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#Qatar bank #merger said to stall over price dispute

Talks to merge three Qatari banks have hit a roadblock as shareholders disagree on price. The three banks include Masraf Al Rayan, Barwa Bank and International Bank of Qatar. Discussions are currently on hold and it’s not clear if the deal will be revived. Qatar started talks in December 2016 to create the country’s largest Shariah-compliant bank and the Middle East’s third-biggest Islamic lender with more than 178 billion riyals ($49 billion) of assets. According to Sanyalak Manibhandu, equities analyst at FAB Securities, the delay is bad news because the three banks combined would be able to compete better in the Qatar market. The merger would also provide opportunities to extract synergies from saving overheads, direct costs and investing in digitization.

Islamic banks’ financial profile to stabilise in ’18

According to S&P Global Ratings, the GCC Islamic banks’ financing growth will reach 4-5% in 2018-19, supported by strategic initiatives by the regional governments. Powered by Qatar FIFA World Cup, Dubai Expo 2020 and Saudi Vision 2030, and higher government spending in Kuwait led by Kuwait 2035 Vision, the region’s Islamic banks will continue to expand. Asset growth should remain in the low single digits due to slow economic growth, unless oil prices rebound significantly. However, Islamic banks’ cost of risk will increase due to the adoption of International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) 9 and Financial Accounting Standards (FAS) 30. While the volume of sukuk issuance increased in 2017 thanks to jumbo issuances by some GCC countries, issuance volume is currently uncertain for 2018.

SECP registers Al Hilal as first Shariah advisory company in #Pakistan

The Securities & Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) has registered Al Hilal Shariah Advisors as the first Shariah Advisory company in Pakistan. Al Hilal aims at converting the conventional interest-based economy to the Islamic financial system under the guidance of Shariah Scholars and financial experts. Al Hilal Shariah Advisors provides Shariah Advisory, Shariah audit and training services in the field of Islamic Finance. It is also active in the field of halal food certification. Al Hilal CFA Faraz Younus Bandukda said they were proud to be the first Shariah Advisory Company in Pakistan and hopeful that more companies would now implement Shariah regulations.

Cryptocurrency Infused Islamic #Microfinance Fund Launches in Central Java

Blossom Finance announced the open enrollment for an Islamic microfinance fund that will accept multiple cryptocurrencies. Investors will focus on socially responsible opportunities and receive profit sharing from Blossom’s network of microfinance partners in the province of Central Java, Indonesia. Blossom has partnered with PBMT Ventura, an Indonesian Islamic microfinance firm. The funds raised will be utilized to bolster micro-businesses and traditional market sellers to meet the increased demand during the upcoming Ramadan holiday. In order to participate, investors will have the option to invest with Bitcoin Core (BTC), Bitcoin Cash (BCH), Ethereum (ETH) or USD.

#Saudi issues new Islamic bond to finance budget

Saudi Arabia has completed the issuance of a new sukuk sale to help finance its budget deficit. The Kingdom raised $1.3 billion from the sale of sukuks in three tranches maturing in five, seven and 10 years. This was the second sukuk sale this year following a $4.8-billion issue it completed last month. The government debt level, both domestic and international, rose from 1.6% of gross domestic product in 2014 to 17.3 of GDP last year reaching $118 billion. During the same period, the government has drawn down some $245 billion from its fiscal reserves. Oil income made up more than 90% of public revenues before oil began to slide.

Islamic Equity Class Should Explore Solutions To Stay Competitive - Sultan Nazrin

According to the Sultan of Perak, Sultan Nazrin Shah, the Islamic equity asset class needs to explore solutions and achieve critical mass volume in order to remain competitive. He delivered his keynote speech at the Franklin Templeton Investments 2018 Islamic Forum in Kuala Lumpur. He believes that Islamic finance must embrace the era of disruptive innovation, with a continued strong focus on product innovation. The global asset management landscape had been pushed to embrace new online investment platforms and failure to keep up with these changing structural dynamics could put the industry at an even greater disadvantage than at present. He said that Islamic investors could also capitalise on the emerging "green" or environmentally-friendly finance.

Al Salam Bank names group chief executive

Al Salam Bank-Bahrain (ASBB) has appointed Rafik Nayed as chief executive of the group following regulatory approvals. According to ASBB chairman Khaleefa Butti Al Muhairi, Rafik Nayed has a proven international track record in banking and finance as well as the necessary expertise needed for this position.

Dubai launches Sharia compliant #crypto assets backed with diamonds

Dubai's Al Kasir Group and Sheikh Ahmed bin Obaid Al Maktoum have jointly initiated the launch of a new crypto asset backed with diamonds. The crypto assets can be redeemed for diamonds of the same amount. Amit Lakhanpal, the founder of Al Kasir Group said this venture offers the convenience of a digital currency with the stability of a traditional asset. The name of the crypto assets unveiled at the event were Al Mas, Al Haqeek and Al Falah. Al Haqeek can be redeemed against precious gems. Al Falah can be redeemed against perfumes. The company plans to open 1,000 physical stores for customers across Gulf, South East Asia, Europe and UK. The crypto assets could be purchased over the counter.

One cryptocurrency thinks it is Sharia-compliant, but for Muslim investors the blockchain still has pitfalls

OneGram claims to comply with Islamic finance requirements with its gold-backed, Sharia-compliant digital coin. Muslim countries Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates issued warnings against the use of alternative digital currencies. Islamic jurists in South Africa have ruled in favour of cryptocurrencies, arguing that they have become socially acceptable and commonly used. According to Max Vehmeyer, client relations manager at Kagiso Asset Management, the compliance of cryptocurrencies with Sharia law is still a grey area. This is partly because cryptocurrencies have inherent risks of fraud and cheating because of a lack of regulation, which is not in line with Islamic commercial jurisprudence. Vehmeyer says the introduction of a virtual currency like OneGram limits speculation to some degree.

Global REIT: The First Sharia-Compliant REIT Launched in the #Cryptocurrency Market

Global REIT is the first ever Blockchain based Sharia-compliant REIT to be launched in the cryptocurrency space today. It is offering investors exposure to the real estate market on a global scale without the necessity of acquiring an entire property and shift the management and compliance obligations to the fund manager. At first, Global REIT will acquire assets from the UAE and rapidly acquire more assets from other jurisdictions worldwide. The first AUM (Asset under Management) will have a Net Asset Value of USD 75 million. Gradually by the end of 5 years, Global REIT is projecting an Asset Value of USD 10 billion. Global REIT has its pre-ICO scheduled to start from 1st May and ends 31st May 2018, during which it will offer Dual Utility tokens to its subscribers: Global REIT Fund Manager Token (GREM) and Global REIT Asset Token (GRET).

The Role of Islamic Finance

The gap in financing for SDGs is currently estimated at US$ 2.5 trillion every year and Islamic finance could better respond to these needs. The core principles of Islamic finance are highly aligned with the spirit of the SDGs. The Islamic Development Bank found Islamic Finance to be especially relevant in addressing ten of the 17 SDGs, including goals pertaining to poverty alleviation, infrastructure development, financial stability, and beyond. In Indonesia, for example, UNDP is partnering with BAZNAS to apply Zakat funds towards local SDG plans, beginning with renewable energy projects in underserved communities. UNDP Indonesia is also working with Badan Wakaf Indonesia to collaborate on SDGs and develop a digital platform for waqf contributions. UNDP is also working with the Indonesian Ministry of Finance to support the issuance of their first $1.25 billion sovereign green sukuk.

Al Hilal Bank and ADGM to collaborate on knowledge-based initiatives

Al Hilal Bank and Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to develop a strategic collaboration. The MoU focuses on the utilisation of ADGM Academy, the newly established financial educational centre. The MoU provides Al Hilal Bank with The Academy’s network of trainers, internationally renowned curriculum and ADGM’s business ecosystem. Al Hilal Bank Senior Managing Director Sultan Al Mahmood said this partnership represents a unique learning and development opportunity for employees to develop a best practice financial education. The signing ceremony took place on Monday, 16 April 2018 at the ADGM Academy, located on Al Maryah Island. It was attended by H.E. Ahmed Ali Al Sayegh, Chairman of ADGM and H.E Khalaf Abdulla Rahma Al Hammadi, Vice Chairman of Al Hilal Bank.

Gassner's picture

Tomorrow starts RFI Summit Zurich, Switzerland

Happy to meet there in person the first day!

"The Responsible Finance & Investment Summit (RFI Summit) is an initiative of the RFI Foundation and Swiss Arab Network to build awareness of shared values that can bring socially responsible investing (SRI), environmental, social and governance (ESG) and Islamic finance together to increase their positive impact.

This Responsible Finance & Investment Summit brings together key stakeholders within responsible finance to build connections to new growth opportunities and more measurable impact. The RFI Summit will play a vital role in connecting representatives from across the responsible finance industry to build on the growing cooperation between SRI, ESG and Islamic finance."

GCC Islamic Banks' Financial Profiles to Stabilize in 2018

According to S&P Global Ratings, Islamic banks in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries should see their financial profiles stabilize through 2018. S&P's Global Head of Islamic Finance, Mohamed Damak expects that GCC Islamic banks' total asset growth will remain in the low single digits over the next 12-24 months, after stabilizing at about 4% for the GCC system in 2017. He also expects that cost of risk for Islamic banks will rise, due to the adoption of International Financial Reporting Standard 9 and Financial Accounting Standard 30. Combined with the introduction of value-added tax, the increase in risk costs will result in a dip in the profitability of Islamic banks in the next two years.

Sharia-compliant #investments guard against foreign influence

Sharia-compliant investments have flourished in recent years, which could help strengthen the domestic market’s resistance to global influences. Data from the Indonesia Stock Exchange (IDX) shows that the number of sharia-compliant investors in March grew 18%, or by 4,245 investors year-to-date (ytd), with transactions totaling Rp 476 billion.

#FinTech Hive programme now includes Islamic finance

FinTech Hive at DIFC has announced that its upcoming programme will expand its themes to include insurance, Islamic finance, and regulatory technology services. This year’s cycle will welcome First Abu Dhabi Bank, Arab Bank, and Noor Bank as new Financial Institution partners, along with returning partners such as Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, Citigroup, Emirates Islamic, Emirates NBD, HSBC, Mashreq, Standard Chartered, UAE Exchange and Visa. The participating Financial Institutions will partner with startups in a wide-ranging 12-week mentorship and networking programme. FinTech Hive at DIFC will also feature the Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre (DIEDC) as a strategic partner again this year. In addition, FinTech Hive at DIFC will collaborate with Accenture’s FinTech Innovation Labs to connect regional innovators to the international FinTech ecosystem.

First full-fledged Islamic bank approved in #Afghanistan

Afghanistan’s central bank has granted a license to the Islamic Bank of Afghanistan (IBA). IBA Chief Financial Officer Faizan Ahmed said the bank had completed the conversion of its balance sheet. It plans to introduce wealth management products and launch new digital banking services in the coming months. Afghanistan’s banking sector is small, but Islamic finance is seen as an important feature that could help attract more people into the financial system. IBA estimates that only 5.7% of the population has dealings with the banking sector and the majority of the country in unbanked. Islamic banking has been offered in Afghanistan by a handful of firms through so-called Islamic windows, but there have been no full-fledged Islamic banks so far. Lenders with Islamic windows include Afghan United Bank, Ghazanfar Bank and Afghanistan International Bank.

Green developments in Islamic finance

Increasing environmental awareness worldwide has seen a marked rise in the appetite for green bonds. Malaysia has been the market leader in the issuance of Green Sukuk, with guidelines issued in 2014 for socially responsible investment (SRI). These set out that the proceeds can be used to preserve the environment and natural resources, conserve the use of energy, promote the use of renewable energy and reduce greenhouse gas emission. Malaysia launched the world’s first Green Sukuk on 27 June 2017. The UAE's Green Growth Strategy was launched in 2012 to become a global hub and a successful model for the low carbon green economy. There will most certainly be challenges, like drafting of documentation acceptable to governments, investors and Shari’ah scholars. There is increasing appetite for environmentally friendly products and considerable potential in the UAE.

One year on: Al Hilal Bank CEO Alex Coelho

In this interview, Al Hilal Bank CEO Alex Coelho gives his regional and global assessment of market threats and opportunities. Coelho still lectures at New York University and those theoretical discussions help feed into the practical decisions he makes in his day job. He’s bullish about recent stock market volatility and doesn’t seem overly concerned at the possibility of the US economy overheating. Now he is more concerned by geopolitical rather than economic upsets. Coelho refuses to predict the future price of oil and sees no correlation between oil prices and their activity as a bank. He says this is due to government focus on diversifying output. He thinks Dubai’s Expo 2020 will have a positive effect on the UAE economy, as such events have high impact in economies that are in growth mode, such as the UAE and GCC.

Will #Iran’s banking sector collapse?

Financial experts are warning that Iran’s banking sector is at risk of a collapse due to toxic assets. It is no secret that over the past decade all Iranian banks were negatively affected by sanctions, internal mismanagement and corruption. Another disturbing factor in the financial sector has been the presence of unlicensed financial institutions. Government interference has led to the accumulation of tens of billions of dollars of bad debts that will continue to put pressure on the balance sheets of Iranian banks for some time to come. Besides the high ratio of nonperforming loans, Iranian banks have a high portion of overvalued and illiquid assets on their balance sheets that need to be adjusted. Now several Iranian banks are following government instructions and have started to sell their noncore assets. The Central Bank of Iran (CBI) will have no choice but to push for bank mergers and also to impose and implement tough regulations on the country’s banks in order to prevent a deeper crisis.

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