COLOMBO, July 29 Sri Lanka's Amana Bank on
Friday said it will next week start the operations of the island
nation's first sharia-compliant commercial bank with the opening
of 14 branches across the country.
The bank in a statement said it from Monday will offer a
range of products including trade and treasury services.
Over the last 10 years, Amana developed its insurance and
investment divisions as it prepared to become a bank.
Analysts estimate the island nation's Islamic finance
industry has the potential to become a $1.5 billion business,
given appropriate tax and other laws approved by Sri Lankan
government based on sharia, the Islamic legal system.
Muslims make up about 8 percent of Sri Lanka's 21 million
people, but Islamic financial products are also popular among
non-Muslims due to their interest-free nature.
Amana's insurance arm, Amana Takaful has already
been listed on the island nation's stock exchange .
In February, the bank's shareholding amounted to 3.4 billion
Sri Lanka rupees ($31.1 million).
Bank Islam Malaysia Berhad accounts for 20 percent of
Amana's strategic investments, while AB Bank, Bangladesh, has a
stake of 15 percent and Saudi Arabia'a Islamic Development Bank
has 10 percent.
($1 = 109.450 Sri Lanka Rupees)
(Reporting by Shihar Aneez; Editing by Bryson Hull)