Bahrain-based bank ABC said it will start to market Islamic financing products to European clients left hamstrung by the sustained gridlock in the credit markets.
The firm has until now only actively marketed mainstream products to clients of ABC International Bank Plc, the London-headquartered European division of Arab Banking Corporation.
“We are aiming to target the wholesale market, especially companies in Europe that are interested in seeking Islamic finance solutions, for example sukuk, leasing, and general corporate facilities,” said Faisal Alshowaikh, the newly- appointed head of Islamic financial services at ABC International.
Islamic finance in Europe has been touted as a beneficiary of the credit crunch as companies seek new ways to raise capital, but progress has been piecemeal, partly hampered by punitive tax structures.
Major individual deals have seen Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund buy into Barclays and Abu Dhabi state-linked firm Aabar acquire a stake in Daimler, but Europe is still to see its first corporate sukuk, or Islamic bond.
Wholesale banking is the biggest market for Islamic finance with over $420 billion in assets. Last month consultant Oliver Wyman estimated wholesale Islamic banking assets would reach $1 trillion by 2012.
Alshowaikh—responsible for expanding ABC’s Islamic finance operations in Europe—said the UK and France were the two countries offering most opportunities for Sharia services.