Islamic banking: The GCC's 20 leading Islamic banks
The GCC’s Islamic banks performed strongly in 2012
With the combined assets of the GCC’s 20 largest Islamic banks growing by 16.4 per cent, while net profits were up 19 per cent. It points to a healthy market for sharia-compliant services in the Middle East and reflects a general improvement in the banking sector, driven by robust economic growth.
Saudi Arabia remains the most important market for Islamic banking, with the region’s two largest Islamic lenders – National Commercial Bank and Al-Rajhi Banking and Investment Corporation – based in the kingdom. Two new markets, however, are now emerging in the Middle East. With the launch of Bank Nizwa in January, Oman became the last GCC member to allow Islamic banking.
Further afield, Libya’s new government is enforcing a compulsory Islamisation of the banking sector. While in the long term this will lead to tremendous growth in the Middle East’s sharia banking market, in the short term it has led to paralysis, with Libyan lenders unable to offer many services to customers.
The change in governments elsewhere in North Africa has also raised the profile of Islamic banking, meaning the growth of the sector can be expected to continue in the years ahead.