World Economy

UAE Islamic Insurers Consider Mergers

UAE Islamic Insurers Consider Mergers UAE Islamic Insurers Consider Mergers

Several Islamic insurers in the United Arab Emirates are seeking guidance from the UAE Insurance Authority on the possibility of mergers and acquisitions in the sector, Ebrahim Al Zaabi, director-general of the authority, told Reuters.

Talks are at an early stage, he said on the sidelines of an Islamic insurance (takaful) event, without naming any of the companies. The authority regulates the insurance industry.

The comments signal that tough new regulations, combined with financial losses and stiff competition are pushing some of the providers in one of the Gulf’s largest takaful markets to consider consolidation.

Expectations of mergers in the region were raised last week when Bahrain Kuwait Insurance Co, the country’s largest lender, said it had raised its stake in rival Takaful International to 40.9 percent.

More than 50 conventional and Islamic insurers are estimated to operate in the UAE, a country of nine million people. In Germany, a country of more than 80 million people, there are less than 30 insurers.

Intense competition, combined with low penetration of the insurance market meant that no UAE takaful provider rated by Standard & Poor’s generated a fund surplus in 2013, according to the ratings agency.

In a move that could encourage consolidation, the UAE is one of the first markets in the Middle East to adopt new risk capital requirements being introduced in the European Union. In the same legislation announced late last year, it also told insurers to invest no more than 30 percent of their funds in either UAE equities or real estate.

 Islamic Finance Venture

Two Qatari banks and Chinese brokerage Southwest Securities signed a memorandum of understanding to establish a company handling Islamic finance deals in China, Qatar’s central bank governor Sheikh Abdullah bin Saud al-Thani said on Tuesday.

The banks are Qatar National Bank and Qatar International Islamic Bank. No further details of the venture were immediately available.