France’s Banque Nationale de Paris (BNP) has launched an Islamic global equity fund which aims to raise about $30 million in the next three to four months from investors in the Gulf and Southeast Asia. The fund is the latest in a stream of new Islamic equity investment vehicles to be launched in the last year.

Called Caravan, the open-end fund will be registered in the Cayman Islands. Subscription opened on 30 September and BNP is currently taking a roadshow to potential investors in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, according to head of business development for investment management services, Jocelyne Ravenne-Fraysse.

Outside the Gulf, BNP expects interest mainly from Malaysia and Indonesia. BNP has been active in other areas of Islamic finance but this is the first time it has set up an Islamic investment entity. The fund’s Sharia adviser will be the Jeddah-based National Management Consulting Centre.

National Commercial Bank, a leading Saudi bank which runs its own Islamic investment funds, will act as agent for the Caravan fund’s shareholders.

There is also a sub-adviser for the fund’s portfolio, Boston-based Wellington Management Company, which has managed Islamic equity investments since 1994.

The fund will not invest in companies associated with arms making, alcohol, gambling or other activities forbidden by Islam.

Companies in the fund’s portfolio cannot have a debt to equity ratio of more than 30 per cent or interest income of more than 15 per cent of total earnings.