PETALING JAYA: Permodalan Nasional Bhd (PNB), which holds a 48% equity interest in Malayan Banking Bhd (Maybank), is mooting for 20% of the banking group’s shares to be categorised as Islamic shares or i-shares. Speaking at a luncheon talk with media practitioners today, PNB chairman Tan Sri Abdul Wahid Omar said the move could see the formation of new syariah-compliant equity instruments worth RM20 billion, which will be three-fold bigger than the market value of BIMB Holdings Bhd. “It is not an option for Maybank Islamic or for that matter, any banking group like CIMB Islamic or RHB Islamic to carve out and list the Islamic segment separately. What if we can come out with a ring-fencing mechanism whereby the profits coming from the syariah activities is funnelled and used to pay a portion of the dividends for the i-shares?” Abdul Wahid said, in explaining the thinking behind its proposal. “If we remember those days we had Public Bank Local and Public Bank Foreign, so what if we can have Maybank Conventional and Maybank i-shares ..., whereby the dividends that we pay for the i-shares will come from syariah-compliant activities,” he added. Abdul Wahid said about 25% of Maybank’s profits are generated from syariah-compliant banking activities. “The fact that we control Maybank has enabled us to influence the bank to pursue an Islamic first agenda,” he said, adding that there is a need for more syariah-based financial services companies on Bursa Malaysia. Currently, BIMB Holdings Bhd and Syarikat Takaful Malaysia Bhd are the only two syariah financial services listed on Bursa Malaysia. Meanwhile, it is not known when the proposal will materialise as “work is still in progress” and its execution will be subject to approval of the relevant authorities. The matter however has been brought to the attention of the Syariah Council by PNB. Abdul Wahid said the initiative can be adopted by the Islamic segments of other banking groups such as CIMB Group Holdings Bhd and RHB Bank Bhd. He opined the concept can also be adopted by Bursa Malaysia, considering that 60% of market capitalisation of the stock exchange are syariah-compliant, which means a portion of their earnings are generated from syariah-compliant stocks. On another note, giving an update on the construction of, what is touted to be the tallest building in Malaysia, Merdeka PNB 118, Abdul Wahid said the building’s sub-structure works have been completed. “The challenge obviously is that there is a lot of commercial office space,” he said, adding that the tenancy take-up rate will depend on how the property is marketed. Nonetheless, Abdul Wahid said that PNB is confident there will be enough attraction and demand for the property. The RM3.4 billion tower, dubbed the fifth tallest building in the world, is being jointly developed by UEM Group Bhd and South Korea’s Samsung C&T.