| RABAT, Sept 21
RABAT, Sept 21 Moroccan state-owned bank Credit
Agricole (CAM) has won the backing of the finance ministry to
create an Islamic subsidiary with The Islamic Development Bank
(IDB), according to a government decree.
Morocco's central bank is in the final stages of launching
an Islamic finance industry. It has said it will start issuing
approvals for Islamic banks this year, with the aim of allowing
them to begin business in early 2017.
The North African kingdom adopted legislation allowing
Islamic banks and insurers in the domestic market, and the
central bank has set up a central sharia board with the
country's body of Islamic scholars to oversee the new industry.
The government decree allows CAM to create a subsidiary with
the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private
Sector (ICD), a subsidiary of the Saudi-based IDB, in which the
Moroccan bank will hold 51 percent stake.
The two partners will inject 200 million dirhams ($20.55
million) of capital into the offshoot before doubling it to 400
Islamic finance has been growing rapidly over the past
decade as it broadens its investor base across the Middle East,
North Africa and southeast Asia.
Sensitive of Islamist movements, Morocco has long rejected
the idea. But the country's financial market lacks liquidity and
foreign investors, and Islamic finance could attract both.
"Credit Agricole of Morocco aims to position this bank as a
major actor in the Moroccan participative banking sector, mainly
in the rural areas where a large part of the population does not
deal with conventional banks," the decree published in the
official bulletin said.
CAM, which is not linked to France's Credit Agricole, will
take advantage of its partner's expertise, it said.
Islamic banks are called participative banks under the
Foreign banks look likely to play an important role in
developing the market, though Moroccan authorities have guided
them towards partnering local banks rather than establishing
fully owned Islamic subsidiaries, bankers say.
The central bank said earlier this year it had received
seven requests to open Islamic banks and three to open windows
selling Islamic finance products. Two Gulf banks want to
establish fully-owned subsidiaries while four others are
partnering with local banks.
($1 = 9.7340 Moroccan dirham)
(Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Mark Potter)