HSBC cashes in after its Omani acquisition

HSBC is cashing in on its recent acquisition of Oman International Bank.

The recently merged HSBC Bank Oman reported a 4.3 per cent rise in second-quarter profit. Net income in the quarter ended June 31 stood at 7.2 million Omani rials, up from 6.9 million rials on the same period last year, the bank said.

The merger between HSBC and Oman International Bank - previously the country's fifth-largest lender - was completed last month.

HSBC had been Oman's sixth-largest lender before the merger.

It now holds a 51 per cent stake in the new entity and has agreed to inject US$97m into the unit as part of the deal.

The development comes as Oman prepares to open up its banking industry to Islamic finance following last month's initial public offering of Bank Nizwa, the country's first Sharia-compliant bank.

The share sale was 11 times over subscribed generating $1.77 billion in bids. Nizwa's stock rallied as much as 17 per cent on its first trading day amid strong investor appetite. The country, after resisting Islamic finance for many years and maintaining a stance that the banking industry should remain conventional, changed its policy last year in part to prevent outflows of money to Dubai and elsewhere in the Arabian Gulf.

The regulatory framework of Oman's emerging Islamic finance sector is currently in the works, with a completion date expected by the end of the year, Reuters reported last month.

The regulations will provide the groundwork on how conventional banks can establish Islamic units.

"Conventional lenders should benefit from operating Islamic windows as it will provide a means to diversify revenue and [assist] potential volume growth," said Kunaga Sundar, the head of research at Gulf Baader Capital Markets in Muscat.

The Islamic finance sector is valued at about $1 trillion globally, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers, which also forecasts the growth of Islamic finance at 15 to 20 per cent a year.

HSBC Bank Oman's shares were unchanged yesterday, trading at 0.23 rials.