Tunisia’s El Wifack Leasing has applied to regulators to become the country’s third full-fledged Islamic bank, the company said in a statement.
El Wifack, which has its debt rated BB+ by Fitch Ratings, also said it planned to raise its capital by 5 million dinars (USD 3.1 million) to 25 million dinars, regardless of whether it received approval to operate as an Islamic bank.
Islamic finance was neglected before Tunisia’s 2011 revolution but the Islamist-led government is now promoting it.
Currently, sharia-compliant business accounts for just 2.5 percent of the Tunisian financial sector, according to a Thomson Reuters study this year, and there are only two fully operational Islamic banks, Zitouna Bank and the Tunisian arm of Bahrain’s Al Baraka Banking Group.
Last month, parliament approved a law that will allow the state to issue Islamic bonds,or sukuk.
The Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank (IDB) has offered Tunisia a financial guarantee to issue a sukuk worth $600 million, though the issue could be delayed to 2014 because of political instability and approaching elections.