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GFH plans to tap into emerging Asia markets

Bahrain-based Gulf Finance House is all set to increase its international profile, it was revealed yesterday. The bank will soon unveil a five-year plan entitled 'The Way Forward'.

The comprehensive plan is aimed at charting the way forward to establish a significant global presence and tapping into emerging markets in Asia, said GFH chairman Dr Fuad Al Omar.

"This strategic initiative comes close on the heels of robust financial growth in 2006 whereby GFH reinforced its standing as the region's leading Islamic investment bank," he noted.


"The bank posted a net profit of $212 million last year, a significant increase of 51 per cent compared to the figures posted in 2005.

"The bank's asset base was further strengthened and at the end of last year, its total assets stood at $1.5bn." GFH also delivered a return on equity averaging 41pc with a return on paid-up capital of nearly 100pc and a record total dividend of 75pc of par value - 63pc in cash and 12pc in shares.

Dr Al Omar said that the proposed new way forward was an endorsement on the success of the bank's business strategy and the commitment and diligence of the executive management.

Details of the proposed plan would be unveiled soon, he added.


GFH chief executive officer and board member Esam Janahi acknowledged the strong support and continued trust of the shareholders in the executive management. He emphasised that the key to the bank's success has been the net result of board of directors' proactive involvement in the bank's operations and the support from clients.

Mr Janahi added that GFH's development projects have made a visible and tangible impact on the economies of Bahrain, the UAE, Jordan, Qatar, Morocco and Saudi Arabia.

"It is therefore imperative that we now focus on expanding internationally to reach into both developing and developed markets in Asia and Europe," he added.

Mr Janahi said GFH was also exploring new ways of increasing its international profile.

It is looking at listing its shares in other GCC and international stock markets to provide shareholders access to more established liquid markets, to expand its shareholder base and to increase its visibility, he revealed.

The bank's shares are currently listed in Bahrain, Kuwait and Dubai.

GFH, as part of its regional expansion plans, obtained an in-principle regulatory approval for the Islamic Investment Bank of Qatar (previously known as Qatar Finance House), which should become operational by end of first quarter this year.

Energy City India project marked for the first time the bank's entry into one of Asia's fastest growing markets.

"We are already evaluating additional development project opportunities identified in Asia and Europe and we expect to make further announcements during the course of this year," said Mr Janahi.

"For us, this year will also be a significant year as two of our first landmark projects - Bahrain Financial Harbour and the Al Areen Development will officially open for business."

The bank's performance last year was also enhanced by a number of successful exits generating admirable short-to-medium term returns for investors which ranged from 10.5pc per annum for income-producing investments to more than 34pc per annum for private equity investments that were geared towards capital growth.

Successful exits included income-producing property portfolios in the UK and France.

"The way forward is now to leverage on the success of the past seven years and define a new synergy to capitalise and lay the foundation for the next five years," said Dr Al Omar.

"This will be a crucial phase which will see GFH mark its presence on the global map and lead the way in Islamic Investments."


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