Britain’s Islamic Bank BLME Seeks Stronger Gulf Ties – CEO

The Bank of London and The Middle East plans to open an office in Dubai this year to help boost its capital markets.



The Bank of London and The Middle East (BLME), Britain’s largest standalone Islamic bank, is targeting 15 per cent growth in assets this year, with plans for a Dubai office to help boost its capital markets and wealth management offerings.

BLME plans to have a presence in the emirate’s offshore financial district later this year to attract regional business from countries such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia, chief executive Humphrey Percy told Reuters in an interview.

“Our Dubai office will help identify opportunities for club transactions, syndications and for our wealth management offering,” Percy said.

There are no plans for seeking a full branch license or a presence in other countries, he added.

BLME, which offers corporate banking and wealth management services, has carved a niche in middle-market transactions while benefiting from limited Gulf-based competitors and reduced activity from large British banking groups, he said.

The bank expects double-digit asset growth in coming years, with its balance sheet growing past 1 billion pounds ($1.6 billion) by December 2012, up from 807 million pounds in 2011.

“We target 15 per cent growth in assets this year, with ambitious targets from there onwards.”

The bank was founded in 2006 with the backing of Kuwaiti investors, including Boubyan Bank, which held 21.8 per cent of BLME shares as of December 2012.

The bank returned to profitbality in 2012, posting a net operating profit of 5.5 million pounds, after a 10.8 million loss in 2011.

Focus areas include healthcare, transportation and real estate, where BLME is further diversified across property development, investment holdings and residential financing.

“At this point in the cycle, real estate development is attractive and showing good results,” he added.

The bank holds over $100 million in assets under management across a range of Islamic funds, including a fixed income fund rated A by Moody’s.

In October, Australian fund manager Crescent Wealth appointed BLME as the investment sub-adviser to its Islamic cash fund.