A financial institution, which aims to be the world's biggest Islamic bank, was unveiled to the Press in Manama yesterday.
Al Masref, which has a subscribed share capital of 10 billion, aims to start with an operating capital of 5 billion which it is raising from private investors and an initial public offering later this year.
In an Arabic-only Press conference, Chairman of the Founding Committee, Khaled bin Ahmad Al Souweidi, said Bahrain was chosen for the launch of Al Masref, since Bahrain spearheads all Islamic banking activities, thanks to its financial and economic stability, presenting an ideal example of free trade that is attractive to financial capital, based on its pioneering and long and stable experience in the banking field, the flexibility and efficiency of its financial regulatory board, coupled with Bahrain's wise leadership in supporting all institutions.
He said there was a the current global trend for giant institutions in the light of their mergers, and the disadvantages of small financial institutions, in addition to the recent income generated by the sharp rise in oil prices.
And he argued that a subscribed capital of 10 billion may seem large compared to existing Islamic banks, but Al Masref's size would be modest if compared to traditional international banks, some with net worth in excess of 100 billion.
He emphasised that the founders' aim for Al Masref was to become a giant among international banks within a decade.
Al Masref plans to raise 60 per cent of its initial 5 billion through a public offering this year, though strong demand from private investors may mean a smaller IPO.
But he departed from the Press conference in the Ritz Carlton after the Arabic session and left his fellow founders, Nabeel Basil, Hamad Al Bader and Jawad Habib of consultants BDO Jawad Habib, to field questions from the English language media.
They said funding for the venture came from the backing of a number of high wealth individuals from the region.
Questioned as to the track record of the founders committee to run such a bank, Jawad Habib, in the absence of the Chairman, said they had long experience in Islamic banking.
And he argued that while they had not managed a venture of this size, that running a 100 million bank was no different from running a 100 billion bank. But requests for detailed profiles of the people behind the bank had failed to produce any documentation as we went to Press.
The creation of a mega Islamic bank that can raise the funds needed to meet demand for infrastructure development in the region is an extremely positive step, particularly as it is under the umbrella of the internationally respected Bahrain Monetary Authority. But its launch yesterday while promoting size, has already left questions open about transparency in terms of an unwillingness to provide details about management to the media.
And like Caesar's wife, the management must not only be above suspicion, as they doubtless are, but must be seen to be so.
Suggesting such questions are 'illogical' - as Mr Habib did yesterday - raises questions where answers would be more fruitful for success.