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Major Takaful Player Joins DIFC

by Lorys Charalambous,, Cyprus

13 December 2007

The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) has welcomed Tokio Marine Group to its growing portfolio of financial and management service providers.

A leading Takaful insurance services provider with operations in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, Tokio Marine Group will expand across the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region through its new company, Tokio Marine Middle East Limited (TMME). Registered with and located within the DIFC, Tokio Marine Middle East Limited is regulated by the Dubai Financial Services Authority as an insurance management services provider.

Takaful is a form of insurance that conforms to the principles of Islamic finance. Using the Shariah principle of Ta'awun, or mutual responsibility, the takaful industry rests on the same foundations of profit and risk sharing as other areas of Islamic finance. At a basic level, it provides mutual protection of assets and property in the event of loss or damage, based upon joint risk sharing.

Nasser Al Shaali, CEO of the DIFC Authority, commented: "Takaful services are increasingly sought after in today's dynamic business environment and are of particular relevance to the region. DIFC is further consolidating its leading role in Islamic Finance with the addition of Tokio Marine Group, through its new company. The inception of a company dedicated to Takaful services also illustrates the DIFC's increasing focus on socially responsible financial services."

Tokio Marine entered the Takaful industry in 2001 through its conventional financial operations in Saudi Arabia, and subsequently became the first foreign company in the Kingdom to introduce property and casualty Takaful products. Recognising the potential in opening markets to new licenses, Tokio Marine Group established Tokio Marine Retakaful company, based in Singapore, in September 2004. In 2006, the Tokio Marine Group took a 35% stake in the new joint venture with Hong Leong of Malaysia for US$29m, to form Hong Leong Tokio Marine Takaful Berhad.

"We are pleased to establish this company with the objective of seeking new business opportunities and expanding the Group's existing business in the Middle East and North African markets," announced Hisato Hamada, President and CEO, Tokio Marine Group. He continued: "We are committed to providing products and services that are fully aligned with our customers' cultural and social values."

Hamada added: "Tokio Marine with its long history of a local presence believes that with its diverse portfolio, backed by conventional and Takaful expertise, is well placed to take advantage of opportunities that open up in the MENA region. The Group has set its goals to establish or acquire a number of operations in the MENA region to better serve the indigenous insurance needs. TMME will help the Group to achieve these goals."

TMME will be a technical and management services provider, instituting products, systems and procedures for the existing and new ventures fully or partially owned by the Group.

"Tokio Marine Group is committed to finding socially responsible ways of bringing insurance solutions to its customers. These solutions are in complete harmony with its environment and culture," continued Ajmal Bhatty, Chief Operating Officer and SEO of the Company. "Takaful may be a system that has its roots in the Islamic Shariah, but because of its ethical nature it has proven to be of benefit for everyone. Not only does a Takaful customer benefit from the surplus of the business when it does well, but he also gains the satisfaction of knowing that his contributions and premiums are only channeled towards ventures that are socially and environmentally responsible."

"The biggest challenge and potential for the region lies in the development of Family Takaful which is life insurance in compliance with Shariah principles. The cultural mind-set against conventional life insurance has been one of the main reasons why development of life insurance has been slow. With strong professional approach and innovative takaful solutions, the regional markets should be able to realize the excellent potential that exists in Family Takaful with its related savings and pensions products," he concluded.

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