x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Financial crisis? Launch a bank

An investment bank is launched in Bahrain as the rest of the Gulf takes steps to shield their financial institutions.

As governments throughout the Gulf take steps to shield their local financial institutions from the fallout of the global credit shortage, a new investment bank was launched yesterday in Bahrain. At a reception attended by Rasheed al Marajf, governor of the central bank of Bahrain, senior officials announced the creation of First Investment Bank, a US$200 million (Dh735m) sharia compliant investment bank which plans to focus its investments in the Middle East and North Africa.

"Our investment strategy is developed around capital and fee based business lines and we aim to generate income through private equity, real estate, and capital markets," said Jamal Ali al Hazeem, head of the bank's senior management team. The bank's regional shareholders include First Investment Company, Boubyan Bank, Commercial Real Estate Company, Gulf Investment House, Tabayun Investment, Al Mawarid Finance, and Noor Capital.

Over the past two months, Gulf governments have taken a number of steps to ensure the stability of their local banks amid an increasingly difficult international financial climate, including insuring bank deposits and injecting cash into local banks. So far, Bahrain's central bank has cut interest rates and announced that it would make extra funds available to banks in need of emergency cash. First Investment Bank said the timing of its launch was meant to take advantage of rapid growth in Bahrain's Islamic finance sector. "The asset base of Islamic institutions in the Kingdom has increased 34.4 per cent over the past year, with Islamic banks reporting assets of up to US$16.4 billion in total as of last year; these figures are indicative of the phenomenal growth the industry is currently experiencing," the bank said in an announcement. tpantin@thenational.ae