SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Societe Generale (>> SOCIETE GENERALE), France's third-largest bank by assets, will set up a 1 billion ringgit ($311.3 million) multi-currency sukuk (Islamic bonds) programme in Malaysia, the second conventional bank to do so in as many weeks.
Sukuk are growing in popularity as a funding choice for corporates and sovereigns across the globe, with Malaysia a preferred jurisdiction as the largest and most liquid Islamic capital market.
The programme would issue sukuk through a wholly owned subsidiary of SocGen, a structure featuring back-to-back sharia-compliant contracts that would provide investors legal recourse to the French lender, Kuala Lumpur-based credit ratings firm RAM Ratings said in a bourse filing on Thursday.
SocGen did not immediately respond to requests from Reuters for comment.
Reuters reported last year that SocGen was considering issuing $300 million worth of sukuk in Malaysia, with proceeds used to expand the bank's operations in the Middle East.
RAM Ratings gave the bond programme a AAA(s), or stable, rating but gave no details on the sukuk tenure, structure or when a first issuance might occur.
The announcement comes a week after Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, a unit of the Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (>> Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc), set up a $500 multi-currency sukuk programme in Malaysia.
Such new issuers are crucial in Malaysia's efforts to internationalise its Islamic capital markets, which remains dominated by domestic issuers. International firms represent less than 10 percent of total issuance.
An accommodative tax regime and strong demand from local investors have made Malaysia an attractive market for issuers from as far away as Kazakhstan, but big names could encourage even more firms to tap the market.
Malaysia's sukuk market saw a 26 percent slump in issuance last year due to uncertainty ahead of national elections and worries about the Federal Reserve's monetary policies, credit ratings agency Moody's said in a report.
Moody's estimates issuance will pick up by 10 percent over 2014 and 2015.
(Reporting by Al-Zaquan Amer Hamzah and Bernardo Vizcaino)