Bank Islam Malaysia Berhad, Malaysia’s longest estbalished Islamic bank, is looking for merger and acquisition (M&A) opportunities in the South East Asian region, says managing director Zukri Samat.

“We are looking at any opportunity for mergers and acquisitions or taking a strategic stake in banks around the region,” he told reporters, after the official opening of Bank Islam’s 100th branch herehere Friday by Second Finance Ministeri Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah.

Zukri said Indonesia is one of the markets Bank Islam is eyeing, adding that with a population of 250 million, it offers enormous opportunities to grow Islamic banking.

He said the M&A initiative is a component of Bank Islam’s sustainable growth plan. The three-year plan is also aimed at increasing organic growth and strengthening the bank’s position on the domestic front.

“We are strengthening our position in the domestic market and at the same time looking for opportunities to grow beyond our shores,” he adde.

He said Bank Islam’s focus is on Islamic banks and there was no intention to acquire any conventional bank.

Asked if Bank Islam preferred a strategic or controlling stake, Zukri said: “Preferably, we would like a controlling stake. But, if there is a good proposition, we may consider a strategic stake.”

He also highlighted that Bank Islam was hoping to grow its customer deposits by expanding its network of branches. Bank Islam’s customer deposits stood at 25.2 billion ringgit (one USD = about 3.4 ringgit) as at June 30, 2009.

He stated that Bank Islam planned to move aggressively to add 15 new branches in strategic centres nationwide by the first half of next year and increase innovative offerings of products and services.

On the Dubai Group LLC, which owns a 30.5 per cent stake in Bank Islam and plans to sell its stake, for 1.0 billion Ringgit, he said this was a shareholder matter. Dubai Group had announced it was prepared to sell the stake in Bank Islam if there is a right offer.

Asked if any interested party was talking to Bank Islam regarding a possible purchase of the shares, Zukri said no one had sought to carry out due diligence on the matter.

source : NNN