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Arabia CSR Network successfully conducts Middle East's first ever training on global standards for #sustainability reporting

The Arabia CSR Network (ACSRN) conducted the Middle East's first round of training for Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Standards for Sustainability Reporting. The course covered GRI Standards, including an overview of how to implement these standards. According to Habiba Al Marashi, CEO of ACSRN, the move demonstrates the increasing importance of sustainability reporting. The training focused on the frameworks of the standards, how to apply these in actual reporting and the process of putting together a GRI Standards compliant report. The training will allow the participants to use the right methodology for putting together their sustainability reports. Participants received a certificate each, presented by GRI for successful completion of the course.

Dana Gas’s #sukuk move is a surprising one

Dana Gas’s sukuk move is a surprising decision as it could have a detrimental effect on Dubai's goal of becoming the Global Centre for Islamic Finance. Financial analysts agree that Dana's manoeuvre to invalidate its own sukuk on Sharia non-compliance grounds harms the whole Islamic finance sector. Several questions arise and Dana Gas provides no answer. It is difficult to understand how Dana went from "discovering" the "unlawful" nature of the sukuk to getting injunctions in at least two jurisdictions without actually managing its communications. When DG acts in this way, it does not only potentially harm Dana's creditors but every investor in the UAE and the whole financial system.

#UAE's Dana Gas gets injunction from English court blocking claims on $700 mln #sukuk

Dana Gas obtained an injunction from the English High Court of Justice in London restraining sukuk holders from taking any hostile action against the company. The company obtained similar injunctions from the Sharjah Federal Court of First Instance in the United Arab Emirates as well. Dana Gas announced last week that its outstanding $700 million sukuk were not sharia-compliant and were therefore unlawful in the UAE. The company said it would therefore halt coupon payments on the sukuk, and proposed exchanging the sukuk for new Islamic bonds with lower profit distributions.

Islamic finance #risks raised by Dana Gas case

Dana Gas applies Shari’ah non-compliance as a cause for restructuring. Dana Gas has proposed a restructuring to holders of its $700 million of Sukuk maturing in Oct 2017. Its proposal is on the basis that these Sukuk are no longer Shari'ah compliant because standards of interpretation have changed since they were issued in 2013. Dana Gas is seeking to have its existing Sukuk declared invalid in a UAE court and this court has granted Dana Gas an injunction protecting it from claims until the case is decided. If the precedent of revisiting Shari'ah compliance infects the Islamic finance industry, there is greater risk of a loss of confidence in other markets too. There are many examples of distressed conventional bond borrowers engaging in opportunistic negotiating positions. The result was higher cost of borrowing for them rather than for the broad asset class.

Dana Gas bid to void #debt stuns analysts who question motive

The gas producer's decision to declare its own Shariah-compliant bonds unlawful has baffled investors all over the world. Sharjah-based Dana Gas said it no longer considered its two Islamic bonds totalling $700 million issued four years ago as Shariah compliant under UAE law. The move comes after Dana Gas announced plans in May to restructure the debt. The company is owed about $1 billion from Egypt and the self-governed Kurdish region in northern Iraq. Dana Gas plans to replace the current sukuk with four-year bonds paying less than half of the current profit rates and without a conversion feature. The Sharjah Federal Court of First Instance has issued an injunction while it considers Dana Gas’s application. Dana Gas said it won’t pay its next two profit distributions on July 31 and Oct. 31, and that they will be accounted for as part of the new instrument.

Shariah Compliant #Robo to Launch

#Malaysia's Farringdon Group is about to launch its new Robo-adviser service which follows Shariah investment guidelines. Their new system branded Algebra relies on smart beta trading algorithms to derive its active equity portfolio. It blends the data with fixed interest Exchange Traded Funds (ETF’s) or Sukuk bond funds to derive a risk weighted portfolio suitable for any investor. Its shariah investment strategy is approved by Shariah Scholar Datuk Dr Daud Bakar of Amanie Advisors, the official launch date is set for July 10th 2017. By asking questions online, Algebra can complete a fact find and calculate its clients risk attitude and this cuts out the need for expensive consultants. Together with the Shariah version of this platform Farrington have also built and incorporated a Non-Shariah option.

IIRA maintains ratings of #Bahrain Islamic Bank

Islamic International Rating Agency (IIRA) has reaffirmed ratings of Bahrain Islamic Bank (BIsB) at BBB/A2 on the national scale and BBB-/A3 on the international scale. IIRA added that the bank’s rating outlook is constrained by the macroeconomic environment and tougher industry conditions for banks in the Gulf. Given the presence of external, regional concerns, the outlook on international scale ratings is assessed as Negative. Impairment in recent financings remains minimal, indicating improvement in the bank's business underwriting capability. However, overall asset quality concerns remain notable. IIRA has assigned BIsB a Fiduciary Score of 71-75, which signifies that the rights of various stakeholders are adequately protected.

Warrants issued for 78 Bank Asya senior executives: 47 detained

The Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office issued detention warrants for 78 senior executives of Bank Asya, which was confiscated by the Turkish government. Bank Asya was associated with the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016 due to its links to the Gülen movement. Forty-seven of the 78 bank executives have been detained so far on suspicion of membership in an armed terrorist organization and financing a terrorist organization.
Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement. According to a report by the state-run Anadolu news agency, 154,694 individuals have been detained and 50,136 have been jailed due to alleged Gülen links.

#UAE's Dana Gas invites #sukuk holders to a call to discuss sukuk's "unlawfulness"

Abu Dhabi's Dana Gas has invited holders of its outstanding $700 million sukuk to discuss the planned sukuk restructuring. The energy company plans to provide background on its declaration of the current sukuk's "unlawfulness". Dana Gas announced last week that its sukuk were not sharia-compliant and were therefore unlawful in the UAE.

Global #Sukuk Market Outlook: the surge in Sukuk issuance isn't the new normal

The Sukuk market performed strongly in the first half of 2017 as issuance increased by 37.7% in the first six months of the year. This was primarily driven by the jumbo local and foreign currency issuances by some GCC governments. Sovereign issuers turned to Sukuk because wanted to diversify their investor base and to benefit from the good liquidity conditions in local and global financial markets. S&P Global Ratings expects the volume of Sukuk issuance to remain strong in 2017, but this is likely to be the exception rather than a new norm. In their view, the large transactions in the first half of 2017 are unlikely to be repeated in 2018. It remains to be seen if the recent developments in Qatar will impact issuance out of the country. Qatar was placed under sanctions by a group of governments that cut diplomatic ties and trade and transport links.

Islamic finance overcomes teething problems in #Oman

According to a recent report issued by the Central Bank of Oman (CBO), the Islamic banking industry is growing at a faster rate than conventional banking, with Islamic banking assets up more than 62% year on year. Total assets held by Islamic banks and Islamic banking windows in February 2017 amounted to 3.27 billion Omani riyals (Dh31.2 billion), compared to 2.43 billion riyals a year earlier. This took Islamic banking’s market share from 5.1% in 2015 to 10.8% by February 2017. Islamic banking has a sizeable market share of more than 25% in the GCC. Saudi Arabia dominates the region with an Islamic banking market share of 51.2% in terms of total banking assets, followed by Kuwait at 45.2%. In UAE, Qatar and Bahrain Islamic banks’ market share stood between 20-30% of gross assets. In Oman, within a span of four years from introduction, the Islamic banking segment has reached OMR 3.07 billion in gross assets with a market share of 10.8% as of February 2017. The two main players in Oman are Bank Nizwa (BKNZ) and Alizz Islamic Bank (BKIZ).

Race to become Islamic banking’s #fintech hub

The Middle East has been a late adopter of financial technology, or fintech. According to Accenture, of more than $50bn in fintech investment globally since 2010, only 1% has gone to the Middle East and North Africa. Now several cities are racing to establish themselves as fintech hubs. Last year Cairo launched two accelerators and Abu Dhabi has created the region’s first regulatory sandbox, allowing new products to be tested for two years without full regulatory compliance. In March Abu Dhabi signed an agreement with the Monetary Authority of Singapore to undertake joint fintech projects and Dubai’s new fintech accelerator has already begun accepting applications. Bahrain, too, has teamed up with Singapore to develop a fintech ecosystem. Fintech can serve the masses of migrant workers in need of remittance services and it can also bring cheaper services to the unbanked. According to the World Bank, over four-fifths of the population in the region are unbanked, which means a higher proportion than anywhere else in the world.

Fitch: Deposits in #Morocco Islamic Banks to Grow up to 10 %

According to Fitch Ratings, Islamic banking products in Morocco could expand their deposit bases by 5 to 10%. Fitch notes that the ability to grow the deposit base is positive for Morocco’s economic development because deposits represent about 70% of banking sector funding. The experts also noted that banking penetration is already high in Morocco, with 70% of adults holding a bank account. Therefore, participation banking is unlikely to take a significant market share from the well-established conventional banks. Growth rates in the Moroccan banking sector have been volatile in recent years, reflecting unsteady economic trends. Deposit growth has outstripped loan growth, but credit demand is set to accelerate. The ability to offer participation banking services could broaden the pool of potential depositors in the country, mitigating the competitive pressure.

#Nigeria plans $328mln debut #sukuk sales this month - DMO

Nigeria's Debt Management Office (DMO) announced the sale of its initial $328 million sovereign sukuk in the local market. The proceeds will be used to finance road projects in the country. The bond will be traded on the Nigerian Stock Exchange and also on the FMDQ over the counter platform. The sale will be managed by First Bank and Islamic wealth manager, Lotus Capital, and will aim for retail and institutional investors. Africa’s second largest economy intends to borrow about $10 billion from debt markets to fund a budget deficit aggravated by lower oil prices. It also targets concessionary sources to clear its funding needs and expects to issue N20 billion ($62million) green bond after raising a $1.5 billion Eurobond in the first quarter.

Mideast Debt: Islamic finance industry frets as Dana Gas deems its #sukuk invalid

The decision by Dana Gas to declare $700 million of its sukuk invalid has raised concern about the safety of sharia-compliant debt instruments in general. Dana Gas received advice that its sukuk were not compliant with the Islamic sharia code and had become unlawful in the United Arab Emirates. The firm said it would halt payments and proposed that creditors exchange the sukuk for new Islamic instruments. Dana has struggled to obtain payments from its production assets in Egypt and Iraq's Kurdistan. With a cash balance of just $298 million in March, it had been expected to have difficulty redeeming its sukuk in October. Mohammed Khnifer, a senior associate at the Islamic Development Bank, said this specific sharia compliance risk was unprecedented and this incident had startled the Islamic finance industry.

Maybank Islamic named Asia-Pacific's Islamic Bank of the Year 2017

Maybank Islamic was named the Islamic Bank of the Year 2017 in Asia-Pacific by The Banker. The bank also received recognition in the country awards category for Malaysia. The Banker noted that Tier 1 capital and total Shariah-compliant assets enjoyed notable growth, climbing by 12% and 16%, respectively. Maybank Islamic’s return on equity for the year was 15.4%, while its cost-to-income ratio was a respectable 36% and non-performing financing were just 0.8%. The bank’s steady growth pace in Singapore and Indonesia also contributed to its recognition as the best in Asia-Pacific. Maybank Islamic's CEO Datuk Mohamed Rafique Merican attributed the bank’s achievements to its employees and sound risk management practices. He said the bank intends to further enhance its global brand visibility, while also deepening its existing regional presence.

#Saudi Arabia's Sedco Capital launches #green #investment strategy

Saudi Arabia's Sedco Capital has launched an investment strategy combining environment-conscious and sharia-compliant principles. The move could help develop green investing in the Middle East and make Islamic finance appeal to a wider client base. Green finance is increasingly important for Islamic firms seeking to differentiate themselves from peers. Sedco said its new strategy, dubbed Prudent Ethical Investing, would focus on due diligence and transparency around investment structures, while integrating environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria. The firm launched two ESG funds in 2012 and has published research which showed how a combined investment approach
can outperform conventional funds. According to its research, such a strategy can lead to investments with lower financial leverage and better cash conversion qualities, adding a prudential element to those portfolios.

As #debt piles up, the old take from the young — Satyajit Das

A significant proportion of recent economic growth has relied on borrowed money, which stands today at 325% of global gross domestic product. Debt allows society to accelerate consumption, but the bill for these commitments will soon become unsustainable, as demographic changes make it more difficult to meet. Degradation of the environment results in future costs, too: either rehabilitation expenses or irreversible changes that affect living standards. Rather than reducing high borrowing levels, policy makers use financial engineering, such as quantitative easing and ultra-low or negative interest rates. A 2010 study found that European states have mortgaged themselves beyond their capacity to easily repay. Another 2010 study from the International Monetary Fund found that in the US the lifetime tax burden was positive for all ages, with the largest benefit accruing to those over age 50. But the figure for future generations is negative, meaning they will have to meet the obligations of their elders.

US$50 million to Support Health Services to Poor Jordanians and Syrian #Refugees [EN/AR]

The World Bank Group has committed US$50 million to support the Government of Jordan in maintaining primary and secondary health services to poor uninsured Jordanians and Syrian refugees. The assistance approved today is part of a larger US$150 million project, which is financed by the Islamic Development Bank and the World Bank. The Jordan Emergency Health Project will help the Ministry of Health continue to provide critical health care to target populations. According to Aaka Pande, World Bank Senior Health Economist, the refugee influx has been associated with a reemergence of communicable diseases such as tuberculosis and measles. Moreover, the influx has led to increased waiting times and a shortage of health workers. In addition to its short-term objectives, the project aims to prepare a roadmap of ways to improve the efficiency of the health system in the medium to long term.

#Brunei's largest bank aims to raise up $500 mln in #Malaysian #listing -IFR

Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam aims to raise as much as $500 million in an initial public offering (IPO) and the bank will be listed on the Malaysian bourse. JPMorgan and Malayan Banking (Maybank) are set to be joint global coordinators for the initial public offering of $200 million-$500 million this year. The IPO is expected to raise around $300 million but the final amount will depend on the size of the greenshoe option. Brunei is one of the world's richest countries on a per capital basis. The country does not have a stock exchange although its central bank last year announced draft rules to form one.

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