The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has released its guidelines for the Islamic finance sector. The guidelines noted the need to develop a policy framework in the countries where Islamic banking has become systemically important. While accounting for a small share of global financial assets, Islamic banking has established a presence in more than 60 countries and has become systemically important in 14 jurisdictions.
Although Pakistan finished the IMF loan programme last year, there are still numerous reforms that need to be undertaken. In recent years, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has made efforts for the promotion of Islamic banking, but no real effort has been made by the private sector and the government. The growth of Islamic banking poses new challenges and risks for regulatory and supervisory authorities. The IMF has proposed support for developing and providing policy advice on Islamic banking-related issues in the context of fund surveillance, programme design, and capacity development activities.
In the conventional finance space asset-backed financings have proved a successful method of funding social and civil infrastructure. However, in Islamic finance, asset-backed sukuk have not yet taken off. The majority of sukuk are more dependent on the creditworthiness of the sponsor, rather than the performance of the assets. The concept of securitisation of assets, limited in recourse solely by the performance of the assets underpinning them, has only enjoyed limited application in the Islamic finance space so far. For asset-backed sukuk to succeed, investors have to go beyond simply looking at the credit standing of government and quasi governmental entities and start looking at the actual cash flow and exposure to asset values.
RHB Islamic Bank is expecting to disburse at least RM50 million this year to facilitate the development of entrepreneurs. The fund is part of the Teras Fund programme provided via the Bumiputera Agenda Steering Unit (Teraju). According to RHB Islamic Bank's CEO Datuk Adissadikin Ali, the collaboration with Teraju had so far disbursed RM200 million as of 2016 from the total fund raised of RM400 million. He said the original fund for the programme was RM80 million, but RHB Islamic managed to raise the fund by leveraging on resources to RM400 million.
Sheikh Dr Khalid bin Thani bin Abdullah Al Thani, Chairman of Qatar International Islamic Bank (QIIB) inaugurated the bank’s new branch at the Mall of Qatar. CEO Abdulbasit Ahmad Al Shaibei said the bank is expected to start its operations in Morocco by the first quarter of 2017 with four branches. The lender had signed a joint venture agreement with the Moroccan Bank Credit Immobilier et Hotelier (CIH) for the establishment of a bank in Morocco in December 2015. Under the agreement, QIIB will have 40% stake in the proposed bank. The new QIIB branch is on the ground floor of the Mall of Qatar, considered to be one of the most important shopping destinations in the region.
Bahrain's Gulf Finance House (GFH) is distancing itself from its major Tunisian property project, Tunis Financial Harbour (TFH). GFH's local subsidiary, Tunis Bay Project Co is to drop out of the residential golf course project.
Islamic finance has largely been a priority area in Malaysia for three decades and it is not about to slow down. The World Bank's recent Global Report on Islamic Finance highlighted Malaysia as having the largest Islamic banking assets in the region with US$156.7 billion (RM697.15 billion) as at 2013. Malaysia is also the second-largest economy in terms of total syariah-compliant financial assets. However, the report also suggested the need to address several challenges like the need for alternative investments. On a positive note, the report said the syariah governance framework was advanced in Malaysia. Within Asia, Malaysia has been dominating the sukuk issuance market. The US dollar-denominated sukuk have been growing, but sukuk denominated in Malaysian ringgit are growing even faster and dominate the market.
US-based State Street Global Advisors announced that a huge exchange-traded fund for investment in gold has been certified as being sharia compliant. The question of whether ETFs themselves comply with Islamic law has not been addressed. The fund, called SPDR Gold Shares, is one of the world's largest ETFs, having a net asset balance of more than $30 billion. Managed and marketed by State Street Global, it is listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The World Gold Council paved the way for certification by asking the Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions to determine criteria for gold trading. The AAOIFI announced standards for gold trading in December 2016. Joseph Cavatoni, who is in charge of ETFs at the World Gold Council, said the certification is an important step toward meeting demand for gold in the Islamic financial market.
Saudi Arabia has sent a request for proposals (RFP) to banks for a planned U.S. dollar sukuk. The debt sale would be Saudi's second international bond offering, after the sovereign issued a debut $17.5 billion bond in October last year. Saudi Arabia is also expected to issue a conventional bond later this year. The kingdom's bond plans are part of its push towards a more diversified economy that is less reliant on oil exports. The RFP was issued at a busy time in the Gulf with other countries also planning to raise funds internationally to offset the impact of lower global oil prices. Bahrain launched a tap of its $1 billion 2028 bond on Tuesday, while Oman is expected to announce the launch of a new bond this week.
The Assembly General Meeting (AGM) of Qatar Islamic Bank has voted the proposal to increase the limit of the perpetual Sukuk “Additional Tier 1 Capital (AT1) Sukuk“ from QAR 5 Billion to QAR 7.5 Billion. The meeting, held on 21 February, also approved the board of directors’ proposal to distribute 47.5% cash dividends of the nominal value per share, i.e. QAR 4.75 per share.
Al Rayan Bank has appointed Islamic Relief as its exclusive charity partner for 2017. The bank will work with Islamic Relief by supporting Sharia-compliant microfinance projects through fundraising activities. The projects will help people living in poverty to establish social enterprise businesses in their home countries and become financially independent. One of the projects is in Mali, West Africa. The project helps local women by making money available using the Islamic finance principle of Qard Hasan (loan without benefit). The women are then able to use the money to commercially harvest the nut of the African Shea tree and create Shea Butter, which they can then use to make various products. Seema Khan, head of major gifts at Islamic Relief UK, said the microfinance partnership with Al Rayan Bank is an intelligent solution to helping people around the world out of poverty.
The global Islamic finance industry will see a new entrant in Russia. Moscow Industrial Bank has already started the process of getting acclimatized with the Islamic finance industry by learning from the established model of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB). Abubakar Arsamaskof, president of Moscow Industrial Bank, said that the bank has 7,000 employees working in 260 branches that provide different products and services. He added that their main focus is on industry, construction and agriculture. He also highlighted that they issue Muslim debt card to those wanting to perform Haj. He also indicated that Russian companies are moving towards the Halal industry in a big way and have investments that are estimated at $100 million. The Russian delegation was visiting the IDB to collaborate with regard to Awqaf and enhance the Islamic finance system in Russia. Other negotiations include collaboration between IDB and Moscow Industrial Bank to find investment opportunities and create jobs for youth.
Despite the global drop in oil prices, Islamic finance continues to thrive. According to the EY consultancy, Sharia-compliant banking grew at an annual rate of 17.6% between 2009 and 2013, and is now projected to grow by an estimated 19.7% annually by 2018. This rate of growth far outpaces that of conventional banks, putting pressure on traditional banks to diversify their operations by including Sharia-compliant services. Kuwait International Bank (KIB) converted to exclusively Sharia-compliant services in 2007 and paved the way for Islamic finance in Kuwait. Sheikh Mohammed Al-Jarrah Al-Sabah, Chairman of KIB, said the bank has adopted a new strategic outlook which had its first stage launched in 2015. This brought about a change in KIB’s franchise operations and its day-to-day activities. The second phase develops the bank's product and service offerings. The final stage scheduled for 2017 will focus on boosting KIB’s competitive edge within the banking industry.
The Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD) and the International Association of Islamic Business (IAIB), signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to explore collaboration between entrepreneurs from Islamic countries and Russian Federation. The two institutions are determined to collaborate on introducing Islamic banking products in Russia and lobbying for changes in Russian banking legislation. ICD's CEO Khaled Al-Aboodi said he was looking forward to the collaboration, while IAIB President Marat Kabayev said the purpose of the partnership was to develop economic ties among Islamic countries, to promote Islamic Finance in Russia and attract investors from Islamic countries. ICD and IAIB also agreed to organize joint professional programmes, market research, workshops, publications, study tours and assistance in production and certification of Halal goods.
According to AllianceDBS Research, a new wave of merger and acquisition (M&A) activities in the Islamic banking space is plausible, although the timing remains the key risk. Potential M&A candidates include the Malaysia Building Society (MBSB), and Bank Muamalat Malaysia (Muamalat). The research house added domestic Islamic financing growth was expected to continue outpacing conventional loans growth, driven by regulatory push for internationalisation of Islamic finance. This was mainly underpinned by a growing push by banks to fulfil Bank Negara Malaysia’s target of 40% proportion of Islamic financing. AllianceDBS predicts the big game-changer will be product innovation. The research house named the main Islamic banking proxy, the BIMB Holdings (BIMB) as the largest Shariah compliant financial institution with strong potential to lead product innovation.
The World Bank Group and the Islamic Development Bank published the first Global Report on Islamic Finance. Subtitled “A Catalyst for Shared Prosperity?”, the report provides an overview of trends in Islamic finance, identifies major challenges hindering the industry’s growth, and recommends policy interventions to leverage Islamic finance. According to the report the Islamic finance industry needs to expand beyond banking, which is currently a dominant component of Islamic finance, accounting for more than three-quarters of the industry’s assets. Another area of development is Islamic capital markets. The use of sovereign sukuk to mobilize financing is essential to develop the market. The report also notes that using Islamic social finance can alleviate poverty and create a social safety net for the extremely poor. By tapping into the potential of the institutions like zakat and waqf, the report estimates that resource needs for the most deprived in South and Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa could be met.
According to Moody’s Investors Service, a proposed merger between three Qatari banks would help “rebalance” the banking sector in the country. The merger is currently at due diligence stage and will be subject to approval by the relevant authorities. The merged entity between Masraf Al Rayan, Barwa Bank and International Bank of Qatar would create the largest Islamic bank and second largest lender in Qatar. Total assets would amount to around QAR173bn ($48bn) and the market share would be around 14%. Moody’s assistant vice president Nitish Bhojnagarwala said Islamic banking asset growth has outpaced conventional banking in Qatar, as demonstrated by a 21% compound annual growth rate of loans for Islamic banks between 2011 and 2016 compared with 14% for the conventional banks. The GCC is witnessing a consolidation in the banking sector, with the two largest lenders in Abu Dhabi also currently preparing to merge.
Governor of the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) Valiollah Seif said the country plans to establish a bank in Azerbaijan with 100% Iranian ownership. The plan involves turning a branch of Bank Melli Iran in Azerbaijan into an independent Azerbaijani bank. Seif added that all the shares of the new bank will be owned by Bank Melli Iran and that the details would be discussed next week during the visit of the Azerbaijani delegation to Tehran. Seif emphasized that certain plans were on agenda for Iran and Azerbaijan to use their national currencies in mutual transactions. Currently 32 banks operate in Azerbaijan and 36 banks operate in Iran.
Qatar Islamic Bank's QInvest is exiting the St. Edmund’s Terrace LP Fund. The Shari'ah compliant fund was jointly owned by QInvest and a range of GCC institutional and retail investors. It invested GBP 50 million into developing a new, prime residential project through a real estate development company. The Fund was created to provide investors with the opportunity to invest in London’s prime residential market. At completion, the Fund generated 22% net returns to investors. Craig Cowie, Head of Real Estate at QInvest said the returns exceeded expectations and added a notable asset to the luxury real estate market in London. The project, 50 St. Edmund’s Terrace, completed in June 2015 and comprises of three residential blocks and 37 units. It delivered an average selling price in excess of GBP 2,600 per square foot.
Venue: University of East London, Main Lecture Theathre, University Square Stratford.
Speaker: Professor Volker Nienhaus
FinTech is disruptive. Existing regulations do not fit well with new products. “Islamic” FinTech adds the requirement of Shariah compliance to the legal complexity of financial innovations. Islamic jurists and Shariah standard setters have not yet systematically dealt with issues such as “cryptocurrencies,” risk mitigation in crowdfunding, smart contracts, or the status of decentralised autonomous organisations (DAOs). Is there a need for “Shariah sandboxes” to reduce Shariah non-compliance risks for innovators?
Dr. Volker Nienhaus was a Professor of Economics at the University of Bochum and President of the University of Marburg. Currently, he is Adjunct Professor at the International Centre for Education in Islamic Finance (INCEIF) in Malaysia, consultant to the Islamic Financial Services Board (IFSB) and a member of the International Advisory Panel of the World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF).
Dubai Islamic Bank became the first Gulf financial institution to print a sukuk this year as it priced a US$1bn 3.664% five-year issuance. The only other bank from the region to have issued this year is Gulf International Bank, which sold a conventional US$500m five-year last month. Proceeds will go towards refinancing a US$500m sukuk coming due in May, as well as a US$300m maturity for the subsidiary Tamweel. Middle East accounts took 61%, Europe 20%, and Asia 19%. By investor type, banks got 52%, asset managers 39%, agencies 3%, private banks 2% and insurers 2%. Lead arrangers include Bank ABC, DIB, Emirates NBD, HSBC, KFH, Maybank, National Bank of Abu Dhabi, Sharjah Islamic Bank and Standard Chartered.