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BankMuscat Gets Oman Islamic Banking License as Industry Grows

Jan. 14 (Bloomberg) -- BankMuscat SAOG, Oman’s biggest bank by assets, received a license to offer services complying with Shariah as it seeks to benefit from the industry’s growth prospects.

The bank will open seven so-called Islamic windows this year operating under the brand “Meethaq Islamic Banking,” according to a regulatory filing today.

The move comes after the Persian Gulf country approved licenses for two Islamic banks last year. Islamic banking assets in Oman may account for a 10th of the total within a year of the lenders starting services, Hilal Al Barwani, vice president of banking supervision at the central bank, said in October. National Bank of Oman SAOG said in June its shareholders approved starting Islamic banking.

Global Islamic financial assets may double to $3 trillion by 2015, according to Standard & Poor’s. BankMuscat shares have gained 6.1 percent this year. The shares dropped 11 percent in 2012.

A study released in 2011 by the U.K.-based Islamic Finance Advisory & Assurance Services found that of the 86 percent of Omanis who bank with non-Islamic lenders, 60 percent are “bothered” by using products based on interest. Islamic law bans the payment and receipt of interest as well as investments in businesses such as those involving tobacco, alcohol, pork and gambling.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sherine El Madany in Dubai at selmadany@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Alaa Shahine at asalha@bloomberg.net

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