Islamic financing could be used for infrastructure projects in the United Kingdom, according to the Lord Mayor of London, Fiona Woolf.
"We are in a period of economic growth but more importantly a period of some new opportunities for us. We have an enormous need for investment in infrastructure and there is a lot of talk about using Islamic financing for infrastructure projects," said Ms Woolf, who is in the UAE this week to promote trade ties and British businesses.
She said there were 35 infrastructure projects in the pipeline across the UK, including in energy and transport.
The UK treasury is already working on a sukuk to be launched in September to raise £200 million (Dh1.22 billion), which could make it the first government outside of the Islamic world to raise funds this way (Luxembourg is also mounting an Islamic financing effort).
Twenty-five banks in the UK offer Islamic banking, with the government keen to promote London as a centre for the US$2 trillion Islamic finance industry.
Ms Woolf said that there was “immense scope for growth and innovation” in London’s Islamic banking sector, though it is still a small part of the city’s overall financial sector.
The UK is also keen to attract investment from the UAE, particularly in the areas of urban development, environmental services and renewable energy. Already Dubai’s DP World has invested £1.5bn in the London Gateway Port and Abu Dhabi’s Masdar has invested £500m in the London Array, an offshore wind farm.
One of the fastest-growing areas of investment, however, is in the technology, media and telecommunications industry.
“We are looking at the small and medium-sized businesses, particularly in the high-tech area and working with universities that are coming out with research and development programmes and we are finding new forms of finance and new ways of helping them export,” said Ms Woolf. “The technology that these people develop can be sold all over the world and can start new investments.”
Ms Woolf is the second woman to hold the office of Lord Mayor of London in its 825-year history. (The first was Mary Donaldson, who held the office in 1983.)
The lord mayor represents the City, also known as London’s financial district.