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Morrocan bank ‘planning Islamic finance subsidiary with Gulf partner’

Out-Law News | 23 Oct 2014 | 5:00 pm | 1 min. read

Morocco’s Banque Marocaine du Commerce Exterieur (BMCE) is preparing to launch an Islamic subsidiary as a joint venture with “a major Islamic financial institution from the Middle East”, the bank's managing director has said.

Brahim Benjelloun-Touimi said in an interview with Reuters that the proposed subsidiary “will take our partner’s name”, but he declined to reveal the identity of the financial institution.

Benjelloun-Touimi said he would give details after a bill to regulate Islamic banks and sukuk issues has been approved by Morocco’s parliament, which is expected before the end of this year. BMCE’s move would then need to be endorsed by Morocco’s central bank.

According to the Arab international newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat, Morocco’s lower house of parliament backed the bill last June. The paper said currently only the country’s leading bank, Attijariwafa, which is part-owned by Moroccan King Mohammed VI’s investment company Societe Nationale d’Investissement, has an Islamic banking subsidiary in the kingdom.

Morocco’s minister for general affairs and governance Najib Boulif said earlier this year that the Islamic finance bill was designed to allow “a gradual introduction of Islamic banks to preserve the competitiveness of existing, conventional, banks”.

Boulif said: “Local banks will be allowed to take at least 51% of the capital and as much as 49% will go to foreign Islamic lenders. There is a very strong demand from abroad for such a project.”

“We thought it is best to start with one Islamic finance institution as we wish to assess closely the experience to ensure its success,” Boulif said. “If it proves to be a success within six months, then nothing should stop us from authorising more Islamic lenders.”

A report published last February by international ratings agency Standard and Poor’s said Islamic finance could be a “good fit” for infrastructure and project finance in North Africa, because banks lack the long-term funding that these projects require. “After tremendous global success over the past decade, with total assets estimated at about $1.4 trillion, Islamic finance could make inroads in North Africa,” the report said.

Islamic finance expert Amir Ahmad of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said at the time that the report “sets out the natural course of development of Islamic finance in the rest of the Islamic world”. “The demand for infrastructure in North Africa could be the ideal catalyst for this development and North Africa is likely to be an attractive market.”