March 17 Kuwait's Noor Financial Investment Co
said the proposed sale of its stake in Karachi-based
Meezan Bank had been blocked by Pakistan's central
bank, which felt the prospective buyer had not met its standards
Ownership of Meezan Bank, Pakistan's first and largest
full-fledged Islamic lender, may be a sensitive issue for
regulators as they seek to develop Islamic banking in the
In a bourse filing on Sunday, Noor Financial said the
prospective buyer would continue to seek approval from the
regulator, with the offer set to expire on April 15.
Little is known about the prospective buyer, identified only
as Vision Financial Holdings Ltd in a separate filing by Meezan
Last December, Noor Financial said it planned to sell its
49.1 percent stake in Meezan for $190 million and expected to
book a $24 million profit.
Regulators are stepping up their efforts to develop Islamic
banking in Pakistan, aiming to double the industry's branch
network and reach a 15 percent share of the banking system by
As of December, Meezan Bank had a network of 351 branches
and held assets worth 329 billion rupees ($3.3 billion), a 20
percent increase from a year earlier.
There are five full-fledged Islamic banks and 14 Islamic
windows in Pakistan, with several looking to grow or spin off
their existing operations while new entrants are also expected.
Last month, Meezan Bank said it was in talks to buy the
Pakistan operations of HSBC Bank Middle East, a
10-branch business which the British lender has been trying to
sell for the past two years.
Pakistan's MCB Bank plans to take a 55 percent
stake in Islamic lender Burj Bank, alongside an additional
investment by the private sector arm of the Islamic Development
That deal, which still requires regulatory approval, would
involve the sale of Bahraini Bank Alkhair's 36.9 percent stake
in Burj Bank, which it classified as held-for-sale in June 2012.
($1 = 99.3200 Pakistani rupees)
(Reporting by Ahmed Hagagy in Kuwait and Bernardo Vizcaino in
Sydney; Editing by Andrew Torchia)