BNI Syariah seeks partnership
with foreign investors

BNI Syariah, a unit of the country’s fourth-largest lender, Bank Negara Indonesia (BNI), says it wants to partner with foreign investors to expand its sharia banking business.

BNI Syariah president director Rizqullah said in Jakarta on Wednesday that the bank was negotiating a partnership with the Islamic Development Bank’s private financing arm, the Islamic Corporation for Development (ICD).

He said that BNI Syariah had previously signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with ICD.

“But then the central bank’s new regulation eased things so Bank BNI could spin-off its sharia unit. Both parties changed their strategies and resumed talks,” Rizqullah told The Jakarta Post.

Bank BNI owns 99.99 percent of BNI Syariah shares, after it injected Rp 999.9 billion for the Rp 1 trillion (US$111 million) launch of BNI Syariah. BNI Life Insurance owns the remaining shares.

“We expect to cooperate with strategic investors to further strengthen capital structure,” he said.

“The bank has already has paid-up capital of Rp 1 trillion, but it still needs additional funds to meet its authorized capital of Rp 5 trillion,” Rizqullah said.

Bank BNI has planned to spin-off its sharia unit since 2003, but only realized the initiative in June.

BNI Syariah is Indonesia’s third largest sharia bank after Mandiri Syariah and Muamalat Syariah.

The country currently has 10 sharia banks which operate as separate business entities, while several other sharia banks are operated by conventional banks.

Bank Indonesia (BI) urged banks last year to spin-off sharia units to boost national sharia banking and spur economic growth.

The central bank shares the opinion of the Vatican, which previously said all banks should look at the rules of Islamic finance to restore client confidence during the global economic crisis.

“That just goes to show that sharia banking is accepted by the global community and therefore will continue to grow,” said Rizqullah.

The bank’s assets have increased by 13.5 percent over the last two months, from Rp 5.2 trillion in May before the spin-off to Rp 6 trillion year-to-date, equal to the broader growth of national bank assets of 13.9 percent in the first six months of this year.

Rizqullah said BNI Syariah assets would grow to Rp 6.7 trillion by year-end.

BNI Syariah has so far disbursed Rp 3.2 trillion in loans, which included Rp 1.2 trillion in housing loans.

“After the establishment of BNI Syariah, 70 percent of the bank’s loans were consumer loans, while the remaining 30 percent were productive loans,” Rizqullah said. (est)

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