The Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank (IDB) is considering setting up an Islamic bond issuance programme in Dubai, in what would be a boost to the emirate's ambitions to become a global centre for Islamic business.
It would be only the third such programme from the AAA-rated IDB, an international institution which has 56 member countries and promotes economic development in Muslim countries and communities. It would be the IDB's first sukuk programme in a Middle Eastern country.
While discussions are at an early stage, the IDB has seen growing demand for its sukuk and already plans to expand its main London-listed programme to $10 billion from the current $6.5 billion.
"The size has not yet been estimated and it may take time," Hasan Demirhan, director at the IDB's treasury department, said of the possible Dubai programme.
"The format will be similar to the existing MTN (Medium Term Note) format subject to the prevailing regulatory requirements."
In 2005, the IDB set up its maiden programme on the London Stock Exchange. It has raised close to $7 billion from 15 sukuk there, out of which $6.3 billion are currently outstanding.
It also has a 1 billion ringgit ($313 million) programme listed on Bursa Malaysia, which has raised a total of 700 million ringgit via three sukuk since 2008.
In January Dubai announced plans to become a global centre for Islamic business, and authorities last week outlined a broad strategy to help accomplish this, including developing the emirate as a centre for issuance and trading of sukuk.
London and Kuala Lumpur are currently the big global centres for sukuk, which are structured to obey Islamic principles such as a ban on interest payments.
Local firms such as Dubai Islamic Bank, Dubai Electricity and Water Authority and the Emirates airline have issued and listed sukuk in Dubai this year.
But IDB sukuk, which are highly sought after by Islamic investors because of their top credit rating, could offer a much-needed boost to trading volumes and - perhaps more crucially - encourage issuers from outside the emirate to choose Dubai as their listing venue.
Dubai Financial Market said in January it would issue detailed standards for the issuance and trading of sukuk. The standards were originally supposed to be issued by March but a consultation period was later extended to April and a final version has yet to be published.
"The sukuk standard is now in the final stages and will be officially launched within the next few months," said a DFM spokesman, without giving further details.
Support for sukuk issuance is part of a broad cooperation agreement signed in July between the IDB and the government of Dubai, which includes efforts to develop areas such as Islamic endowments and halal standards.
Dubai's other Islamic initiatives include a novel Islamic commodity trading platform and a push to modernise management of Islamic endowments.