million) subsidiary in Britain that is applying for a licence to offer Islamic banking services, which it expects to get by next year, it said in a statement on the Kuwait bourse Web site.

Islamic banking complies with the religion's ban on lending on interest and offers Muslims investments that avoid prohibited activities such as dealing in pork, alcohol or gambling.

While demand in the Gulf Arab region has driven growth in Islamic banking in the last few years, more Muslims in the West are seeking banking and investment products that follow the rules of Islamic law.

Earlier this month, Boubyan Bank of Kuwait, an Islamic lender, said it had set up Bank of London and Middle East with other investors to offer such services.

Britain wants to turn London into a centre for Islamic finance and is studying the possibility of selling Islamic bonds, the UK government said in April.

Securities House, which manages financial and real estate investment funds, participates in syndicated loans that comply with Islamic rules.

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