The cabinet on 5 September issued two licences for the country?s first Islamic banks. The first licence was issued to Al-Sham Bank, which has a capital of $100 million. Foreign shareholders have a 49 per cent stake in the new bank, including Al-Shall Consulting & Investment Company and Al-Dar Investment, both of Kuwait, Commercial Bank of Kuwait, Securities Group Kuwait and Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank. Private Syrian investors hold a 26 per cent stake. Al-Cham plans to launch a public placement in Damascus by the end of September. The placement, which will offer 25 per cent of the bank?s capital to local private investors, will be available for subscription at public and private banks. The second licence was issued to Syrian International Islamic Bank, which has a capital of $100 million and whose main shareholder is Qatar International Islamic Bank.

A third licence is expected to be issued imminently to Bahrain’s Al Baraka Banking Group (MEED 1:9:06).