Islamic Bank of Britain eyes new business

Updated 24 June 2014

Islamic Bank of Britain eyes new business

LONDON: Islamic Bank of Britain (IBB), the country’s only Shariah-compliant retail lender, plans to broaden its product range to win business both locally and across Europe, aided by the backing of its new Qatari shareholder.
IBB is developing its commercial property business to widen fee-based income as it aims to post a profit for the first time, newly-appointed CEO Sultan Choudhury said.
“The acquisition was a watershed moment for us, what it means is that we will be adjusting the direction of IBB. We will shift to a much stronger focus on commercial banking,” said Choudhury, who previously served as interim managing director.
The lender was acquired in January by Masraf Al-Rayan, Qatar’s largest Islamic bank by market value, which in February injected 75.8 million pounds ($129 million) into IBB to support its expansion plans.
Birmingham-based IBB has around 50,000 customers and 380 million pounds worth of retail deposits, but it has struggled to turn a profit since its inception in 2004.
That could soon change as its property finance business has doubled in size in the last year, which could allow IBB to expand later into Europe, said Choudhury, adding its retail operations would remain focused in the UK.
“Clearly that is the objective (to break even) no only in the medium term but also in the short term, and we are on course to do that.”
IBB also aims to buy some of the 200 million pounds of sukuk that the British government will issue this week, a much needed sterling-denominated liquidity tool for the bank.
Choudhury said he hoped demand would be such that the government would consider a future issuance, which could be facilitated through the use of a different sukuk structure.
Britain’s maiden sukuk will use an ijara structure, a Shariah-compliant sale and lease-back contract, allowing the rental income of three central government offices to underpin the transaction.
But a structure known as wakala, or agency agreement, could side-step the need to find unencumbered government assets, instead securitizing cash flows from roads or bridges, he said.


Tunisia’s tourism industry hit hard by coronavirus pandemic

Updated 27 September 2020

Tunisia’s tourism industry hit hard by coronavirus pandemic

  • Tourism accounts for about eight percent of Tunisia’s national output

DUBAI: Tunisia’s tourism industry has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, and is expected to decline further before 2020 ends.

Tourist activity has shrunk by 60 percent, the country’s tourism minister Habib Ammar said, and that figure could reach 70 percent to reflect the World Tourism Organization’s estimate for global tourism.

Tourism accounts for about eight percent of Tunisia’s national output and is the country’s second biggest employer, with around 400,000 people involved in the industry, after the agricultural sector.

The number of tourists rose 13.6 percent to 9.5 million in 2019, a record level, but Tunisia’s 10-million-visitor target for this year was sidelined when the coronavirus pandemic hit.

Despite this quandary, the government is considering various proposals to help stakeholders in the sector, state news agency TAP reported.

A gradual recovery of tourism activity will be recorded next year, both worldwide and nationwide, ensuring that the tourist units that will be preserved will have the capacity to accommodate tourists, it added.

Ammar also said that government remains committed to implement support plans such as the rescheduling of the settlement of bank and social security fund debts, and extending credits over longer repayment periods.

The tourism ministry is working with all intervening parties to implement this measure, which will make it possible to provide liquidity to the tourist units, and consequently, to guarantee a better future for the tourist activity, he added.

“This will also allow the ministry to develop a strategy and a clear plan for the sector in the medium and long term.”