Malaysia – building a hub for Islamic Finance...
September 25, 2008

As nature nourishes Malaysia to be home of the world’s oldest rainforests, mangroves, beautiful islands, sandy beaches and spectacular mountains, the country has been in the last couple of decades opening up as a strong economy that attracted international attention and input.

Geography served Malaysia well. Situated on major world trade routes has increased Malaysia exposure to international trade. As a major Muslim country in South East Asia, and through its vigorous international economic ties, Malaysia has actively promoted Islamic Finance, assuming a central role that enhances a better understanding and adoption of its institutions. In the meantime, Islamic Finance has been moving from being a niche market, and increasingly becoming a mainstream component of the global banking system.

Becoming the hub in the region for Islamic Finance prompted the keen mind of investors to embark on a motivating project that would accommodate a bustling sector with life. A centre of excellence that brings under one roof all financial amenities. It is the Iskandar Finance District (IFD) that will be the new heart of Medini Iskandar Malaysia, to be located in southernmost tip of Malaysia adjacent to Singapore.

The integrated development area in the Iskandar Development Region is itself a premier economic growth region promoted by both national and local governments as “a strong and sustainable metropolis of international standing”. The total land area of Medini Iskandar is approximately 103.8 million square feet, while the IFD land area is approximately 15.3 million square feet and the targeted built up area is 42.1 million square feet.

For such massive undertaking and as the lead investors in Medini Iskandar, Global Capital, an investment entity representing prominent GCC and Malaysian Investors, made up of Mubadala consortium of investors that includes in addition to Mubadala, ALDAR properties PJSC from Abu Dhabi, Malaysia Ventures a subsidiary of Saraya Holdings and Unity Capital together in partnership with United World Infrastructure (UWI) and Iskandar Investment Berhad, undertook the mission.

Promising to be the hub of Islamic Finance in South East Asia, the IFD offers a world class planned district for financial institutions, banks and corporate headquarters, commercial office buildings, shopping centers, condominiums and serviced apartments, 5-stars hotels, conferencing and meeting facilities as well as community services. The site will be serviced by a dedicated mass transit system positioned within public open spaces and a pedestrian friendly urban environment.

Attracting investors from all over the world, particularly from the GCC, neighboring Singapore and around South-East Asia, the IFD enjoys strategic advantages. Located at the crossroads of the East-West trade routes in this highly serviced location by air, sea and land within Asia and the world is one of the main attractions, especially as it is coupled with tax incentives for financial services. Modern and hi-tech telecom and transportation networks and proximity to neighboring Singapore – only 20 minutes by car- and its midway between the rapidly growing economies of China and India gives IFD unbeatable benefits.

ALDAR Properties and Millennium Development International (MDI – a member of Saraya Holdings) announced that they will be leading this new multi-billion dollar project on behalf of a very strong consortium of investors lead by Mubadala of Abu Dhabi.

As client representatives, and as a premier real estate development, management and investment company in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, and since is inception in 2005, ALDAR has already announced projects worth more than $US 60 billion. ALDAR's developments are characterized by comprehensive planning, innovation and a commitment to excellence in urban design, town planning and sustainable development. One of ALDAR's prime responsibilities is ensuring a balance between the evolving needs of a modern city while conserving the environment. Furthermore, ALDAR is well positioned with financial resources, management caliber and government support to undertake large-scale, market-driven projects, appropriate to the Emirate's booming property industry.

Whereas on the other hand, as development managers, MDI core business is the provision of highly efficient and integrated development management services for third party developers. The Company, a member of Saraya Holdings, offers world class experience in large scale and mixed use projects, with special expertise in urban projects. MDI expertise is all-encompassing, whether for real estate projects, land development projects or a combination of the two. MDI’s headquarters are in Beirut – Lebanon with branch offices in Malaysia and Dubai.

And as Islamic finance continues to surge, and as conventional banks are scrambling to set up Islamic compliant operations, the need for one-stop-locations continues to flare. IFD is the foremost ideal solution that neighboring Asian countries and the world will seek.