Kazakhstan eyes second Islamic bank in 2011

* Considers 2nd Islamic bank in 2011

* Seeks UAE investment

ABU DHABI, Jan 16 (Reuters) - Kazakhstan has no immediate plans to issue new licences to conventional foreign banks but may approve a second Islamic bank this year, the country’s deputy prime minister said on Sunday.

“The second Islamic bank could be opened this year,” Aset Issekeshev told Reuters in Abu Dhabi. He declined to give details.

“After the crisis, it is not a simple issue. A stable banking system is important for us,” he said.

Malaysian trustee firm Amanah Raya Bhd expects to obtain licences to set up Kazakhstan’s second Islamic bank in the second quarter of 2011, a Malaysian newspaper said earlier this month. [ID:nL3E7C401U]

Seeking to diversify its financial industry after a banking crisis, energy-rich Kazakhstan is drawing on Arab and Malaysian investment in an effort to build an Islamic finance industry among its 13 million Muslims. [ID:nLDE67I09Q]

Abu Dhabi’s Al Hilal was first bank to respond when Kazakhstan passed new laws in 2009 to allow an Islamic finance industry. The bank opened its Kazakh offices in March 2010 with a capital of $36 million.

Issekeshev said demand for Islamic banking is growing “very fast” in Central Asian countries.

A delegation led by Issekeshev is in the United Arab Emirates to drum up investments in Kazakhstan which has attracted about $3 billion so far from UAE companies such as International Petroleum Investment Company, Mubadala, and Aldar.

“We are looking for investments in priority sectors - petrochemicals and electricity, chemicals, energy, tourism and agriculture. These have good potential,” Issekeshev said. (Reporting by Stanley Carvalho; editing by Firouz Sedarat)