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Islamic finance assets projected to reach $3.8tr by 2022

According to the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD), Islamic finance assets are projected to reach $3.8 trillion by 2022 from $2.2 trillion in 2016. In cooperation with Thomson Reuters, the ICD released its new report on Islamic Finance. In the report Bahrain features prominently among all GCC countries and second globally behind Malaysia. Bahrain is at the forefront of providing access to Islamic finance in addition to promoting it via education and financial literacy initiatives. The Central Bank of Bahrain recently released a new Shariah governance module which is impacting the Shariah compliance and governance standards of Islamic banks. Also, Bahrain continues to invest in technology and capitalize on the development of the ICT sector.

Islamic #FinTech in 2018

2018 may prove to be a pivotal year for Islamic finance stakeholders and their approach to FinTech. Potential areas where FinTech is likely to have an impact on Islamic finance are remittances, takaful, investment advisory services and online trading. Commentators see FinTech as an opportunity to provide genuine Islamic-compliant alternatives to the traditional banking model. In December 2017, KFH Bahrain, Al Baraka Banking Group and Bahrain Development Bank announced the establishment of a company dedicated to research and development in the Islamic-compliant FinTech sector. Operated by the Bahraini bank consortium, ALGO Bahrain will open in February 2018 and will be the largest dedicated FinTech hub in the Middle East and Africa. Bahrain FinTech Bay is operated by Singapore-based fintech incubator FinTech Consortium.

Digital currencies remain tricky subject for Islamic finance

The role and status of cryptocurrencies remains a hotly disputed issue in the Muslim world. While entrepreneurs and Islamic finance startups openly encourage the use of digital currencies, others keep thinking otherwise. The latest escalation in the dispute was a fatwa against all cryptocurrencies issued by the Egyptian Grand Mufti Shawki Allam. He said that since trading of cryptocurrencies was similar to gambling, it was forbidden in Islam. His fatwa came after Bitcoin in mid-December soared to almost $20,000 per token but then lost one third of its value in just 24 hours. In addition, Egypt’s legitimate bodies also do not consider trading a virtual currency to be acceptable. However, nations that play a substantial role in Islamic finance, namely Malaysia, Indonesia, UAE, Turkey and even Saudi Arabia have no problem to accept cryptocurrencies. In Dubai, OneGram was the first company to set up the Shariah-compliant cryptocurrency called OneGramCoin. There are already two real estate developers in Dubai, which accept payments in digital currencies.

Gatehouse Bank expands residential team with appointments from Al Rayan

London-based Gatehouse Bank has expanded its residential home finance team with two new appointments. Umar Ali joins Gatehouse Bank as Head of Home Finance after five years at Al Rayan Bank. Junaid Sarwar has been appointed as a London-based Business Development Manager. Junaid also joins after six years at Al Rayan Bank and has held previous roles at Santander and Barclays Bank. Paul Stockwell, Gatehouse Bank’s CCO, said the bank managed to build a strong team of experienced specialists as it expands into the residential home finance sector.

Gatehouse Bank partners with Blueprint Real Estate Company

London based Gatehouse Bank has partnered with Kuwait based Blueprint Real Estate Company to offer finance to expats looking to purchase property in the UK. Gatehouse Bank says this forms part of the strategy of its move into the home finance business. At the same time, Gatehouse Bank announced an expansion to its residential home finance team. Umar Ali has been appointed as head of home finance, while Junaid Sarwar has joined as a business development manager.

Dubai Islamic Bank weighs capital-raising in 2018 -CEO

Dubai Islamic Bank (DIB) plans to raise capital in 2018 to help support an expected double-digit rise in loan growth. DIB's CEO Adnan Chilwan said the bank was considering options including a rights issue and an issue of Islamic bonds. The final decision will be subject to regulatory approvals. The bank is now targeting loan growth of between 10 and 15% in 2018, the same target it set for 2017.

Exclusive: Weeks of talks fail to resolve Dana Gas #sukuk dispute - sources

Weeks of talks between UAE energy firm Dana Gas and some local holders of a disputed $700 million sukuk have failed to reach an agreement. Last year, Dana refused to redeem $700 million of maturing Islamic bonds, arguing they were no longer valid under United Arab Emirates (UAE) law because of changes in Islamic financial practice. The move shocked the global Islamic finance industry, as some investors worried it could set a precedent for other sukuk issuers. Dana proposed to swap its sukuk, but creditors rejected the proposal, saying the terms were unfavorable. The case moved to UAE and British courts. Legal proceedings in both countries are continuing, but in November a British court ruled in favor of Dana’s creditors.

Khazanah Launches #Sukuk Exchangeable into Citic Shares

#Malaysia's Khazanah Nasional pushed out an exchangeable sukuk to raise US$ 309.4 million to US$ 320.8 million. The zero-coupon sukuk are exchangeable into CITIC Securities Co Ltd’s Hong-Kong listed H-shares. They have a tenor of five years and an investor put option after three years. The sukuk will be listed on the Singapore Exchange Securities Trading Limited, Labuan International Financial Exchange and Bursa Malaysia. CIMB and J.P. Morgan are the joint bookrunners and joint lead managers for the transaction.

Responsible investing: ESG factors set to alter the #investment landscape

Environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) and sustainable investing (SI) are central topics for policymakers, institutional investors and corporates. According to a 2017 study by BNP Paribas, 46% of asset owners plan to have 50% or more of their investments in funds that incorporate ESG or responsible investing. Investors are increasingly investing based on the ESG profiles of the investee companies and using green, sustainable bonds (52%). Asia-Pacific investors are leapfrogging their regional counterparts. Despite the positive developments, there is still much work to do and challenges to overcome. A lack of robust ESG data is the biggest issue for asset owners and asset managers. The biggest reason why ESG is not part of investment decision-making today is a lack of clarity over how to define it. In November 2017, the European Investment Bank and the China Green Finance Committee presented a project to facilitate the establishment of a common language in green finance.

Khazanah's RM1.27b #Sukuk oversubscribed 5.5 times

Khazanah Nasional's exchangeable Sukuk of USD320.8mil (RM1.27bil), which has a tenure of five years, was oversubscribed by 5.5 times. The exchangeable Sukuk would reference the value of H-shares in CITIC Securities, China’s largest securities brokerage firm. Khazanah managing director Tan Sri Azman Mokhtar said it was opportune for the fund to price the deal on the back of positive market sentiments in China. The exchangeable Sukuk is structured based on the principle of Wakalah and provides the Sukuk holder with the option to receive cash or shares upon exchange. The Sukuk will be listed on the Singapore Exchange Securities Trading Limited, Labuan International Financial Exchange and Bursa Malaysia. CIMB and J.P. Morgan are the joint bookrunners and joint lead managers for this exchangeable Sukuk transaction.

#Emirates said to seek $1bn #sukuk to diversify funding

Dubai's Emirates airline plans to raise as much as $1bn through sukuk before higher US interest rates push up borrowing costs. A spokeswoman said the company was constantly seeking diverse sources of funding, including bank finance, operating leases, Islamic financing, sukuk and bonds. Governments in the Gulf oil-exporting countries borrowed from international bond markets at a record pace in 2017 as they sought to cover budget deficits worsened by low oil prices. Saudi Arabia raised $21.5bn through sukuk and other bonds, followed by Abu Dhabi’s $10bn issue and Kuwait’s $8bn fundraising. Emirates raised $913mn through a sukuk issue with a 10-year lifespan in 2015. Proceeds funded the acquisition of four Airbus A380-800s, the world’s largest passenger aircraft. Airbus recently questioned the future of the A380, in case Emirates does not place a crucial order for new airplanes.

Digital currencies remain tricky subject for Islamic finance

The role and status of cryptocurrencies remains a hotly disputed issue in the Muslim world. While entrepreneurs and Islamic finance startups openly encourage the use of digital currencies, others keep thinking otherwise. The latest escalation in the dispute was a fatwa against all cryptocurrencies issued by the Egyptian Grand Mufti Shawki Allam. He said that since trading of cryptocurrencies was similar to gambling, it was forbidden in Islam. His fatwa came after Bitcoin in mid-December soared to almost $20,000 per token but then lost one third of its value in just 24 hours. In addition, Egypt’s legitimate bodies also do not consider trading a virtual currency to be acceptable. However, nations that play a substantial role in Islamic finance, namely Malaysia, Indonesia, UAE, Turkey and even Saudi Arabia have no problem to accept cryptocurrencies. In Dubai, OneGram was the first company to set up the Shariah-compliant cryptocurrency called OneGramCoin. There are already two real estate developers in Dubai, which accept payments in digital currencies.

#Qatar witnessing robust momentum in #fintech, says Sheikh Abdulla

According to Qatar Central Bank (QCB) Governor Sheikh Abdulla bin Saoud al-Thani, Qatar is witnessing a robust momentum in fintech. The country is opening up increasing opportunities for digital payments, money management, lending, loyalty and rewards, remittances, investments and advisory services. Sheik Abdulla said the QCB’s recently launched new strategy would need to ensure that fintech firms are enhancing the financial system. Although there have been some success stories, he said banks and insurance companies in the region have been slow to embrace innovation. The fintech industry in Qatar remains very small, but it has seen a few startups such as Hasalty. As a mobile application, Hasalty improves financial literacy for children supported by the Qatar Business Incubation Centre.

US$50m of i-VCAP Islamic ETF expected to be subscribed

i-VCAP Management is expecting US$50 million (RM198 million) to be subscribed upon its initial subscription period via an initial public offering on Feb 9. The MyETF-US50 will be the first US dollar-denominated Syariah-compliant security to be listed on Bursa Malaysia. i-VCAP CEO Khairi Shahrin Arief Baki said ETFs are one of the fastest growing investment products in the world. The MyETF-US50 is aimed at providing investment results that closely correspond to the performance of the benchmark index, the Dow Jones Islamic market US Titans 50. According to i-VCAP chairman Tuan Haji Rosli Abdullah, the MyETF-US50 enables investors to access the US equity market in US dollars, marking a new chapter in the Malaysian capital market.

Responsible finance: #Malaysia leads the way with new guidelines

The Securities Commission Malaysia recently issued its 'Guidelines on Sustainable and Responsible Investment (SRI) Funds' to promote the growth of such funds in Malaysia. Often termed as ethical investments, SRI investments not only provide benefits to society, but also encourage corporate practices that embrace environmental stewardship, consumer protection, human rights and diversity. The new guidelines, which enable market funds to be designated as SRI funds, will widen the range of SRI products. According to the new guidelines, the policies and strategies of SRI funds must adopt one or more sustainability considerations such as the UN Global Compact Principles, the Sustainable Development Goals and other environmental, social or governance factors. The Guidelines also introduce additional disclosure and reporting requirements to encourage more transparency.

An Islamic Bank for The Poor, Including 4% Hindus, Who Can't and Need Not Pay Interest

Reserve Bank of India guidelines specifically state that banks are compulsorily required to charge an interest and pay taxes to the central government. However, the Muslim Fund Trust in Deoband headed by Haseeb Siddiqui is a financial institution that works on an interest-free loan module. The trust offers loans to only those who have a savings deposit account with them. Conventional banks demand security before issuing loans, which it has the option of falling back upon, in case the consumer defaults. The Muslim Fund Trust accepts only ornaments as security. Locals who avail the services of the Muslim Fund Trust identify Siddiqui as a social worker. Popularly known as Abbaji, Siddiqui has been politically active as a member of BSP. The trust neither has debit or credit cards, nor does it have netbanking facilities like other banks. The Muslim Fund Trust also runs an eye-care hospital, driver-training centre and an orphanage.

The First Investor acquires another #German asset

The First Investor (TFI) Qatar, a subsidiary of Barwa Bank Group has acquired a new office building in Frankfurt. The asset is another unique blend to TFI Euro Income Fund, which was launched in 2017 with sharia compliant stature. Europe continues to provide excellent investment and business environments given low inflation and low interest rate regime. TFI is keen to pursue its investment strategy with the aim to help clients achieve their objectives in a very challenging business environment. By that, TFI will soon launch another UK Income Fund and a US Income Fund together with many investment opportunities during 2018.

#Qatar’s QR25bn worth #sukuk to mature soon

Almost half of Qatar’s outstanding sukuk, worth of over QR25bn, will mature in 2018. With the ongoing growth of Shariah-compliant institutions, new issuances are vital. If no sukuk are issued in the country to replace the maturing ones, Shariah-compliant investors might look to other sukuk investments outside Qatar. According to the joint research of Qatar Financial Centre (QFC), Thomson Reuters and Islamic Research and Training Institute (IRTI), retail sukuk remains an untapped segment in most of the countries in GCC. Qatar can capitalise on selling sukuk to the retail market to promote both the primary and secondary capital market. Financial institutions have been leading corporate issuance in the GCCIn Qatar, Ezdan Holding Group is the only corporation outside financial institutions to issue sukuk. Ijarah continues to be the most popular sukuk structure in Qatar. However, Qatari corporate sukuk have all been issued based on wakalah structure, which has been gaining popularity in the recent years.

Head of Islamic finance body AAOIFI resigns

The head of the Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI) has resigned. Hamed Hassan Merah presented his resignation after more than three years and the board of trustees accepted it. As a complex organisation with 200 institutional members from across 45 countries, the AAOIFI had been slow to respond to issues relating to conflicts of interest and product standardisation. Under Merah, the AAOIFI tackled such issues head on, launching a review of its accounting, auditing and sharia standards. In November, Merah said AAOIFI would now prioritize wider adoption of its standards by engaging national regulators in key markets, including Turkey and Malaysia. Saudi Arabia’s central bank joined AAOIFI as an institutional member in October 2017.

Wahed Invest: a Sharia-compliant #investment #robo-adviser

Robo-advisers are opening up investment advice to the masses. They can provide sound investment advice for a fraction of the cost of their human counterparts, making it affordable enough for those with as little as US$100 to invest. Junaid Wahedna has taken the robo-investment concept a step further, making it available for those looking for Sharia-compliant investment options. Wahed Invest charges far lower fees than those charged by a conventional wealth manager. The robo-advisor Betterment has accrued over $10 billion worth of assets under management in the US since its launch in 2008. Currently, all of Wahed’s clients are from the US and Mr Wahedna says it plans to start accepting international customers. The company has 50 full-time employees and it has offices in New York, London, Dubai and Mumbai. The company sees a lot of potential in India, having seen strong demand for Islamic investing in the country from its pre-registered clients.

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