(Adds details and background)
By Aziz El Yaakoubi
RABAT Jan 2 Morocco's Central Bank has approved
five requests to open Islamic banks in the country and allowed
three French banks to sell Islamic products, it said on Monday.
Islamic banks and insurers are setting up in Morocco after
new legislation allowed them into the market, and the central
bank has set up a central sharia board with a body of Islamic
scholars to oversee the new sector.
The North African country had long rejected Islamic banking
due to concerns about Islamist movements, but its financial
market lacks liquidity and foreign investors, both of which
Islamic finance could attract.
The central bank had said it received seven requests to open
The regulatory approvals concern the three major Moroccan
banks Attijariwafa Bank, BMCE of Africa and
Banque Centrale Populaire (BCP), and two smaller
lenders Credit Agricole (CAM) and Credit Immobilier et Hotelier
Morocco's biggest private bank Attijariwafa won the approval
while it is still in talks with a partner, the central bank
said. The bank's managing director, Ismail Douiri, told Reuters
in October that Attijariwafa was in advanced talks with the
Islamic Development Bank (IDB).
Douiri said IDB would be a technical partner with a minority
stake of between 10 and 20 percent.
Morocco's BCP has chosen Guidance Financial Group, BMCE has
picked Bahrain-based Al Baraka Banking Group, while CIH is
partnering with Qatar International Islamic Bank.
Moroccan state-owned bank Credit Agricole (CAM) has also won
regulatory approval to create a unit with the Islamic
Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD), a
subsidiary of the Saudi-based IDB.
The two parners have said they would inject 200 million
dirhams ($19.70 million) of capital into the offshoot and raise
that to 400 million dirhams later.
Subsidiaries of French banks Societe Generale,
Credit du Maroc and BMCI won permission to
sell Islamic products.
Islamic finance, based on principles that ban interest and
pure monetary speculation, has grown rapidly over the past
Morocco will issue its first ever Islamic bond (sukuk) in
the domestic market in the first half of 2017, the finance
minister said last month.
However, parliament has yet to to approve a bill regulating
Islamic insurance, or takaful.
($1 = 10.1540 Moroccan dirham)
(Reporting By Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)