KUALA LUMPUR - The Middle Eastern-owned Asian Finance Bank on Wednesday launched operations as Malaysia’s third foreign-owned Islamic bank and said it would use the country as a hub to expand regionally.
“Malaysia will be used as a hub for the bank to expand its operations in countries like Indonesia, Singapore and Brunei,” Asian Finance Bank (AFB) chief executive officer Faisal Alshowaikh said at the launch.
The newly-formed AFB is owned by a Middle Eastern consortium led by the Qatar Islamic Bank.
AFB was the last bank to set up shop in Malaysia after the country decided in 2004 to issue three Islamic banking licences to foreign players, the other two being Kuwait Finance House and Saudi Arabia’s Al Rajhi Bank.
Malaysia liberalised its Islamic banking sector three years ago to develop and promote the nation as an international financial centre for Muslim funds which follow principles of sharia or Islamic law.
Alshowaikh said AFB would provide Middle Eastern investors with investment opportunities in Malaysia and serve as a link between the two regions.
The bank, which focuses on corporate and investment banking, plans to establish funds to invest in properties in Malaysia.
“We would like to do at least one billion ringgit (288.83 million dollars) worth of real estate funds ... before the end of the year,” said Salah Mohammed Jaidah, an AFB director and chief executive of Qatar Islamic Bank.
AFB’s other shareholders include RUSD Investment Bank of Saudi Arabia and Global Investment House of Kuwait.
It plans to open up to seven branches in the country over the next five years