New Islamic bank set for launch

21 November 2003
A joint venture of Kuwait-based Gulf Finance House (GFH) and Qatar Islamic Bank (QIB) has completed a share issue for the establishment of a local Islamic bank, which is set to begin operations by the end of January. Called Arab Finance House (AFH), the bank will be the country's second and largest Islamic financial institution.

AFH will start with paid-up capital of $60 million, raised through a private placement. 'We had a very strong response to the offering from a mixture of individuals and institutions,' says a QIB official. 'Most took relatively small stakes but one Qatari individual invested $5 million.' GFH and QIB will remain majority shareholders with 15 per cent each. A capital increase to $100 million is planned in three years. Jameel al-Jaroudy has been appointed general manager.

Banque du Liban (central bank) has granted AFH both retail and investment banking licences. The only other Islamic bank operating in Lebanon is the Dallah Albaraka Group. AFH will be headquartered and have its main branch in Beirut, with two branches elsewhere in the country. 'Islamic banking is a major growth area and the Lebanese market offers very strong potential,' says the QIB official.

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