Azzad Asset Management has joined other socially responsible investment institutions in signing a coalition letter to the 19 CEOs who are members of President Trump's Strategic and Policy Forum. The letter asks to oppose the president's recent executive order barring refugees and certain immigrants from seven majority-Muslim countries. In addition to public outcry against the ban on humanitarian and constitutional grounds, many have pointed out the negative impact of barring international workers on the economy. The letter was signed by 64 socially responsible investment firms and human rights and religious organizations. The Strategic and Policy Forum's first meeting is scheduled for February 3.
According to Fitch Ratings, the plan to introduce Value Added Tax (VAT) in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states could be a key test for the region's Islamic finance industry. Saudi Arabia and Bahrain approved the implementation of VAT in the GCC, however, local implementation laws must still be agreed in each country. This paves the way for the introduction of an expected 5% VAT rate as early as the beginning of 2018. Without tax neutrality or equality rules, the introduction of VAT would put Islamic finance transactions at a disadvantage to conventional transactions. A VAT charge adds to the instalment payments in a murabaha, while a conventional transaction would not have VAT for the sale of the asset added to the interest payments. Numerous countries with VAT have provided for some form of tax neutrality or equality for Islamic finance transactions, including Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey and Pakistan.
Charles Haresnape, Aldermore’s group managing director of mortgages, is leaving the real estate company after six years. Haresnape will be joining shariah-compliant Gatehouse Bank as chief executive. An Aldermore spokeswoman confirmed that Haresnape was leaving and said he had been instrumental to the growth of the company's mortgage business. She added that Charles Haresnape would remain in the business whilst Aldermore searched for his replacement.
Jaiz Bank added N36 billion to the total market capitalisation of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE). The bank announced the official listing of its ordinary shares of N29.4 billion of 50kobo each at N1.25. The chairman of Jaiz Bank, Alhaji Umaru Abdul Mutallab, debunked insinuation that the bank was designed to only service the Islamic community, saying it was a bank for all Nigerians interested in doing ethical business. Jaiz Bank commenced operations in 2012 with a N3 billion deposit base. Since then it had a growth rate of 30%, with a current workforce of 600 staff across 30 branches across the country. On the future outlook of the bank, CEO Hassan Usman said Jaiz Bank’s prospects are bright, adding that the projection for the next five years indicated a gross revenue of N16 billion by 2021.
A global body for Islamic finance has issued a draft standard on centralized sharia boards, aiming to improve corporate governance in the industry. The proposed rules come at a time when Islamic banks are trying to widen their appeal in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, while opening up entirely new markets in Africa. The Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI) is seeking industry feedback on the proposed standard until the end of February. AAOIFI said the standard would encourage convergence of industry practices by avoiding contradictory rulings and fostering consistency across products and services. While the standard does not prescribe term limits for scholars, it does require sharia boards to implement a rotation policy for its members while including members with expertise in areas such as accounting and law.
The banking sector in #Kuwait remains solid, robust and unaffected by regional events. The operating environment can be described as low-risk thanks to the country’s central bank regulatory role and conservative approach. Kuwait International Bank (KIB) has risen to become one of the most established in Kuwait. The bank's CEO, Loai Muqames, says diversification into the retail sector took priority with the launch of stand-alone retail banking operations. Since adopting a unified CRM system the quality and efficiency of the customer service has dramatically increased. KIB partners with Kuwait’s telecom providers to offer SMS banking for those account holders without a mobile internet connection. KIB is also investing in those sectors related to the $100bn government funded national development plan currently in motion. These sectors include infrastructure, oil and gas, energy, and real estate.
Halic Leasing is expanding its sharia-compliant business portfolio to tap demand from small businesses. This is a sign that Turkey's Islamic finance market is growing beyond traditional banking services. According to Halic's General Manager Gokcen Sahin, the company is building a portfolio of leased assets and is targeting new business of around $25 million by the end of the year. Halic also aims to attract further investments from Islamic mutual funds while expanding into construction equipment later this year. The plans come after the firm's new shareholders injected fresh capital at the end of last year and set up a sharia committee to ensure its products conform to Islamic principles. Gokcen Sahid added that with a good quality portfolio, Halic may also consider raising funds via sukuk in the future.
According to S&P Global Ratings, the lower liquidity level in the GCC is not the main reason for a drop in the region’s sukuk issuances in recent years. The volume of sukuk was muted last year, particularly compared with conventional bond issuance in GCC countries. S&P believes the complexity of structuring sukuk is the main reason behind muted sukuk issuance in 2016 and it will continue to weigh on volumes in 2017. S&P also estimates GCC sovereigns financing needs at around $275bn over the next three years, the majority of which pertains to Saudi Arabia. While sukuk comprise only a small amount of total outstanding issuance, various governments established the necessary legal frameworks for their issuance.
A Turkish court indictment ruled that some 5,000 academics have deposited cash in Bank Asya after an order from U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen. After the July 2016 coup attempt Bank Asya was seized by the state over its links to the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ). The prosecutor of the case decided 15 years in prison for a total of 83 academics, of whom 21 are currently arrested. Some 33 of the suspects were alleged users of ByLock, an encrypted smartphone app that came to prominence after it revealed Gülenists used it to plan the coup. According to the indictment, the Gülen movement sent messages to senior members of the group on social media, ordering them to deposit cash in Bank Asya.
Pakistan's government-operated National Savings Scheme (NSS) is evaluating whether to offer Islamic banking services. This plan will help depositors put their cash into Islamic Shariah-compliant Ijara sukuk. As soon as that happens, millions of new accounts are expected to be opened, bringing a huge population of medium and small savers into the banking stream. Millions of others who are currently operating accounts in conventional banks may also be snatched away by the NSS. Investments in all types of the NSS go directly to the government of Pakistan, which uses this cash inflow to fill the budgetary gap and to fund its development projects. NSS deposits by people totalled Rs233 billion in 2015-16 and Rs337 billion in 2014-15. In the event of introduction of Ijara sukuk, some of these deposits are likely to be switched to this Islamic mode.
The first workshop on the Sukuk Model Law was held in Dakar, Senegal. The event was organzied by the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) and the Islamic Research and Training Institute (IRTI), in partnership with the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO). A number of experts and finance officials from the eight BCEAO member countries participated in the event. The project aimed to create a model Sukuk law and guidelines that leverage global best practices. Subsequent regional consultations are planned for South East Asia, Central Asia and the MENA regions. Speaking on the occasion, IRTI Director Mohamed Azmi Omar said the workshop reaffirmed the importance of Sukuk as an increasingly significant instrument of resource mobilization.
Applications for Islamic car loans in the UAE grew by 64.79% from 2015 to 2016. Despite growth in Islamic car loans, car loans based on traditional finance were more popular among UAE residents in 2016. Emirates NBD’s Feature-Packed Auto Loan was the most applied-for car loan in 2016. The second most applied-for auto loan of 2016 was that of HSBC, the third, fourth and fifth most applied-for car loans of 2016 were from Islamic banks. Emirates Islamic’s Auto Finance product came in third place, while Noor Bank’s Auto Finance and Ajman Bank’s Car Finance came in fourth and fifth respectively.
US President Donald Trump has been accused of courting international trade friction and a new international debt crisis. There were already signs given the huge debt built up over a decade of record low interest rates, and that rates had begun rising. The next international debt crisis could well be in the emerging market corporate sector. Global debt has reached US$217 trillion, equal to a record 325% of global gross domestic product. Investors in Brazil, South Korea, Thailand, Chile, Czech and Malaysia especially have been big borrowers. While most of this has been in local currencies, corporates in India, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Russia as well as Hong Kong and Singapore have borrowed heavily in foreign currency. This creates a currency mismatch situation.
Two obstacles blocking the substance of Islamic finance and destabilsing the economy, one is the risk weighting of Basle regulation discouraging banks from giving equity finance, the other the interest deductibility as cost factor discouraging corporates from taking equity finance.
At least the latter may slowly be resolved, reports FT Alphaville:
"US tax reform now contemplates ending the tax “subsidy” for interest. Ultimately, we concluded that the favoured tax treatment for debt and interest was unjustified, a position that inspired the primary private equity lobbying group to issue a 2,422 word press release assailing the FT piece."
It is worth reading completely; and I still wonder why Muslim majority countries are so slow to show any action to this adverse piece of damaging taxation.
The Investment Corporation of Dubai (ICD) has completed the issuance of a US$1 billion 10-year sukuk. The $1billion sukuk will be listed on the Nasdaq Dubai exchange and is the first to be issued from the region in 2017 and the second for ICD since 2014. International investor participation was robust with 26% of the issuance subscribed by investors based in the United Kingdom and Europe and 15% by investors based in Asia. Regional investor participation consisted of 58% of the total subscription with the remaining 1% of the investors based around the rest of the world. CEO Mohammed Al Shaibani said the issuance proves the ICD’s ability to provide a stable foundation that supports the ongoing success of Dubai.
#India will soon have Islamic Banking facilities. The Saudi Arabia-based Islamic Development Bank will start its operations from Gujarat soon. During Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to UAE in April last year, the Indian Exim Bank had signed a memorandum of understanding with IDB for a $100 million line of credit to facilitate exports to IDB's member countries. The Reserve Bank of India had proposed opening of an Islamic window in conventional banks for introduction of Sharia-compliant or interest free banking in the country. The proposal was taken up to ensure financial inclusion for those sections of society which remain excluded due to religious reasons.
Islamic finance is the area where Malaysia leads the world. Malaysia has 54% of global sukuk outstanding, 314 Islamic investment funds worth RM100.6 billion ($22.7 billion), and an Islamic capital market that has tripled in size since 2005, accounting for 60.1% of the total Malaysian capital market. In August the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) launched its Shariah savings scheme to give members the option to convert their conventional account to an Islamic one. It has said it expects to invest an average of RM25 billion in Shariah assets every year and it intends to allocate a minimum of 45% of its assets into Shariah-compliant forms. Thus, EPF has sufficient scale to be very interesting to asset managers worldwide. Largely through that mechanism, there are now 20 fully fledged Islamic fund management companies operating in Malaysia.
The National Development Fund of Iran (NDFI) plans to make investments in international money and financial markets. According to the fund's director, Ahmad Doust-Hosseini, the fund is also ready to support foreign investors as well as Iranian exporters by extending loans. Doust-Hosseini said from the next Iranian year (March 21, 2017), 30% of revenues from the sale of oil, gas and their related products will be deposited with the NDFI. He added that the fund belongs to the private sector and non-government enterprises, so state-owned entities will not receive any loans. Ali Salehabadi, CEO of the Export Development Bank of Iran (EBDI), said his bank will allocate working capital to export projects in the form of foreign exchange and rial loans in partnership with NDFI.
Finance Minister Ama Muhith has sought explanation from Bangladesh Bank about allegations of foreign investors of Islami Bank Bangladesh Limited (IBBL). The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) alleged that the IBBL board made the recent high-level changes in the absence and without consent of foreign shareholders. Two foreign investors including IDB hold 52% shares of the IBBL. At the board meeting January 5, former bureaucrat Arastoo Khan was elected chairman of IBBL. Changes were also brought to the posts of managing director and heads of various committees of the bank and also to chief of the Islami Bank Foundation. At present, of the 16 board of directors, seven are independent directors, seven from little known companies and two are foreign sponsors’ representatives.
The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) expressed dismay at the recent changes that took place at Islami Bank Bangladesh (IBBL). In a letter to Finance Minister Ama Muhith, IDB said the foreign shareholders feel that the governance of the bank has been taken away from them, although they own more than 52% of the shares, while IDB has a 7.5%. The IDB also criticised the way a board meeting at IBBL is convened. Furthermore, the IDB voiced its concern about the recent changes, about appointing the new managing director in an abrupt manner, not following the rigorous recruitment process. As a response to IDB's letter, Islami Bank said in a statement that all banking rules have been followed properly.