KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian Industrial Development Finance Bhd (MIDF), the state-backed lender, is exploring a combination with the local unit of Saudi Arabia’s Al Rajhi Bank as it seeks to become a universal Islamic bank, sources said.
The potential merger would expand the scope of MIDF’s business and give it the right to take deposits, according to a source, who asked not to be identified because the information is private.
A deal could create an entity with combined net assets of about RM1.5bil depending on the structure of the transaction, the source said.
Deliberations by MIDF and Al Rajhi are at an early stage, and the firms would need approval from Bank Negara to formally start detailed negotiations, the source said.
There’s no certainty the discussions will lead to a transaction, according to the source.
If it decides to proceed, Al Rajhi would become at least the second foreign-backed Islamic bank to merge its Malaysian operations with a local financial institution.
Last year, mortgage financing provider Malaysia Building Society Bhd bought Asian Finance Bank Bhd from investors including Qatar Islamic Bank.
MIDF is controlled by state-owned asset manager Permodalan Nasional Bhd. A representative for MIDF declined to comment, while a spokesman for Al Rajhi didn’t respond to requests for comment.
A representative for the Saudi bank’s local arm, Al Rajhi Banking & Investment Corp (M) Bhd, declined to comment.
Malaysia, which pioneered Islamic finance the 1980s, aims to have 40% of its banking assets complying with the religion’s ban on interest by 2020. That’s up from an estimated 30% at the end of last year.
As part of its ambition to be a global centre for syariah-compliant financial services, Malaysia granted licences in 2004 to Kuwait Investment House, Al Rajhi and a group led by Qatar Islamic Bank allowing them to start Islamic banks in the country. — Bloomberg