Crescent Wealth to launch Australia's 1st Islamic pension fund

SYDNEY, June 28 Thu Jun 28, 2012 9:37am IST

SYDNEY, June 28 (Reuters) - Australian fund manager Crescent Wealth plans to launch the country's first Islamic pension fund by December and allocate between 15 to 30 percent of it in property, its managing director said.

Talal Yassine said Crescent Wealth hopes to build the fund to between A$4 billion ($4.03 billion) and A$6 billion in five years.

Crescent Wealth, which was established last year, currently has less than A$5 million under management and advice but Yassine expects strong growth for his fund due to a lack of available Shariah-compliant financial products in Australia.

"We see significant, pent-up demand," Yassine said this week.

Yassine said Crescent plans to invest in property assets on Australia's east coast as well as in real estate investment trusts (REITS).

"Steady cash flows from property investments are attractive to a lot of investors especially in the Shariah space," he said. The fund will also allocate money to Australian and international equities and cash management products.

The fund would buy properties outright as it cannot utilise bank debt. Also, to be Shariah-compliant, more than 95 percent of tenants in buildings owned by the fund cannot be engaged in financial services or businesses involving tobacco or alcohol.

Australia has nearly 470,000 Muslims and the average Australian has around A$80,000 in pension funds, according to Yassine.

The pension fund will initially target domestic investors but will be open to international ones. Yassine said his fund could appeal to conservative non-Muslim investors

Islamic finance is a fast growing sector with global Islamic banking assets expected to reach $1.1 trillion this year, according to Ernst & Young.

Australian property has performed relatively well thanks to the country's resilient economy. At the end of 2011, office vacancies in Sydney were 8.7 percent, compared with 10.4 percent in New York, 5.8 percent in London and 13.9 percent in Frankfurt, according to Jones Lang LaSalle.

This month, Australian property drew investment from Malaysia. Starhill Real Estate Investment Trust said it would buy three hotels from the Marriott chain. ($1 = 0.9929 Australian dollars) (Editing by Richard Borsuk)