Meezan Bank to triple Pakistan branches and tap Middle East market

Meezan Bank, Pakistan’s biggest Islamic lender, plans to open banks overseas and triple the number of branches at home after capturing half the market in the world’s second-most populous Muslim nation. « We have received requests to set up affiliate companies in Arab countries where we will keep a minority shareholding and manage the banks ». « We feel positive about Syria and others such as Egypt and Dubai are still in the initial thought process » its chief executive, Irfan Siddiqui, said.

Remittances from Pakistanis living overseas increased 23 percent to a record $4.45 billion in the 10 months that ended on April 30, central bank data show. Pakistani exports rose to a record high of $13.9 billion in the same period and imports climbed to a high of $25 billion, according to the Federal Bureau of Statistics.

Meezan, Pakistan‘s first Islamic bank, will spend as much as 1.5 billion rupees, or $25 million, to extend its network to 200 outlets in 50 cities by the end of 2009, Siddiqui said. Meezan has 64 branches in 21 cities across Pakistan. « The market for Islamic finance is ripe in the most unexpected places across the country, » said Siddiqui, who has been at the helm since the bank was licensed in 2002.

The Islamic finance industry in Pakistan may grow fivefold over the next five years to 15 percent of all banking assets, the central bank governor, Shamshad Akhtar, said in January. It is expected to be one of the fastest-growing segments in banking, she said. Six companies, including Dubai Islamic Bank and Emirates Global Islamic Bank, hold Islamic banking licenses and operate 108 branches, according to central bank data.

Meezan Bank is 30 percent owned by Pak Kuwait Investment, an alliance between the governments of Pakistan and Kuwait. Shamil Bank of Bahrain, Kuwait-based Noor Financial Investment and Islamic Development Bank respectively own 26 percent, 16 percent and 9 percent of the bank.

Source: Bloomberg News

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