La Banque nationale du Koweït (NBK) – troisième plus importante banque du Moyen-Orient – veut ouvrir, en partenariat avec un établissement d’Arabie saoudite, une banque privée islamique en Suisse. La NBK a déposé une demande auprès des autorités helvétiques, koweïtiennes et saoudiennes, a indiqué le directeur général de la banque, Ibrahim Dabdoub. La NBK Suisse est active dans la gestion de fortune pour des clients moyen-orientaux depuis 1984 et compte 32 collaborateurs. La NBK ne sera pas la seule banque arabe dans cette filière à Genève. La National Bank of Abu Dhabi et Abu Dhabi Investment House ont déjà pignon sur rue.
Swiss Islamic bank planned
The continued boom in bank products compliant with Islam has spurred plans to set up a new financial institution in Switzerland based on the tenets of the faith.
National Bank of Kuwait, one of the Middle East’s largest banks, is planning an Islamic private bank in Switzerland in partnership with a Saudi Arabian institution. The move comes as Islamic banking continues to see strong growth, in defiance of the credit crunch. Industry assets have grown by about 20 per cent to $500bn (€316bn) since last summer, according to Moody’s, the ratings agency.
NBK, the third-largest bank in the Arab world in terms of assets, had already applied for regulatory approval, Ibrahim Dabdoub, chief executive officer told the Financial Times. He declined to name the Saudi bank and said the deal would require approval from Swiss, Kuwaiti and Saudi authorities.
The Islamic institution would target high-net worth individuals from the Gulf region, which is currently awash with liquidity as it enjoys an unprecedented oil-fuelled boom.
« There is demand, (and) Switzerland is still a haven for people who want to keep money outside, » Mr Dabdoub said.
In recent years, Islamic finance – based on a strict interpretation of the Koran that bans the use of interest in transactions – has witnessed a huge expansion with products that are compliant with Islamic law, or sharia, becoming one of the fastest-growth areas of banking in the Arab world.
The booming oil price has driven the expansion of Islamic banking as Middle Eastern companies and consumers grow increasingly wealthy, providing profits and business for the world’s biggest Islamic banks.
The Gulf economies – which comprise Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates – have more than doubled in size since 2002 as oil prices have risen from $30 a barrel to more than $100.
Anouar Hassoune, credit analyst at Moody’s, said: « Oil is creating liquidity and wealth through profits for companies and salaries for individuals. This finds its way through to the banks, whether it is in sharia-compliant personal loans, or from investors wanting to buy sukuk bonds. »
Mr Dabdoub said he was hopeful the Islamic bank could move forward before the end of year.
Financial Time, By Andrew England in Kuwait and David Oakley in London 30/03/2008