UK Islamic bank BLME eyes LSE listing in 2010

* Says wealth management a core focus in 2009

* 2008 profits beat firm’s expectations

LONDON, April 6 (Reuters) - UK-based Islamic Bank of London and the Middle East (BLME) will focus on expanding its fledgling wealth management business this year as it works towards a hoped-for London Stock Exchange listing in 2010.

The bank, which complies with Islamic principles on lending, expected continued demand for Islamic Finance in 2009 but would develop “at a lower growth rate than in 2008,” Chief Executive Humphrey Percy said on Monday.

The bank, which was founded in 2006, reported a rise in operating profits to 5.8 million pounds ($8.65 million) last year on strength in its markets, corporate banking and asset management divisions.

BLME said operating profits were ahead of management expectations. A spokeswoman declined to elaborate.

The CEO said in the bank’s annual report that it was adequately capitalised following a 75 million pounds fundraising during 2008.

It was now preparing for an LSE listing in 2010, Percy said in a statement, after it considered and shelved plans to enter London’s junior stock exchange, AIM, in 2009.

The bank’s spokeswoman said wealth management, which the bank has recently started to offer, would be a “core focus” this year.

“As we grow our asset management division, BLME will both undertake the fund management role itself and engage the services of specialist third party fund managers,” Percy added.

($1=.6702 Pound)

Reporting by Cecilia Valente; editing by John Stonestreet)