Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank plans North Africa expansion

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Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank plans to branch out in North Africa as the UAE-based lender seeks to reach a larger population.

The bank applied for licenses in Algeria and Libya and is considering new operations in Tunisia and Morocco, Bloomberg reported.

Chief executive Tirad Mahmoud said the bank is seeking to expand in nations with “a critical mass in terms of population and economic activity,” Bloomberg reported.

Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank has also moved into countries including Saudi Arabia, home to about 28 million people, Egypt, whose population exceeds 80 million, and Sudan, Mahmoud said.

The bank wants to be better placed to serve companies, such as Dubai-based mall operator Majid al-Futtaim, which operate across the Middle East and North Africa and relies on global lenders such as HSBC and Citigroup, Mahmoud added.

“Regional companies, when they choose their banks, choose those that are present in all their key markets and they give them regional mandates in working capital management, trade, and foreign-exchange flows,” he told Bloomberg.

Banks that comply with Islam’s ban on interest have become increasing popular after the revolts implemented Islamists into power in some North African countries, commentators said.

“The population in these countries want Islamic banking and the Arab Spring has increased its acceptance,” Geert Bossuyt, chief executive officer of Dubai-based consulting company Khalij Islamic, told Bloomberg.

“I’m not surprised either that the GCC banks are taking the lead in entering these countries because you need to have banks with experience and deep pockets.”

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