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Sun 6 Jan 2008 04:12 PM

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Noor unfazed by Abu Dhabi rival

Dubai Islamic lender welcomes launch of Abu Dhabi's Al Hilal Islamic Bank, chief executive Al Qemzi says.

Dubai's Noor Islamic Bank is not worried by the imminent launch of larger Abu Dhabi rival Al Hilal Islamic Bank, its chief executive Hussain Al Qemzi has told magazine Arabian Banking and Finance.

Noor officially launched on Sunday, saying it would focus on offering consumer and corporate banking services in the UAE and expand in Europe and Asia.

"Any addition of Islamic banks is a positive. I think any addition to the Islamic industry will be welcome, especially if it can add value to the industry," Al Qemzi told the magazine.

Noor is the UAE's largest Sharia-compliant lender and was established last year with a share capital of 3.16 billion dirhams ($860.3 million), but could be overtaken when Al Hilal Islamic is launched.

Al Hilal was established by the Abu Dhabi Investment Council in October 2007 with capital of 4 billion dirhams, but has yet to announced a launch date.

Al Qemzi also said Noor, the UAE's fifth Islamic bank, aimed to provide a level of service and product range that was not currently available from any Islamic financial institution.

Ahmed Al Janahi, deputy group CEO, said the bank had already developed 144 products, which have been approved by its Sharia board, without going into further detail.

Noor, 25% owned by the government of Dubai and 25% by the emirate's ruler, has opened 10 branches in the UAE, with six of them in Dubai.

Islamic banks controlled assets worth about $750 billion at the end of 2006, a figure which may rise above $1 trillion by 2010 as the industry expands, according to US management consultants McKinsey & Company.

Islam bans the receipt of interest, equating it with usury, and instead encourages banks to share more in the profit or loss of investors.

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