Rapid growth in Sharia compliant finance

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CAIRO: The Arab world is experiencing a sudden explosion in vehicles for Islamic-compliant finance, which is rapidly becoming one of its most dynamic growth areas.

Analysts contrast the speed of the new developments in efforts to expand investment activity compliant with the tenets of the Koran with the fact that the world’s first Islamic bank was only founded in 1975, almost 1,400 years after the birth of the Prophet.

The latest development is the declaration by Dubai’s main stock market that it is restructuring itself in order to become the world’s first Islamic bourse. The move comes only days before the exchange launches a $435m initial public offering.

The move by the Dubai Financial Market (DFM) follows closely on the decision by the Kuwait-based Global Investment House ‘Global’ to launch the first dedicated Islamic index for the whole Gulf Cooperation Council region.

“This new index leverages the need for tracking the performance of Sharia-compliant stocks in line with the great interest the investors are showing in this market, said Global’s Executive Vice President, Omar M. El-Quqa. In the first instance, the index tracks a total of 66 companies listed on all GCC bourses whose profile meets the Islamic requirements.

According to Islamic principals, those excluded are companies who main business is pork, alcohol, arms, tobacco or interest.

In this last highly sensitive area, the newly converted DFM has made clear it will continue to list conventional banks, with fees from banking stocks paid into a separate pool.

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