Indonesia's Foreign Ministry and central bank are seeking investment from the Persian Gulf to meet its target of increasing Shariah-compliant banking assets by 35 percent this year.
The delegation may meet officials in the Middle East as soon as this month, with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait the most likely destinations, Mulya Siregar, the Jakarta-based director of Islamic services at Bank Indonesia, said in a May 31 interview.
Policy makers estimate the industry will grow to 135 trillion rupiah ($15.8 billion) in 2011, from 100.3 trillion rupiah at the end of last year.
Indonesia, which has the world's biggest Muslim population, wants to increase its Islamic assets that are about 10 percent the size of Malaysia's, according to central bank data. Albaraka Banking Group BSC,
Bahrain's biggest publicly traded bank, reiterated yesterday it was looking to make an acquisition in Indonesia and may invest $100 million in the country.
"We welcome foreign banks because not only will they inject the funds needed but also bring about expertise and be able to share knowledge on Islamic banking," Siregar said. "That's what we need, a sharing of skills and know-how so we can innovate more products needed by the market."
Doha-based Qatar National Bank SAQ, the country's biggest lender by assets, completed a 69.59 percent purchase of PT Bank Kesawan, a non-Shariah compliant bank in Indonesia, in January. Jeddah, Saudi Arabia-based Islamic Development Bank and Kuwait's Boubyan bank KSC are majority shareholders in PT Bank Muamalat Indonesia. Albaraka currently has a representative office in the country.
'Very Big Market'
"We are very keen to have a presence there," Adnan Ahmed Yousif, Manama-based chief executive officer of Albaraka Banking, said in an interview yesterday. "It's a very big market, especially in Islamic banking."
Indonesia passed a law in 2008 allowing the sale of Islamic bonds by the government to boost growth in the industry. In December last year, the central bank formed a 10-member joint committee with the nation's board of Shariah scholars and association of accountants to speed up the approval process for new products. A January proposal for tax cuts on Islamic investment accounts is awaiting parliamentary approval.
The government is increasing domestic sukuk sales and plans to issue its second dollar-denominated Islamic bond in the second half of the year.
Issuance of local-currency Shariah-compliant notes reached 17.94 trillion rupiah this year, approaching the 27.76 trillion rupiah in 2010, according to combined data from the debt management office and the Capital Market and Financial Institution Supervisory.
Global sales of sukuk, which pay asset returns to comply with Islam's ban on interest, rose 25 percent to $7.7 billion this year, from the same period in 2010, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
The difference between the average yield for sukuk and the London interbank offered rate narrowed three basis points, or 0.03 percentage point, to 244 on May 31, according to the HSBC/NASDAQ Dubai US Dollar Sukuk Index. Average yields dropped two basis points to 3.98 percent.
Shariah-compliant bonds gained 5.2 percent this year, according to the HSBC/NASDAQ Dubai US Dollar Sukuk Index. Debt in developing markets rose 4 percent, JPMorgan Chase and Co.'s EMBI Global Diversified Index shows.
Bank Indonesia may be trying to attract some of the funds that are going into Malaysia, the world's biggest sukuk market, Anton Gunawan, chief economist at Jakarta-based PT Bank Danamon, said in an interview May 31. Malaysia has 350.8 billion ringgit ($116 billion) of Islamic assets, according to central bank data.
"The potential for growth is huge; look at Indonesia's Muslim population, the growth in the economy and funds needed to develop the country's infrastructure,” said Gunawan. "Since the Islamic financial industry is relatively small, the room for growth is huge.”
Malaysia's dollar-denominated Islamic notes are outperforming those of Indonesia this year, returning 3.7 percent versus 1.8 percent. Indonesia's Islamic banking assets reached 104 trillion rupiah as of March 31, Siregar said May 31.
The yield on Indonesia's 8.8 percent sukuk due April 2014 fell 17 basis points this year to 2.96 percent, according to prices from the Royal Bank of Scotland Group. The rate on Malaysia's 3.928 percent note maturing in June 2015 dropped 66 basis points to 2.26 percent, according to RBS prices.
The Bloomberg-AIBIM-Bursa Malaysia Sovereign Shariah Index, which tracks the most-traded ringgit-denominated government securities, was little changed at 102.432 yesterday. The gauge has gained 1.3 percent this year.
Indonesia's pace of economic growth is also attractive, according to Manama, Bahrain-based Unicorn Investment Bank BSC.
Gross domestic product in Southeast Asia's biggest economy increased 6.1 percent in 2010, lagging behind the 7.2 percent pace in Malaysia. Growth may reach the upper end of Bank Indonesia's forecast range of 6 percent to 6.5 percent in 2011, the central bank said in a statement May 12.
"We're open to all sorts of investment opportunities in Indonesia given the right price,” Nida Raza, senior vice president of capital markets at Unicorn Investment, said in an interview from Manama May 31. "It's a new up-and-coming market and something of an attraction to us and other Islamic banks.”