London can be platform for Brunei Islamic products

National 4 minutes, 26 seconds

BRUNEI companies can invest in London through Islamic products or they could invest practically anywhere in the world, using London as the place to raise money and create the right Syariah-compliant products, said the Director of International Business Development at London & Partners.

David Slater, in an interview with The Brunei Times on the sideline of the 9th World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) in London, added, “Similarly, UK companies interested in doing businesses in Brunei can say (that) we can raise money in a Syariah-compliant way to aid our business going to Brunei. There is a good potential two-way relationship.”

London & Partners is one of the forum cooperating agencies.

Brunei's business presence in the UK, apart from property-related and other investments, is Brunei Wafirah UK Ltd, a subsidiary of Brunei Wafirah Holdings Sdn Bhd, the owner of the Brunei Halal Brand.

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam attended the forum's opening ceremony on Tuesday and even though the monarch did not participate in any of the discussion, in his titah he called for the need to deepen collaboration between Muslims and the West in an effort to remove fear and suspicions especially if the two want to bridge relationship through business.

British Prime Minister David Cameron on Tuesday (Oct 29) announced a number of efforts to attract new investments, in his bid to make London as the first Islamic finance centre in the Western world.

Among those were the first ever sovereign sukuk — an Islamic bond — to be issued by a government in the non-Muslim world and the creation of a new indices on the London Stock Exchange which makes it easier to identify Syariah-compliant investments.

The World Islamic Economic Forum brings together government leaders and business people to discuss business partnerships in the Muslim World. Slater said Islamic finance as a global business is worth about US$1.2 trillion and is growing at 20 per cent per year.

“In the UK, we have five per cent of that global business and Europe as a whole has eight per cent. So we are the biggest player in Europe. The US is only one per cent, so in terms of Western European countries or the West, the UK is already the biggest player,” he said.

Slated added they want to make sure that “Islamic finance is seen as a mainstream asset class. It is not a something add-on to what we already do. In order to help that process, (our government) will issue our own sovereign bond, to give confidence to the market.”

“As a nation we already have the ability to deal with Islamic financial products, we have a track record of using them to create opportunities, wealth and development in our city. We are stating that we want to play alongside Kuala Lumpur and Dubai and any other global city as one of the places where we can do Islamic products,” he said.

The response to the three-day forum was better than they expected. Slater said, “When we first started to talk to the WIEF Foundation about bringing the forum to London, Tun Musa Hitam (chairman of the World Islamic Economic Forum Foundation) said to us that it was important that WIEF should be a global conference and it had to be on a world stage. So bringing it out of a Muslim country to global city like London was a great step for him.”

“We want to make sure that the people understand that this is East meet West for mutual benefits. But at the time, I do not think either of us, Tun Musa or the Mayor of London (Boris Johnson), thought for one moment that we would attract 2,700 delegates from 128 countries. We thought it would be around 1.500 or so,” he said.

Tun Musa during the forum's opening ceremony said the 9th WIEF set three new records — the first to be held outside the Muslim world, the highest number of participation with 2,700 attendees from 128 countries, the highest number ever since its first forum.

“We have been absolutely delighted by the size of the conference that so many delegates have come from all over the Muslim world and we are talking about common issues, healthcare, education, technology, smart cities, finance, youth and role of women,” Slater said.

“From that perspective, I think the conference has focus and shed a light on everything that is common between us, and not what the differences are,” he said.

Slater echoed the leaders’ call to constructive relations and solidarity between these two great cultures — Islamic and Western.

Slater emphasised that business and investments should not be based on religion, referring to the current political/religious turmoil affecting both Muslim and non-Muslim countries.

“It has to be a free flowing and free market. Let's make sure that everybody understand that we want a very strong and mutually beneficial relationship with the Muslim world and the vast majority of the Muslim world wants exactly the same relationship with London,” he said.

He added, “Let’s not be put off by extremism here or anywhere else. Let’s be clear that it is much better to talk about what is great about our relationship with great Muslim cities and countries and not get sidetrack and let people with extremist views hinder what otherwise is a terrific relationship.”

The Brunei Times