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Morocco eyes first Islamic bank launch in 2013

Rabat, March 26, 2012

Foreign Islamic banks will be allowed to take up to 49 percent of Morocco's first fully-fledged Islamic bank in 2013, as the country aims to become a regional financial hub, a minister said.

The government will submit to parliament a draft bill with a set of regulations for the introduction of Islamic finance products in the country within the next few weeks, General Affairs and Governance minister Najib Boulif told Reuters.

"We expect parliament to approve the bill before the end of this year. The current plan is to allow a gradual introduction of Islamic banks to preserve the competitiveness of existing(conventional) banks," said Boulif.

The draft bill will be added as a chapter to the country's Banking Law, providing a set of regulations on all Islamic finance products which specialised lenders will be able to offer from Morocco, Boulif said.

It is the first time that the Moroccan government, led since December by the moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) has detailed how it intends to develop Islamic finance in the country of 34 million.

Morocco does not allow fully-fledged Islamic institutions but started in 2010 allowing conventional banks to offer a limited set of Islamic financial services products although  customers complain they are subject to higher fees than conventional banking products.

So far only AttijariWafa, the country's biggest  bank which is indirectly controlled by a holding company owned by Morocco's ruling monarchy, offers four such services based on Murabaha financing but only for personal finance.

Immediately after parliament approves the law, Moroccan authorities will allow local banks and foreign Islamic banks to set up the first Morocco-based Islamic lender, Boulif said.

"Local banks will be allowed to take at least 51 percent of its capital and as much as 49 percent will go to foreign Islamic lenders. There is a very strong demand from abroad for such a project," said Boulif, himself a member of the PJD.

Traders in Casablanca cite Qatar's International Islamic Bank as one of the likeliest foreign Islamic banks to want a foothold in Morocco. - Reuters




Tags: Qatar | Morocco | Islamic bank | Lenders |

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