Abu Dhabi : Al Hilal Bank yesterday said it had received a licence from the Kazakhstan Financial Markets Supervisory Authority to open the country's first Islamic bank under the name Al Hilal Islamic Bank.

"The new bank is fully owned by Al Hilal Bank with a capital of $36 million (Dh132.1 million). The headquarters is [to be] established in the city of Almaty with a branch in the city of Astana," Al Hilal Bank said in a statement.

The headquarters and the Astana branch will start operations on Thursday.

The bank also aims to open two new branches by the end of this year.

"Abu Dhabi companies like Mubadala Development Company and Aldar Properties are having a lot of tie-ups in Kazakhstan and we are looking at financing their projects," a spokeswoman for Al Hilal Bank told Gulf News.

The spokeswoman said Kazakhstan is predominantly a Muslim country and Islamic banking is fast gaining popularity.


The UAE and Kazakh-stan signed an agreement to launch Al Hilal Islamic Bank in Kazakhstan in June 2009, based on which Kazakhstan proceeded to issue the licence.

Mohammad J. Berro, chief executive officer of Al Hilal Bank, was in Kaz-akhstan and unavailable for comment, when Gulf News sought to reach him for comment on his mobile phone.

Atiq Al Mazroui, Al Hilal Bank chairman, said in the statement that the "bank will provide its services to citizens and institutions of the Republic of Kazakhstan and will support investments and projects of [the] UAE, the Gulf and Arabs in Kazakhstan.

"The bank will be an ideal alternative to many of the neighbouring countries which are now seeking Sharia-compliant banking products and services."

Big Vision

Al Hilal Bank is wholly owned by the Abu Dhabi Investment Council, which is an investment arm of the Government of Abu Dhabi. The bank has an authorised share capital of Dh4 billion and is authorised to operate as an Islamic trading bank.

Al Hilal Bank has 14 branches and a strategic expansion plan that aims to establish 20 branches throughout the UAE by the end of the 2010, in addition to the new bank in Kazakhstan and Al Hilal Takaful.