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VEB and The Islamic Development Bank Group to Establish a Partnership Fund Amounting up to $100 mln

Russia's Vnesheconombank (VEB) and the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) Group will establish a Partnership Fund. According to VEB Chairman Sergei Gorkov, the joint fund will be based on the principles of Islamic finance and will aim at promoting investment in the Russian economy and financing high technologies. The joint contribution of VEB and the IDB Group to the fund's capital will amount up to $100 million. Third-party investors will be involved as well. Gorkov added that the Middle East market is one of the strategic areas of cooperation for Vnesheconombank. It plans to open a representative office in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates, and create a Russian business desk there. It will provide access to sales and capital markets in the region and create opportunities for partnership with local players.

Dana Gas close to a deal on $700m #sukuk dispute, say sources

Dana Gas has reached an agreement with key holders of $700m of its sukuk to restructure the securities. A committee representing sukukholders agreed to accept an immediate cash payout of 20 cents to the dollar and to roll the rest into a three-year security. According to the agreement, the new security will pay an annual coupon of 4%, bondholders agreed to remove the convertible option in the securities. Dana Gas said it would pay a further 20% of the sukuk after two years and will raise the coupon to 6% if it fails to do so. The majority of sukukholders have agreed to the terms. Investment bank Houlihan Lokey is advising Dana Gas and Moelis & Co is the consultant to the committee of sukukholders.

Gulf Capital Acquires Strategic Stake in #Saudi Arabia #Fintech Geidea

Asset management firm Gulf Capital has acquired a strategic stake in Saudi Arabian fintech company, Geidea. According to Gulf Capital, this deal with Geidea is the largest acquisition in the Saudi Fintech sector. Geidea was founded in 2008 and is the official distributor of Verifone and a payment solution company. Gulf Capital also reported that this deal is its fifth investment in the technology sector and is part of its efforts to develop the payment and digital financial transaction sector in the GCC. Dr. Karim El Solh, CEO of Gulf Capital, stated that this partnership was paving the way to adopt Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 and move towards a cashless society.

Asia’s Islamic finance industry growing stronger by the year

The Malaysia International Islamic Finance Center (MIFC) published in cooperation with the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD) the latest report entitled “Islamic finance in Asia: Reaching new heights”. According to the report, Asia’s Islamic finance assets registered an annual growth of 8.4% between 2011 and 2016 and stood at $528.7bn, or 26% of the world’s Shariah-compliant financial assets, at the end of 2017. Furthermore, Asia has grown to the largest market for sukuk. $52.3bn or 52.5% of all newly issued sukuk came from Asia in 2017, with most notable contributors being Hong Kong, Indonesia and Pakistan. The region also has a global market share of 60.7% of sukuk outstanding and is market leader in Islamic funds. The report states that Malaysia, Bangladesh, Brunei and Indonesia are currently among the most developed Islamic banking jurisdictions in Asia.

#Kazakhstan's financial hub adds Islamic arbitration capabilities

Kazakhstan's financial hub, the International Arbitration Centre (IAC) is adding specialists in Islamic law to its dispute resolution services. The IAC provides mediation and arbitration services as an alternative to traditional court litigation. The IAC is an independent body launched to complement the Astana International Financial Center (AIFC), an economic zone aimed at developing the republic's financial sector. IAC Chairman Barbara Dohmann said that Islamic finance is now part of everyday business dealings across the region, so the ability to handle civil and commercial disputes in Islamic finance has become very important.

Sharjah turns to the debt market to raise investment capital

The government of Sharjah is tapping the debt markets to help fund large-scale infrastructure and economic development programmes. On March 8 the emirate closed the book on a dollar-denominated sukuk, valued at $1bn. The 10-year bond was listed on the NASDAQ Dubai with an initial price of 150 basis points over the 10-year mid-swap rate, which then tightened to 135 basis points. Demand was high and the bond was oversubscribed, at around $2.4bn. Book runners were local, regional and global lenders, including the Sharjah Islamic Bank (SIB), Dubai Islamic Bank, HSBC and Standard Chartered. In early February the emirate also became the first Gulf sovereign issuer to tap the Chinese interbank bond market, issuing a RMB2bn ($318.4m) Panda bond. The increased investment is expected to boost GDP growth, with ratings agency S&P anticipating growth of 2.5% per year by 2020.

#Afghanistan enlists faith-based banks to aid financial inclusion

Afghanistan hopes its first Islamic bank will attract more customers and improve access to financial services in the country. The central bank granted its first Islamic license last month and is now developing wealth management products and new digital banking services. There are currently six banks that offer sharia compliant products through so-called Islamic windows and their conversion would require setting up an internal sharia board and having a clean bill of health. The latter may be a challenge for some because of difficulties in converting impaired loans into Islamic equivalents. The government is also working on legislation that would allow for the issuance of sukuk, although such plans are still at a preliminary stage.

Islamic Banking on the Blockchain, Hada DBank, Releases Token Sale Structure

The first blockchain-powered Islamic Bank, Hada DBank, has launched its token sale on May 1st, 2018. HADA DBank is a platform aimed at providing Islamic banking methodology. The platform offers a maximum liability to asset at a ratio of 1:3. Hada DBank aims to design and develop an Exchange platform offering a No fee policy on both cryptocurrency and non crypto-related transactions. The bank will also provide its users with physical and virtual debit cards, inclusive of cashback and discount schemes with merchants and affiliate partners. Users can gain full access to Bot HUDA, a bot in charge of financial management, while artificial intelligence, HADI, will be a personal financial advisor to the platform’s clients. Hada DBank has pegged the soft cap of its Token Generation Event at 5,000 ETH and hard cap at 30,000 ETH. The first set of 1,000,000 HADACoins will be distributed at 3,000 HADA per 1 ETH at a minimum contribution of 0.15 ETH.

#Turkey holds great potential for Islamic finance

According to Abdelilah Belatik, secretary general of the General Council for Islamic Banks and Financial Institutions (CIBAFI), Turkey's potential for Islamic banks is very big. Turkey has three participation banks, Al Baraka, Kuwait Turk, and Turkiye Finans, which are operating overseas already. Turkey's Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BDDK) started developing comprehensive regulations for participation banks. Belatik said countries like Bahrain and Malaysia have developed their entire system of infrastructure for Islamic finance, which is very important for the development of the industry. This year, CIBAFI chose Turkey to host its annual Global Forum. The Forum is focusing on how the industry will fulfill its obligations while remaining competitive and relevant within global financial markets.

Banking #Merger Imminent

The planned merger of three Iranian lenders will take place in the coming days. The three banks are: Mehr Eqtesad Bank, Samen Credit Institution, and Ansar Bank. Samen and Mehr Eqtesad are currently branded by the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) as "awaiting license". Farshad Heydari, CBI’s deputy for supervision, had already announced in March that Mehr Eqtesad and Samen would be acquired by Ansar Bank. The planned consolidation would be a watershed event in reducing the influence of shadow banks and making the Iranian banking system more efficient.

Al Baraka Banking Group and the Bank of London & The Middle East (BLME) sign a Memorandum of Understanding to enhance their collaborations and product offerings.

Al Baraka Banking Group (ABG) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Bank of London & The Middle East (BLME). The MoU was signed by Mohammed El Qaq, Senior Vice President & Head of Commercial Banking of Al Baraka Banking Group and Andrew Ball, Head of Wealth Management of BLME. The MoU provides both parties with opportunities to collaborate and gives BLME the chance to provide Al Baraka clients with investment opportunities in UK real estate. According to ABG President Adnan Ahmed Yousif, the MOU will enable the bank to enhance its product offerings and capitalize on its geographic diversification and wide client base. Al Baraka currently has a strong presence in Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Sudan, Bahrain, Pakistan, South Africa, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Morocco, including two representative offices in Indonesia and Libya.

Dentons advised banks on Islamic financing for Byrne Group sale

Dentons has revealed that it acted as legal counsel advising on the Islamic financing of the proposed $270 million acquisition of Byrne Group by Itqan Investments. Byrne is an equipment rental company servicing the construction, industrial, oil and gas industries in the GCC. Through the recently completed transaction, Itqan Investments purchased the entire share capital of Byrne Equipment Rental and its subsidiaries. The organisation hopes to enhance Byrne’s ambition to launch into the Asian market. The Dentons team was led by partner and head of Islamic Finance in the Middle East Qasim Aslam, with support from senior associates Atif Choudhary and Jane Flournoy.

Sharia #fintech in #Indonesia seeing early boom, but VCs need convincing

Indonesia has seen a rapid growth of sharia fintech. In fact, the country’s Sharia Fintech Association already has 28 members, although it was established only in February. The interest is understandable given the size of the market for Islamic fintech. According to a 2017 Sharia Fintech Business Study published by Telkom Indonesia, the market size for sharia lending is worth up to Rp 7.3 trillion ($525 million). However, venture capital firms still seem hesitant about pouring capital into the sector. Mandiri Capital Indonesia investment head Aldi Adrian Hartanto believes that sharia fintech startups would need a more convincing business model and market approach in order to attract investment. Focusing on sharia market alone is not seen as a strong differentiator amid tight competition in the country. Malaysia, however, seems to see it differently. The country has made various efforts to provide funding for Muslim-focused tech. Thus, Malaysia was ranked first for Islamic fintech by Bloomberg Intelligence, followed by the UK and UAE.

Islamic finance body AAOIFI issues #standard for agency contracts

The Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI) has issued its first standard covering wakala, or investment agency contracts. The guidance aims to address the use of wakala in areas such as over-the-counter instruments, treasury placements and Islamic bonds. Wakala is common as a standalone product, but AAOIFI opted to focus its standard on more complex instances where it is combined with other contracts. Islamic banks use wakala for both their short and long-term funding needs, and in recent years have incorporated the contract into hybrid sukuk versions. In wakala, one party acts as agent for another and the AAOIFI standard focuses on this principal-agent relationship. It states that the relationship does not transfer ownership rights of the assets to the agent, the principal should account for the assets in its accounting books. The standard also requires the principal to evaluate the nature of the investment at inception.

Istanbul: Islamic financial body vows to stay relevant

The General Council for Islamic Banks and Financial Institutions (CIBAFI) held its two-day Global Forum in Istanbul. The forum’s main theme was "The New Face of Financial Services: Disruptions, Opportunities and the New Normals". Secretary-general Abdelilah Belatik said that CIBAFI would stay relevant in the industry as the world changes. CIBAFI's mandate is to represent the Islamic financial services industry globally, defend and promote its role, and to also consolidate cooperation among its members. Mehmet Ali Akben, chairman of the Turkey's Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BDDK), said that while globalization had made countries come closer together, it also brought along risks. He added that countries need international cooperation and CIBAFI is one of the best examples of having cooperation and partnership between the countries.

‘SCB plans to bring more Islamic liquidity to #Bangladesh’

According to Rehan M Shaikh, CEO of Standard Chartered Saadiq, Standard Chartered Bank (SCB) wants to bring more Islamic liquidity into the market as the demand is increasing in Bangladesh as well as in the global markets. Islamic banking has expanded three times from 2007 to 2017 in Bangladesh, with a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 11.6%. The Takaful sector has grown five times with a CAGR of 19.34% during this period. SCB has arranged a $32 million Diminishing Musharakah Facility for Noman Terry Towel Mills and Ismail Spinning Mills. This is the first Islamic syndication arranged by SCB Bangladesh. The facility will finance the company’s capital expenditures and support its export growth.

After downturn, Islamic finance eyes profits, #fintech: survey

Islamic banks and insurers are focusing on profitability and new financial products. Surveys by the General Council for Islamic Banks and Financial Institutions (CIBAFI) show a strong focus on fintech and digital transformation. Islamic banks are launching technology departments and forming joint ventures with fintech firms. The survey showed that technology-related risks have been steadily increasing and are now the biggest perceived risks. This means Islamic banks must ramp up product innovation efforts, as crowdfunding, P2P and payments platforms will be a major focus in the medium term. The CIBAFI survey on Takaful showed a mixed view on technology, suggesting concerns were focused on operational efficiency rather than innovation.

Islamic finance body IFSB to develop financial inclusion guidance

The Malaysia-based Islamic Financial Services Board (IFSB) plans to develop a technical note on financial inclusion. The technical note will cover regulatory issues including Islamic microfinance, financial technology and integration of social finance. The guidelines will be funded by a grant from the Islamic Development Bank to be implemented over the next three years. Tens of millions of people in the Muslim world lack bank accounts because of poverty, poor education and a lack of infrastructure, but religious reasons are also an important element. Research from the International Monetary Fund has shown that religious concerns play a role in keeping people out of the financial system in countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Tunisia.

Islamic Development Bank finalizing 4-year investment plan with #Turkey

The Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) is working on finalizing a four-year partnership strategy plan with Turkey. Walid Abdelwahab said the IDB aims to invest in various sectors that will fuel growth, such as infrastructure, energy, transportation and education. He said the bank aims to support value chain development in Turkey to enable the country to become more competitive through linking it with global value chains. He added that the bank appreciates Turkey's experience with high-speed railways. IsDB is preparing a documentary on this topic for other member countries of the Group that are interested in this technology.

New report highlights how Islamic financial institutions are addressing the environmental & social impact of their financing

The Responsible Finance & Investment Summit 2018 concluded with a report about Islamic financial institutions’ perceptions and actions on their environmental and social impacts. The report includes a detailed survey of over 30 Islamic financial institutions’ sustainable finance practices. During the RFI Summit 2018, participants heard a call to action on impact finance from speakers like HRH Emir Muhammadu Sanusi II, Emir of Kano, Dr. Henri B. Meier, Dr. Iyad Abu Moghli and others. The winners of the Support Disruption for Good Challenge presented their companies. The three winners, AID:Tech, INBONIS and thirdACT, demonstrated how companies can use technology to enable greater investment and financing to flow to support healthcare, agriculture and sustainable cities.

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