Qatar Islamic Bank (QIB) could use proceeds from sale of future Shariah-compliant bonds under its enhanced $3bn sukuk programme, for a potential acquisition, according to its chairman Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad al-Thani.

QIB, the biggest sharia-compliant lender in gas-rich Gulf state, got a nod from shareholders on 22 February to double its sukuk programme from previous $1.5bn and was mandated to issue QR3bn ($824m) to enhance core capital.

“We want to have it approved so at a later stage when we need it, probably for an acquisition, it is available and can be used,” Reuters news agency quoted Sheikh al-Thani as saying on the sidelines of shareholders meeting in Doha.

QIB chairman who would not comment on acquisition plans said the lender would prefer to issue sukuk locally but could sell to international investors if a local sale was not possible.

Banks in Qatar have been expanding beyond the borders of Qatar as there is limited scope of expansion in the overbanked domestic market where 18 banks serve just over two million people. Qatar National Bank in December 2015 said it had reached agreement to acquire Finansbank for $2.95bn, while Commercial Bank of Qatar bought a majority stake in Alternatifbank in 2013. QIB entered talks to acquire Turkey’s Bank Asya in March 2014, however, negotiations broke down in July of that year.

The QIB chairman said that lending growth for the bank will be “moderate” this year as the “market condition is not the same as we had last year and the year before”. The lender reported 46.1 per cent increase in loan growth at the end of 2015 to QR87.2, according to its financial results.