Allfunds to expand fund platform in Asia, Middle East

Reuters

By Bernardo Vizcaino

June 25 (Reuters) - Madrid-based Allfunds Bank will expandits presence in Asia and the Middle East, widening the reach ofits intermediation platform while adding more Islamic mutualfunds to its product range, a company official said.

Allfunds, equally-owned by Banco Santander andIntesa Sanpaolo, plans to open an office in Singaporewhile growing business in countries such as Saudi Arabia, theGulf region's largest mutual fund market.

Its Middle East business has $3.3 billion in assets underintermediation with 10 percent coming from Islamic funds, saidregional manager David Pérez de Albeniz, who has been taskedwith the firm's expansion in Asia.

Allfunds Middle East business has grown at an annual rate of40 percent since 2009, the bulk coming from the United ArabEmirates, but the firm hopes to widen its geographical mix.

"We are continuously engaging with new fund managers in theregion, the next ones featured will be (Islamic funds) comingfrom Saudi Arabia and Qatar."

Allfunds has hired Yunus Selant, previously with SkandiaInternational, to replace Pérez de Albeniz who will relocate toSingapore.

In Asia the firm will initially focus on Singapore, withmedium term plans to add markets including Hong Kong, Taiwan,Malaysia and Indonesia, where Islamic funds would also feature.

"The need for Islamic funds in that part of the world couldbe even greater," said Pérez de Albeniz.

Islamic fund managers screen their portfolios according toreligious guidelines such as bans on tobacco, alcohol andgambling, in much the same way as socially responsible funds.

But unlike their ethical counterparts in Western markets,they still struggle with a lack of scale, partly due to thelimited number of distribution channels available to them.

Created in 2000, Allfunds has more than $170 billion inassets under administration with funds from 450 fund managers. (Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

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