BMA grants licenses to three foreign banks

Published January 11th, 2004 - 02:00 GMT

The Bahrain Monetary Agency (BMA) has granted three new bank licenses, while a fourth application has been approved, in principle, according to a press release.  


"An offshore banking unit (OBU) license has been granted to ICICI Bank, India's second largest bank,” said BMA’s Director of licensing and policy, Ahmed Abdul Aziz Al Bassam. “The BMA is also extending a special concession to ICICI Bank to offer its non-resident Indian (NRI) banking services in Bahrain as well as to the international market", he said.  


The BMA has also granted a license to Saudi Arabia's Saad Group of Companies to establish a Bahrain-incorporated OBU. Awal Bank is being set up with a paid up capital of $200 million. It will offer investment services to high net worth individuals, as well as other financial services.  


A license has also been granted for the establishment of the Islamic Unicorn Investment Bank. The bank, which will have an initial paid up capital of $120 million, is being set up by a group of investors from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, led by Kuwaiti banker Majed Al-Rifai, a founder of Bahrain-based First Islamic Investment Bank.  


Unicorn bank's activities will include financing, asset management, leasing and investment services for a client base in the Middle East region, Malaysia, UK and US. It will also offer financial advisory services, particularly in the area of privatization and issuance of Islamic bonds (sukuk).  


In addition, the BMA has approved, in principle, a restricted full commercial bank license for State Bank of India (SBI), which will enable the bank to offer NRI services and certain retail services, such as mutual funds and capital market services, in Bahrain. The new licence will be in addition to the bank's existing OBU, which was established in Bahrain 1978.  


With the new licenses, the total number of financial institutions regulated by the BMA will increase to 362, of which 186 are banks and banking-related institutions, 163 insurance and insurance-related firms and 13 capital market brokers. — ( 



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