Amanah Raya Berhad, Malaysia's state-owned trustee firm, is launching several investment initiatives in the Islamic finance space in the CIS region, including Russia and Kazakhstan, the company said in a statement.
In a recent visit to Malaysia, Rustam Minnikhanov, president of the Republic of Tatarstan in Russia, signed a memorandum of understanding with Amanah Raya and other parties towards cooperation in the issuence of a new sovereign sukuk product by the Russian state. A feasibility study is currently being conducted on sukuk origination in the state.
Tatarstan is one of the most active Russian republics that support Islamic finance and which has a close relationship with the Islamic Development Bank Group. The CIS region is a particulary important market for Islamic finance given that it has a combined Muslim population of over 150 million, although largely underserved by providers of Shariah products and services. Malaysia has one of the more developed Shariah economies in the world.
In Kazakhstan, Amanah Raya has also signed a partnership with local brokerage firm Fattah Finance and the Development Bank of Kazakhstan to conduct a feasibility study to create a second Islamic bank in the country. The deal states that a joint venture will be formed, where Amanah Raya will own 55 per cent, DBK 40 per cent, and Fattah Finance 5 per cent. Another project involving the launch of a Haj Fund is also under way.
Shariah-compliant financial products and services have been gaining a lot of attention with the growing Muslim population, with proponents arguing that adherence to Shariah principles has allowed this sector to escape much of the turmoil associated with the financial crisis . In Asia, Malaysia is currently pre-eminent as a centre for Shariah finance, although the likes of Singapore and Hong Kong are also seeking to earn that title.