IIb invests in a commercial bank in Azerbaijan

( albawaba ) - International Investment Bank ("IIB"), a globally-focused Islamic investment bank based in Bahrain, announced an investment in ""Amrahbank"" ("Bank"), one of the fastest growing banks in the republic of Azerbaijan. The transaction involves the acquisition by IIB of an equity stake of 49% in "Amrahbank" with the remaining 51% of the shares kept by the existing shareholders. IIB targets an annual Internal Rate of Return in excess of 21% to its investors.

IIB and "Amrahbank" will cooperate to convert the Bank into a full-fledged Islamic commercial bank that offers high quality Islamic financial products and services.

"Amrahbank" has been in operation since 1993 and has a network of 20 branches across the country with more than 250 employees. With the exclusion of the state-owned International Bank of Azerbaijan, "Amrahbank" is currently the most profitable bank in Azerbaijan in terms of Return on Equity.

The World Bank has reported that Azerbaijan is the world's fastest growing economy with average growth rate of more than 30% in the last two years. The country has achieved rapid growth for several consecutive years starting in 1996 mainly as a result of an increasingly more transparent and supportive business environment. The growth of the overall economy is expected to maintain its current pace, which, in turn, will benefit the financial services sector.

Commenting on the announcement, Mr.Aabed Al-Zeera, Chief Executive Officer of IIB, said "The main economic and demographic indicators point to a huge potential for growth in the financial services sector in Azerbaijan and, more specifically to an untapped demand for Islamic banking products and services. We believe this investment will benefit from the fast economic growth and the recent developments in the banking industry, where "Amrahbank" can seize the benefits of being a pioneer in the provision of Shari'ah compliant financial products and services in Azerbaijan."

"This is our first investment in Azerbaijan and we believe that the time is right for our investors to benefit from the growth of the economy and the financial services sector. However, it is not the first time that IIB takes Islamic banking into a new frontier. IIB is a founding shareholder of the European Islamic Investment Bank in the UK, the first Islamic investment bank licensed by the Financial Services Authority," concluded Mr. Al-Zeera.

"Amrahbank" offers a broad range of banking services to corporate and private clients including deposits, loans, money transfers, online banking, insurance services via Amrah Insurance and foreign exchange transactions.

Mr. Yunis Ildirimzade, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of "Amrahbank" said "We are proud of "Amrahbank's" past and current performance and with the support of IIB we intent on continuing on that growth path. IIB will be instrumental in our conversion to an Islamic bank and will play a central role in helping the Bank introduce new products and services and attract more investment from Gulf Cooperation Council ("GCC") countries. The recent efforts and initiatives of His Highness Mr. Ilham Aliyev, the President of Azerbaijan, to establish closer ties between Azerbaijan and GCC countries will create an environment conducive to attracting more foreign direct investment into Azerbaijan from the region."

"The extensive due diligence of "Amrahbank" undertaken by internationally-renowned consultants such as "Deloitte", "Ernst & Young" and "Baker & McKenzie" has renewed our confidence in our capabilities and we look forward to strengthening our Bank even further and growing nationally, regionally and internationally," added Mr. Ildirimzade.

"With the launch of this investment, we continue our strategy of diversifying IIB's product offerings and geographical coverage. This acquisition will also provide us with an investment platform through which we can channel more investments into other sectors, such as real estate, in Azerbaijan. "Amrahbank" is one of the first private banks of Azerbaijan with an excellent track record. This will give us the flexibility to explore innovative investment ideas with the Bank that can be of interest to our investor base" said Mohammed Hadi Mejai, Executive Director of Investment and Business Development. "The recent dynamic performance of the economy and new banking laws have had a very positive influence on the financial services sector which we believe offers investors the potential for superior returns."

This acquisition follows IIB's recent US$ 197 million offering in relation to the development of a commercial real estate project located within the Danet Abu Dhabi Master Development Project in Abu Dhabi, and its acquisition of a portfolio of three commercial buildings worth US$ 220 million in Germany. IIB also acquired earlier this year a 35% stake in UNIROL, a Bahrain based steel reinforcement bar manufacturer.

IIB has concluded a highly profitable exit from its first European real estate investment in an office building located at 33 Grosvenor Place in the prestigious Belgravia area of London. Sold just 18 months after its purchase by IIB and its partners for US$409 million, this property delivered a 98% return on investment for the IIB and its co-investors.

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