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OECD: Encourages changes in the mode of finance, away from debt towards equity

Credit intermediation and stock markets have hugely expanded over the past half-century. Since the 1960s, credit by banks and other financial institutions to households and businesses has grown three times as fast as economic activity. Stock markets have expanded, too, but starting from a lower base and at a much slower pace, so that today their value equals 65% of GDP, a little more than half that of financial sector credit.

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Improving the structure and composition of finance is as important as avoiding credit booms for the health of our economies. Facilitating stock market funding through ***lowering the costs of equity floatation and making taxation more neutral between debt and equity, is linked with higher GDP growth (Figure 1). Hence, encouraging changes in the mode of finance, away from debt and towards equity,*** would be particularly powerful in raising economic activity. [page 2 link below]

Measuring progress on financial and digital inclusion

Financial inclusion can be achieved via traditional banking offerings, but also through digital financial services such as mobile money, among other innovative approaches. The Brookings Financial and Digital Inclu­sion Project (FDIP) Report and Scorecard seeks to help answer a set of fundamental questions about today’s global financial inclusion efforts. To answer these questions, Brookings experts John D. Villasenor, Darrell M. West, and Robin J. Lewis analyzed finan­cial inclusion in 21 geographically, economically, and politically diverse countries. This year’s report and scorecard is the first of a series of annual reports examining financial inclusion activities and assessing usage of financial services in selected countries around the world.

Moody's affirms Masraf Al Rayan's issuer ratings: outlook now positive from stable

Moody's Investors Service has affirmed Masraf Al Rayan's (MAR) A2/Prime-1 issuer ratings and baa3 baseline credit assessment (BCA) and adjusted BCA. At the same time, Moody's changed the outlook on the bank's long term issuer ratings to positive from stable. The change in the outlook to positive from stable reflects the ongoing improvements in MAR's business and geographic diversification, including the growth and transition to profitability of its recently acquired subsidiary Al Rayan Bank PLC based in UK. Further underpinning Moody's view on the outlook is Qatar's considerable economic strength, with robust growth prospects driven by the significant wealth and resources of the country, despite lower oil prices.

Asia Islamic bonds turn to losses as the confidence in leaders ebbs

Dollar sukuk returns are turning into losses in Asia’s biggest Islamic finance markets as confidence in government leaders sours amid a regional sell off. Indonesia’s Shariah-compliant sovereign bonds due in 2024 have dropped 3.8% since April and the 2025 Malaysian debt lost 2.6%, compared with a 2.4% decline in a Bloomberg index of emerging-market conventional government notes. In that period, the rupiah plunged 6.4%, and the ringgit 13%. Both countries are grappling with an economic slowdown, falling commodity-export prices and capital outflows as the US prepares to raise interest rates. The reality is, investors have had to resign themselves to stagnant growth, so they were let down after buying into the story.

Bank Muscat Meethaq upgrades Islamic core banking system

Meethaq has upgraded its core banking system, resulting in a host of Islamic banking services covering ATM/CDM, debit card and mobile banking for Meethaq customers. Meethaq now functions with the new iMal core banking system. The implementation of the system is the result from the partnership between the bank and Path Solutions. iMAL is a Shari’ah-compliant core banking system certified by the Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI). It is an integrated, modular Islamic banking suite with full functionality, including retail, corporate, investment, trade finance, and treasury modules.

Dubai’s Noor Bank to help arrange Indonesian sukuk

Noor Bank is looking to Indonesia, Turkey and other international markets to escape tougher competition at home and take advantage of a booming global Sharia-compliant finance industry. Thus, Noor Bank plans to help arrange a sukuk or Islamic private placement on behalf of the Indonesian government, with the Dubai-based Islamic finance institution also underwriting part of the deal. Officials declined to specify the amount of the new sukuk but said it would be dollar based and would include other underwriters. The issue will help strengthen Indonesia's forex reserves and help Bank Indonesia maintain the stability of its exchange rate, Finance Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro said.

Jordan-based Al Baraka bank returns ‘‘suspicious’’ Libyan transfer ‘‘funding terrorism’’

The Tripoli-based Libyan Audit Bureau has confirmed that Jordan based Al Baraka bank has returned a transfer from Libya for being ‘‘suspicious’’ and for ‘‘funding terrorism’’. The transfer originating from the Central Bank of Libya (CBL) were intended to cover Libyan student scholarships in Jordan. The Audit Bureau revealed that it had, in cooperation with the Ministry of Higher Education and the CBL, opened an independent bank account for the Cultural Attaché at its Amman embassy specifically for scholarship funds. However, the Audit Bureau admitted that the Libyan embassy broke procedures and regulations and an agreement by using the funds on other spending rather than for student scholarships.

Gulf bonds start to lose safe-haven status in cheap oil era

For several years, bonds from the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council appeared almost immune to global instability, handily outperforming debt from other emerging markets. Unlike most of the world, GCC governments enjoyed big budget surpluses. But as oil hits new six-year lows, most of those surpluses have vanished. Economists expect all GCC states to post fiscal deficits this year, and half of them to post current account deficits. So investors are starting to re-examine their assumptions about the Gulf, and during the last two weeks of global market turmoil, GCC bonds have not escaped a general emerging markets sell-off.

World Bank's IFC gets preliminary top rating for $100 mln sukuk

The International Finance Corp (IFC), the World Bank's lender to the private sector, has received a preliminary AAA rating from Standard & Poor's for a proposed $100 million issuance of sukuk. Proceeds of the sukuk would be used to purchase a portfolio of diversified sharia compliant receivables and other assets, the credit rating agency said in a statement. The transaction would match the size of the last sukuk issued by IFC in 2009, a five-year deal which was listed on the Dubai and Bahrain bourses. The latest sukuk from IFC would rank on the same level as other senior unsecured financial obligations from the multilateral lender, S&P said.

Albaraka Türk nears close for $400m murabaha deal

Turkish participation bank Albaraka Türk is set to close books for its $400m-equivalent murabaha loan next week. Albaraka Turk is expected to sign the loan in mid-September, according to a banker on the deal. The $400m-equivalent deal has one year and two year tranches in euros and dollars.

Islamic windows should become full subsidiaries: Bank Nizwa CEO

More full-fledged Islamic banks are needed and the Islamic banking services of conventional banks should be converted into full subsidiaries if Oman were to fully embrace the Islamic finance concept in its entirety, says Dr Jamil El Jaroudi, CEO at Bank Nizwa. It would also eliminate potential regulatory arbitrage between conventional banking and Islamic banking that could harm or raise doubt on the Sharia aspects, he added. The Islamic windows' cost of doing business and relying on their parent banks’ infrastructure resulted in a disadvantage for the business of fully-fledged banks. Nonetheless, the windows have yet to reach their critical sizes to be able to justify conversion into standalone banks.

World Bank's IFC to meet investors on sukuk issue

International Finance Corp (IFC), a unit of the World Bank, plans to meet fixed income investors starting on Monday ahead of a potential issue of U.S. dollar-denominated sukuk. IFC, rated Aaa/AAA by international rating agencies, has picked Dubai Islamic Bank, HSBC, National Bank of Abu Dhabi and Standard Chartered Bank to arrange the investor meetings. The meetings will be held in the Middle East, with a possible sukuk issue to follow subject to market conditions. No details about the size of the issue or maturity were given. The sukuk will be listed on Nasdaq Dubai and an application will also be made for a subsequent listing on the London Stock Exchange.

Terror Award Against Iranian Bank Upheld

After a Hamas-sponsored cafeteria bombing at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, a federal complaint was filed against Iran's central bank in Washington D.C., that ended in a $12.9 million judgment against the republic. Other lawsuits alleging that Iran bankrolled terrorism followed, leading to awards of $20 million for a bombing of a Jerusalem restaurant, $350 million for a 1990 mass shooting, and $590 million for the bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia. Bank Melli has set forth numerous creative arguments as to why it shouldn't be liable for Iran's debt. However, the Ninth Circuit ruled Wednesday that those arguments cannot save it from paying nearly $17.6 million to the victims of terrorist attacks in Israel, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere.

Shariah Compliant, Globally Diversified

Islamic financial institutions have $2 trillion in assets under management, and this is likely to grow to $3 trillion in the next three to five years. The Shariah-compliant Azzad Wise Capital Fund offers an investment opportunity not only to Muslim investors but to anyone looking to invest in an alternative, non-correlated fixed-income fund with less volatility. The Fund currently has almost $100 million in assets under management. It pursues long-term income and capital preservation by investing primarily in Islamic Bonds and interest-free bank deposits and notes issued primarily by overseas banks in developing countries. A small portion of the Fund’s assets may be invested in dividend-yielding stocks.

NCB plans $533m capital-boosting sukuk

National Commercial Bank (NCB), Saudi Arabia's largest lender, is selling SR2 billion ($533 million) of capital-boosting sukuk, two banking sources with knowledge of the matter said on Sunday. The offer, which enhances the bank's Tier 1 - or core - capital and is compliant with Basel III banking regulations, is the third such transaction by NCB since June, and is part of a plan to raise as much as 7 billion riyals of capital before the end of 2015, one of the sources said. NCB didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

AFC gets $50m form Islamic Development Bank for project financing

Africa Finance Corporation (AFC) has announced its acceptance of a US$50 million 15 year line of financing, with a 13 year six month repayment period, from the Islamic Development Bank (IDB). The funds will be used to finance projects located across the numerous African IDB member countries. The projects will be structured in a way that is compliant with Islamic Finance, focusing particularly on infrastructural and agricultural projects that promote the economic and social development of the communities concerned. AFC’s agreement with the IDB also establishes an intercontinental relationship, which may lead to further collaboration between African and Middle Eastern institutions in the future.

Bank ABC closes a US$320 million syndicated Murabaha financing facility for Kuwait International Bank K.S.C.

Kuwait International Bank K.S.C. has successfully closed a debut syndicated Murabaha financing facility. The Facility was signed on 24 August 2015. Bahrain-based Bank ABC and Bank ABC Islamic acted as the Initial Mandated Lead Arrangers and Coordinating Banks for the Facility. The Facility was initially launched for US$100 million, and following strong interest from the market KIB decided to utilise the significant oversubscription to increase the Facility size to US$320 million. The Facility carries a tenor of 3 years and will be used by KIB for general funding purposes.

Kremlin moves to attract Islamic funds

Russia may amend its financial regulations to allow Islamic banking in a bid to attract funds from Muslim countries, as its economy struggles with a recession and Western sanctions. The move comes as economists, including those at the International Monetary Fund, say U.S. and European sanctions are having a significant negative impact on the Russian economy by blocking important Russian companies from accessing global financial markets. Officials have created a task force charged with implementing Islamic banking in the country, including amending the country’s banking laws, said Dmitry Savelyev, deputy chairman of the State Duma Committee on Financial Markets and the leader of the task group.

Islamic fund manager reaches $100 million milestone

The fund manager behind the first private Islamic superannuation fund in the world, Crescent Wealth, has passed $100 million in funds under management. The benchmark figure was passed after the Australia-based group reported a 245 per cent growth in funds under management for the 2015 financial year with the group tapping into demand for ethical Islamic investment products. Crescent Wealth launched the first private Islamic superannuation fund in the world in 2013 growing fund members close to ten-fold between the 2014 and 2015 financial years to reach 4200 members, with an expectation of further growth due to interest from overseas investors.

SUKUK PIPELINE - Issue plans around the world

The Thomson Reuters Global Sukuk Index is at 117.97246 points, down from 118.20147 at the end of last month but up from 115.79726 at the end of last year. The Thomson Reuters Investment Grade Sukuk Index is at 116.67852 against 116.92144 at end-July and 113.69014 at end-2014. Some of the sukuk in the pipeline are: Malaysia's TIME dotCom is proposing a 1 billion ringgit ($240 million) sukuk programme to run until 2035. Sukuk are a funding option for the Philippine government, National Treasurer Roberto Tan said, adding that he hoped Congress would pass legislation to allow such issuance. Saudi Arabian dairy producer Almarai will issue a senior sukuk of up to 2 billion riyals ($533 million).

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