Malaysia launches first Islamic property investment trust

Malaysia’s government-owned Pelaburan Hartanah Bumiputra on Monday launched a 317-billion-dollar investment trust in a bid to encourage its majority Muslim Malays to invest more in property.

The sharia-compliant Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) would allow Muslim Malays and indigenous groups — collectively known as “bumiputra” or “sons of the soil” — to increase their stake in real estate assets, said Prime Minister Najib Razak at the launch.

“I hope that this initiative… will receive the rightful support from the Malaysian bumiputras, which will in turn contribute to the overall balance of the country’s economy,” said the premier, who is also the company’s chairman.

Malaysia launches first Islamic property investment trust

Malaysia launches first Islamic property investment trust

Bumiputra investors can buy into the REIT with a minimum investment of 500 ringgit (159 US dollars) and can invest up to 200,000 ringgit in the trust, Najib

In June, he unveiled a development plan to spur growth and attract much-needed foreign investment as the country faces increasing competition from regional neighbours.

As part of the plan, Najib said the government would roll out programmes to enhance bumiputra capabilities.

A decades-old affirmative action policy that hands bumiputras privileges in housing, education and business has been criticised as uncompetitive and improperly benefiting the elites.

Malaysia has also been promoting Islamic finance — which follows religious laws prohibiting the payment and collection of interest — and has emerged relatively unscathed from the global financial crisis.