A total 900,000 Muslims live in Italy and there are 70,000 companies set up by citizens coming from Arab countries. However, an ‘Islamic bank’, unlike in almost the entire Europe and the USA where the total sector’s assets stand at $500 billion, is far from appearing, despite the fact that investors are saying they are ready for it.
»We are ready to set 60% of the investment necessary to open in Italy a bank abiding by the principles of Sharia and we have contacted various Italian credit institutes which are interested. We have been working on this for some time: first we and other operators were hoping to open it by the end of this year but various problems have made us think that nothing will be made in 2008, » Hatem Abou Said, representative in Italy of Al-Baraka banking group of Bahrain, said at the conference ‘Islam and the Business World’ held in Milan.
»The process will be long and probably difficult although there is a rising interest in the sector. There are still integration problems between the two systems regarding regulations, supervision, the accounting criteria and balance, » Domenico Santececca, corporate department chief of the Italian banking association (ABI), said. As regards to the memorandum of understanding signed by ABI and the Union of Arab Banks in September 2007, which envisaged a rapid integration between the two worlds of credit, Santececca said that »the objective was not the development of Islamic finance in our country but the increase of mutual awareness ».
Intesa San Paolo has made a step in the opposite direction, deciding to turn its representation office in Dubai into an »operative branch ». »We have made the necessary requests to the local authorities and we expect to open the branch in the next months: it will assist both the Italian companies in the area and the activities of the major multinational companies in the Gulf area, » Giuseppe Cuccurese, manager of the international network for foreign markets of Intesa San Paolo’s corporate division, said on the sidelines of the conference in Milan.
Today ‘Islamic banking’ is present in 75 countries in the world, with some 300 different credit institutes and 100 insurance companies operative in the sector. The systems owns more than 350 private equity investment funds, global assets worth over $1 trillion, capitals managed by banks amounting to more than $300 billion which rise up to $500 billion the funds included. Various big international banks – such as UBS, HBSC, BNP Paribas – have opened for some time already an ‘Islamic section’, often with an operative seat in Dubai or Bahrain.
ANSAmed – April 22, 2008