British commodity trading and finance investment firm DVK Group is set to team up with a Qatari royal to launch a $500m Shariah-compliant investment fund targeted at women.

London-based is DVK Group set up DVK Saudi in 2012 with a member of the Saudi royal family as a non-executive chairman and plans to expand into the wider Gulf region this year and will target infrastructure projects in the Gulf, China, Russia and North Africa.

Deepak Kuntawala, the company’s founder and chairman, said it was in final talks with a Qatari royal to set up a Shariah investment fund which will be aimed solely at female business leaders in the Middle East. The fund will have a capital target of around $500m and will be launched after Ramadan, which ends in mid August.

“There has been a lot of discussion around developing an investment vehicle to enable women in the Islamic GCC regions to have the opportunity to invest and do something with their capital,” Kuntawala told Arabian Business in February.

“What we would like to do is harness this and secure the investment vehicle and be the lead platform that promotes it and seed the capital to get it off the ground. Fund size, it will be a minimum fund size of $100m, but the target to raise is $500m,” he added, while also revealing a Qatari princess was also part of the talks to become involved.

“It is still happening. I am due to fly out to Qatar and it is moving forward. We are putting the right board together, which will be a mix of people from the UK and Middle East. I think after Ramadan we will do a soft launch,” he confirmed at the weekend.

“Women want to get involved in business and get involved in careers and there are limited avenues and this is something that will be pioneering and it has a huge emerging market potential.

“As part of the strategy we will pilot it in regions and roll it out. First Qatar and then we will evaluate progress and eventually roll it out to the GCC and into Islamic regions like Malaysia and North Africa,” he said.

The Middle East has seen the emergence of wealthy women controlling their family’s fortunes. A 2011 report claimed women control 22 percent of the region’s assets, amounting to $700 billion. This is expected to increase eight percent in the next four years.

A Barclays Wealth survey also found Arab women are the world’s most confident group when it comes to investing in funds and they are now being targeted by investment firms like Merrill Lynch.

The $500m fund targeted at women is part of DVK’s regional expansion in the Middle East. “I think the Middle East has fantastic bankable opportunities and the GCC region is the hub of trading opportunities for the Middle East,” Kuntawala said.

“[Saudi Arabia] is the fifth overseas operation to be launched in one year. In 2012 we launched in Moscow, Kenya, Madrid [and] Malawi… The reason for launching in Saudi Arabia is driven by the amount of bankable projects in the area and the relationships, which DVK has managed to harness. Both of these factors will assist in our future growth and increase our global foot print in other strategic locations around the world.”

(Arabian Business)