GCC

MIDEAST #DEBT-#Qataris hold non-deal bond roadshows as rift drags on -sources

Qatari banks have met investors in Europe and Asia to gauge their interest in potential U.S. dollar bond issues. Access to international debt markets has become problematic since the diplomatic crisis has erupted. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic and transport ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism. Cross-border deposits accounted for about a quarter of Qatar's total deposits, so banks started to look for alternative funding. Al Khalij Commercial Bank, Doha Bank, Qatar International Islamic Bank and QNB have all met investors in recent weeks. Feedback was positive, but investors also made clear that issuers would have to pay premiums in order to attract sufficient demand. According to an international portfolio manager, the premium that Qatari banks would have to pay is about 30-40 basis points. A second fund manager said Qatari banks would have to pay up not only because of the increased political risk, but also because of general market conditions in the region.

Exclusive - #Saudi Arabia preparing tougher rules for insurers - sources

Saudi Arabia’s central bank is preparing tougher rules for insurance companies. A new supervisory framework will be introduced in the coming months that will force insurers to boost capital significantly and improve internal risk controls. The moves are aimed at triggering consolidation in the insurance industry and forcing weaker companies to merge with stronger ones. The proposed changes were discussed during a meeting between officials of the Saudi Arabia Monetary Authority (SAMA) and senior insurance executives. Saudi Arabia’s insurance market is fragmented, with only a few companies dominating the sector and an abundance of smaller firms unable to make inroads. The central bank does not want the smaller companies to fail, as more than half of the shares are owned by politically sensitive retail investors in a market unaccustomed to liquidations.

Arcapita And Mumtalakat Acquire NAS United Healthcare Services

Arcapita and Bahrain Mumtalakat Holding Company have partnered to acquire an approximately 90% stake in NAS United Healthcare Services (NAS). Arcapita is a global Shari'ah compliant alternative investment manager. Mumtalakat is the sovereign wealth fund of the Kingdom of Bahrain. Abu Dhabi-based NAS is a regional leader in the provision of third-party administrator services to more than 40 health insurance and takaful companies in the Arabian Gulf. NAS services a pool of more than 500,000 insured members and processes more than 3 million medical claims per year. The market for outsourced medical claims management in the GCC region is expected to grow significantly. Most GCC governments have either implemented mandatory healthcare insurance coverage or plan to launch initiatives in the next 2 to 3 years.

Qatar International Islamic Bank readies $2 bln #sukuk programme

Qatar International Islamic Bank has finished creating a $2 billion sukuk issuance programme and is preparing to issue it when market conditions improve. Qatar's access to international bond markets has become problematic since Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic and transport ties with the country. Instead of debt markets banks have turned to privately placed bond and sukuk deals, as well as bilateral loans. Qatari banks are facing greater urgency to secure funding because banks from the four Arab countries have been withdrawing deposits from Qatar. Last month the largest Qatari lender, Qatar National Bank, raised $630 million in Taiwan’s Formosa bond market. Commercial Bank of Qatar is also considering whether to borrow money on the Taiwanese bond market.

What the West doesn’t understand about #UAE foreign #aid

In 2013, 2014, and 2016, the UAE was the world’s biggest international donor, disbursing billions of dollars each year. In 2015, it had the fourth highest aid per capita in the world. Most westerners have no idea that the UAE is so active in foreign aid. Around 90% of its foreign aid is developmental with the rest going on humanitarian and religious/cultural assistance. The recipients are primarily developing Arab and Islamic countries, including Egypt, Yemen, and Jordan. A key factor is a difference in Islamic and secular westerner attitudes to charity. When Islamic banks in the Gulf region are solicited for funds to support civil society projects, they often donate only on the condition that their donation be anonymous. Going forward, transparency efforts must continue. However, the UAE must also work hard to protect the dignity of its aid recipients via appropriate levels of discreetness.

#United Arab Emirates: The Securities And Commodities Authority (SCA) Launched A Strategy For Islamic Capital Market Development

The Securities and Commodities Authority (SCA) launched a strategy for Islamic capital market development. The strategy includes the supervisory role played by SCA, the role played by self-regulatory organizations (SROs) and the challenges encountered. SCA's role is to issue legislative regulations for the Islamic capital market, updates on sukuk and capital adequacy regulations, the introduction of shari'ah board governance system and the organization of training programs. Markets' role is to issue provisions regulating trading securities, update existing regulations and develop investment indicators for Islamic securities. There are numerous challenges facing the Islamic finance market. They include the high costs of Islamic contracts, the increased complexity of Islamic products, the difference in perspectives of Islamic law and the availability of trained and qualified human resources.

#Roundtable throws light on greater understanding of Islamic finance

Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU) and the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) jointly organised the event entitled Shariah Governance in a Globalized World. It featured over 50 experts comprising Shariah scholars, Islamic finance professionals, academics, practitioners and regulators. Issues regarding Islamic jurisprudence were discussed as well as contemporary best practices in the corporate governance of banks. Some participants offered proposals on reforming models of Shariah governance of Islamic banks. Dr Haitham Mohamed Al Salama, chief economic adviser at the QFC, said contributing and collaborating in the field of Islamic finance was a key goal for the QFC. He added that such events were part of QFC's strategy to develop a world-class international business sector in Qatar.

SEDCO Capital discusses #ethical #investment in forum

#Saudi asset manager SEDCO Capital participated in the Islamic Finance Forum in London as an associate sponsor. Several panels and workshops were held focusing on trends in Islamic Finance and European markets. Panel topics included the role of European Stock Exchanges in facilitating Islamic capital raising, Islamic corporate financing activity in Europe and the impact of Brexit. Kamran Butt, Managing Director at SEDCO Capital, participated in the panel discussion entitled "Responsible Investing: The Shift towards Green Finance, ESG & Ethical Funds". Butt said SEDCO's Prudent Ethical Investing (PEI) strategy created optimal risk adjusted returns by integrating Shariah-compliant investment approach with ethical investing. PEI stresses the importance of due diligence and transparency. PEI investment products are getting increasingly popular. International investors can choose from over 14 SEDCO Sharia-compliant investment strategies in Luxembourg with total AUMs of $1.8 billion.

#Mergers among smaller Islamic banking industry likely in GCC

There are several rumors about possible mergers of the smaller Islamic banks in the GCC region. According to UCapital, the relatively small size of Islamic banks is one of the compelling reasons for them to consider consolidation. However there is no compelling reason for a big number of regional banks to rush into merger deals. Banks across the region are facing pressure on profitability and tighter liquidity. The UAE, Bahrain and Oman would benefit from consolidation as many banks in these countries lack sufficient scale. A proposed merger of Kuwait Finance House and Ahli United Bank is expected to result in second biggest Islamic Bank in the GCC. Merger of Qatari banks Masraf Al Rayan, Barwa Bank and International Bank of Qatar which was announced last year is progressing and is expected to complete by end of the year.

#UAE court postpones judgment at Dana Gas #sukuk hearing - source

A judge at a United Arab Emirates court has postponed the ruling in the Dana Gas sukuk case. Dana is refusing to make payments on the sukuk, which will mature this month. It argues that changes in Islamic finance over recent years have made the bonds unlawful in the UAE. The postponement means the next major development in the dispute may occur in a London High Court, where fund manager BlackRock and Deutsche Bank are representing the sukuk holders. In late September, High Court judge George Leggatt said he would adjourn the London trial until October 12.

#Kuwait's Warba Bank part of IDB's USD 1.2 billion venture

Warba Bank announced that it will be partaking in a USD 1.25 billion five-year joint venture with the Islamic Development Bank (IDB). Warba Bank said that subscription for the deal had attracted regional and international financial institutions. The amount of issued bonds reached over 136%, around USD 1.7 billion. Warba Bank indicated that it would reap around 2.6% of annual income due to the deal. The IDB issued around 53% of the bonds to investors from the MENA region and Europe, while 47% of the bonds target investors from Asia.

Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank says its ramping up spending on digital technologies

Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (ADIB) is planning to spend significant financial resources on digital technology this year. The lender is not rushing to downsize its branch network, as clients continue to value human interaction. According to Phil King, head of retail banking at ADIB, the bank is also planning to open three to five branches across the UAE next year. King noted that while mobile banking transactions at ADIB rose 49% in the first half of the year, there was a 10% drop in visits made by customers to the bank’s branches in the same period. He added that new branches would be smaller in size, ranging between 35 to 70 square meters versus the larger ones of the past. As a result of the bank’s increase in consumer lending, ADIB’s retail staff has grown 7% so far this year to 247 employees compared to a year-earlier period. ADIB's second-quarter net profit rose 8.7%, beating analyst forecast, thanks to a drop in provisions, gains in income from credit cards and other fee products.

#Green #sukuk set to become sustainable #investment tools

Sukuk investing in environmentally sustainable projects has become increasingly popular in the recent past. In the latest development, Malaysia saw its first green sukuk in July, when solar power firm Tadau Energy came out with a green sukuk with a tenure of 16 years, raising 250mn ringgit ($59.2mn). Malaysia’s Securities Commission came up with a Sustainable Responsible Investment Sukuk Framework as early as in 2014. This regulation clarified that proceeds of such sukuk should be used to preserve the environment, conserve the use of energy and promote renewable technologies. The World Bank lauded Malaysia for its innovative approach. Another initiative emerged in the Gulf Cooperation Council. The Green Sukuk and Working Party was set up as a collaboration of experts in project development, environmental standards, capital markets, and Islamic finance. Founders include Masdar City’s Clean Energy Business Council, the Climate Bonds Initiative and the Gulf Bond and Sukuk Association. The group is now developing green sukuk for interested issuers, including governments, companies and development banks.

#Islamic #banks and #Takaful sectors likely to witness more #mergers

The merger of National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD) and First Gulf Bank (FGB) in the UAE last year had triggered a number of unconfirmed reports of bank mergers across the GCC. However, most of these reports were denied by bank managements. While bankers and analysts say the time is ripe for more bank mergers, they expect more merger deals to happen in the Islamic banking and Takaful industry. A proposed merger of Kuwait Finance House and Ahli United Bank is expected to result in second biggest Islamic Bank in the GCC after Al Rajhi Bank. The merger of Qatari banks Masraf Al Rayan, Barwa Bank and International Bank of Qatar is progressing and is expected to complete by end of the year. Some countries have only a small number of local banks, which limits competition. This means that profitability has remained solid and is therefore less likely to be a driver for M&A. Another stumbling block is the ownership structure of GCC banks, well established local private shareholders often control sizeable stakes and foreign banks only hold minority stakes.

Here’s How #Oman Is Helping Young Omanis Become Future Investors

At the beginning of the new school year, Meethaq Islamic Bank along with the Ministry of Education and Injaz Oman has started a financial literacy program called Little Investor. It covers over 4,000 students in Muscat, Batinah, and Dhofar. The aim of the initiative is to broaden the early financial education among Oman’s kids, to help them create healthy savings habits and to motivate them to develop their entrepreneurial skills. As an example of a successful public-private partnership, the initiative aims to unite the nation and make the people give back to their country. The four pillars of the program include financial literacy, sustainable tourism, green environment and enriched lifestyle. Injaz Oman is a non-profit organization working towards improving young people's leadership and entrepreneurial skills. Meethaq Bank confirmed it would stick to its social responsibility initiatives and would keep investing in the sustainable development of Oman.

Rasmala Trade Finance #Fund surpasses $100 million

Rasmala Investment Bank Limited (RIBL) announced that assets under management in the Rasmala Trade Finance Fund have recently surpassed $100 million. The Fund specialises in providing short-term structured and/or asset-backed liquidity and has delivered 34 consecutive months of positive returns generating an annualised return of 4.5% for investors since inception. The Fund has seen interest from regional and international institutional investors as well as family offices, corporates, and high net worth investors. The Fund provides a regulated Shari'ah compliant investment vehicle to diversify international asset allocation. David Marshall, Head of Products at Rasmala, said the team worked hard on expanding the Fund’s asset base while matching inflows with investment opportunities. He promised to remain focused on tailoring products that offer clients real alternatives.

QINVEST bullish on #Turkey, bets on EM equities

Qatar’s QInvest is set to reinforce its presence in Turkey. Head of Asset Management at QInvest, Dr Ataf Ahmed is seeing huge opportunities in various asset classes in Turkey. In 2016, QInvest acquired ERGO Portfoy, rebranded as QInvestPortfoy and became a leading asset management group in Turkey. The company is also seeing opportunities within Emerging Markets (EM) equities, despite the inherent volatility of the asset class. Inflation is coming in under control and there are a number of positive surprises in economic growth. There is also exposure to broader EM within some of the global funds and mandates, however this represents approximately 10% of total assets across all QInvest funds. In the GCC region businesses have adjusted to low oil prices. According to Ahmed, GCC nations are reinforcing their plans to diversify the economies, moving into sectors like finance, trade and tourism.

#Saudi #insurers soar after decision to allow women to drive

Investors in Saudi Arabia are betting insurance stocks will be key beneficiaries from allowing women to drive. An index composed of 33 insurance stocks rose the most in three months. The Company for Cooperative Insurance, or Tawuniya, increased the most in seven months, other beneficiaries include Al Rajhi Takaful and Walla. The announcement to allow women to drive is one of the most dramatic moves in the government’s bid to open up society. Accroding to Jaap Meijer, head of research at Arqaam Capital, the number of cars in Saudi Arabia is likely to increase at least 20% in the next ten years as a result of the decision. He added that the increase is expected to be gradual. Net loss ratios on female drivers is likely to be lower than for men, as empirical evidence suggests that women are in fact safer drivers than men.

BisB denies reported #Sukuk issuance plans

Bahrain Islamic Bank (BISB) has issued a statement denying its reported intention to issue a Sukuk. The statement, signed by BisB CEO Hassan Amin Al Jarrar, said that the bank would not consider such an approach, at least not within the coming 12 to 18 months. The report about the bank was published Tuesday 19 September 2017 in AlBilad’s press release. The bank affirmed the rest of the report, namely, the rise of the bitcoin industry, applying the value added tax, and the bank’s preparedness towards digital and mobile payments.

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