Islamic bank assets up sharply despite turmoil
Agence France-Presse . Singapore
Assets held by the world’s 100 biggest Islamic banks grew 66 per cent in 2008 from the previous year despite the financial turmoil that clobbered mainstream lenders, a report said Friday.
The top 100 Islamic banks held assets totalling 580 billion US dollars last year, up from 350 billion dollars in 2007, according to an annual report by The Asian Banker, a magazine for financial professionals.
In the same period, Asia’s 300 biggest banks saw their assets rise by a much slower 13.4 per cent, it said.
A financial storm sparked by a crisis in the US housing market swept across the world late last year. Its impact spilled over into the general economy and sent several countries into recession.
Prominent US investment bank Lehman Brothers collapsed into bankruptcy, while several other major Western banks suffered massive losses.
‘Despite the financial turmoil in late 2008 that crippled so many large Western institutions, Islamic banks have continued to grow in prominence and size,’ the magazine said in a press statement.
Emmanuel Daniel, the magazine’s president and chief executive, added: ‘Islamic finance has seen an incredible surge in popularity, based on stronger regulatory regimes and a better international understanding of its dynamics.’
Islamic banking fuses principles of sharia or Islamic law and modern banking. Islamic funds are banned from investing in companies associated with tobacco, alcohol or gambling.
Iranian banks were the biggest players in the global Islamic banking sector, holding seven out of the top 10 rankings and 12 out of the 100, but Saudi Arabian lenders were more profitable, the report said.
Saudi Arabia’s Al Rajhi Bank had the highest net income of 1.74 billion dollars, which is more than five times the earnings of Bank Tejarat, Iran’s most profitable lender.
Iranian banks also took up 40 per cent of the total assets of the top 100 banks, with the UAE, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait accounting for a combined 40 per cent. Smaller banks in 10 other markets accounted for the rest.
Outside of the Middle East, two Islamic banks in Britain made it to the top 100, according to the report.
Asian and North African banks ‘are still very small’ compared with the Middle Eastern players, it said, adding that ‘only Malaysian and Bangladeshi Islamic banks have a significant amount of assets’.
Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, had only two banks on the list, Pakistan had three, while regional financial centre Singapore and the Malay Islamic kingdom of Brunei had one each.