T’azur in numbers

$500m: T’azur’s authorised capital

2.5 per cent: T’azur’s share of motor insurance market in Bahrain

25.86 per cent: Unicorn Investment Bank’s stake in T’azur

80: Employees at T’azur’s Bahrain office

Source: T’azur

Unicorn Investment Bank net profit
  ($m)
2005 23.6
2006 30.1
2007 49.6
2008 35
2009 2.2
Source: Unicorn Investment Bank
T’azur shareholders
Shareholder Country
Unicorn Investment Bank  Bahrain
Emaar Al Bayader  Saudi Arabia
Al Imtiaz Investment  Kuwait
Al Aman Investment Company  Kuwait
The Securities House  Kuwait
The First Investor  Kuwait
General Retirement & Social Insurance Authority  Qatar
Source: T’azur

T’azur’s regional shareholder profile should stand it in good stead as it seeks out customers across the Gulf states. Although there are a handful of insurance firms that own branches or a equity stake in more than one GCC country, T’azur is the only Gulf-founded regional insurance operation.

Despite its small size and contribution volumes, T’azur has strategically positioned itself in Islamic insurance’s fastest-growing markets. Penetration rates for insurance generally remain low throughout the Middle East and North Africa region, but this is set to change through a mixture of growing awareness of financial risk and mandatory health legislation. 

The past couple of years have witnessed rapid growth in the GCC takaful market, with combined annual growth of Gulf takaful contributions between 2005-08 at 45 per cent. This far outpaced the growth seen in Southeast Asia of 28 per cent. Contributions in the GCC rose from $1.24bn to $3.7bn over the three years.

The company still has some big challenges to face. Like their conventional counterparts, takaful operators are having to cope with depressed capital levels, distressed asset values and difficult capital markets.

The marketplace has also become more competitive in the past three years, with more than 30 new takaful operators setting up in the GCC, with a total paid-up capital in excess of $2bn. Conventional insurers are also launching takaful windows or converting from conventional to takaful.

Arab Orient Insurance Company, Al-Buhaira Insurance Company, Abu Dhabi National Insurance Company, Qatar Insurance Company, Doha Insurance Company have either already launched or are in the process of launching takaful operations. Al-Khaleej Insurance, meanwhile, is in the process of converting itself into a takaful operator.

Nonetheless, the region still offers strong growth potential for the industry. Insurance penetration in the GCC has increased to 2.6 per cent, but is well below Malaysia’s 4.6 per cent penetration rate.

T’azur has made a strong early showing, and its pan-Gulf offering appears well placed. The company also retains the support of a credible investor base, with Unicorn mapping out a position as a diversified financial services group, within which insurance will play a key role.