GCC

#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.

#Sukuk market great hope may never recover from Dana

Dana Gas is an independent natural gas supplier based in Sharjah. Its dispute with investors is now making its way not only through UAE courts, but through English courts as well. Dana’s gone so far down the road to avoid its debt repayments that the affair could easily scare international investors away from the sector. The fallout can be seen in the new issue market. While sovereign sales are carrying on, the broader corporate and financials market in the Middle East has been awaiting resolution of this dispute. In June Dana claimed that its $700mn outstanding sukuk were non-compliant with Shariah law and the money it paid out to holders of the bonds should be returned. Bondholders objected and suggested an immediate payment of half of the $700mn face amount outstanding and the due date for the balance extended for three years. The case is now disputed in Sharjah and London, where it stays until October 12, to allow court proceedings in Sharjah to conclude.

New round of GCC bank #mergers in the offing

GCC's banking sector is expected to see a new round of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) in the wake of the latest such move initiated by Kuwait Finance House and Ahli United Bank of Bahrain. According to U Capital, at least five M&A deals are in various stages of discussion. The new round of M&A follows the merger between National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD) and First Gulf Bank (FGB) in the UAE, resulting in creation of the regions second biggest bank. Combined assets of four top conventional banks in the region stand at $621 billion whereas the assets of entire Islamic banks in GCC stand at $563 billion as of second quarter 2017. According to banking sources, Masraf Al Rayan, International Bank of Qatar and Barwa Bank are in the due diligence phase. The three-way merger is expected to create the largest Islamic bank in Qatar. Saudi British Bank and Alawwal Bank are also said to be discussing a potential merger that would create the third-largest bank in Saudi Arabia.

The $101 Million syndicated #Murabahah financing facility for #Bahrain Islamic Bank closed

Bahrain Islamic Bank (BISB) has successfully closed a debut $101 million one-year Syndicated Murabahah Financing Facility. The Facility will be used for general funding purposes. Initially it was launched for $50 million and following strong interest BISB decided to utilise the significant over-subscription to increase the Facility size to $101 million. A total of eight banks from the GCC and Europe participated in this transaction. They include Bank ABC Islamic, Boubyan Bank, Dubai Islamic Bank, Emirates Islamic, Sharjah Islamic Bank, National Bank of Ras Al Khaimah, The Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector, Federated Project and Trade Finance Tender Fund, and Federated Project and Trade Finance Core Fund. Sole Bookrunner and Coordinator was the Bahrain-based Bank ABC, which expressed its delight with the closure of the transaction and wished Bahrain Islamic Bank continued growth in the future.

Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank joins local #fintech hub

Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) marked a new partnership with Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (ADIB) to promote the growth and development of the FinTech ecosystem in the UAE. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed by Sagheer Mufti, CEO at ADIB, and Richard Teng, CEO of the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of ADGM. ADIB and ADGM participate in joint innovation projects on digital and mobile payments, blockchain and distributed ledgers and artificial intelligence. Both entities will also seek to develop local FinTech entrepreneurship through mentorship and knowledge transfer across incubation, accelerator, academic and internship programmes. ADIB continues to integrate pioneering FinTech solutions into its banking services. The bank has partnered with Fidor to launch the region’s first community-based digital bank. This year, ADIB launched its new generation of digital branch called ADIB Express and has revamped its internet banking platform to enable an intuitive online banking experience.

Bondholders push back on Dana Gas #sukuk invalidation claims in London court

Dana Gas sought to have US$700 million worth of Islamic bonds declared unlawful so it could avoid repaying its investors. The bondholder group, led by Blackrock, demanded in court that Dana Gas repays millions of pounds, or hand over stock in a subsidiary that runs its operations in Egypt. It also wanted the court to ban Dana Gas from issuing any new sukuk. The courtroom battle is notable for the absence of Dana Gas, which has been prevented from taking part because of an injunction in the UAE. Any prospect of an early conclusion has been disputed by Dana Gas, which has claimed that litigation could continue in the UAE and could last up to ten years. The trial in London, which is expected to last up to two weeks, is due to hear evidence from the former general counsel of Dana Gas.

Creditors tell High Court that Dana Gas #sukuk get-out is "absurd"

According to creditors, Dana's claim that it does not have to pay back its Islamic bonds because they are no longer sharia-compliant is "absurd" as repayment under such a scenario is covered in the original paperwork. United Arab Emirates energy producer Dana Gas said in June that its $700 million sukuk were unlawful and began proceedings to have this confirmed in British and UAE courts. The case could set a precedent for other sukuk issuers to refuse to redeem their debt obligations. Legal representatives for the creditors have asked the court to dismiss the Dana Gas claim and asked for permission to serve an exercise notice so they would be able to take action. Dana Gas and Deutsche Bank were not in court because of a last minute injunction obtained from a UAE court preventing them from taking part. Judge Leggatt said he would adjourn the trial until Oct. 12 to see if the Sharjah court in the UAE would lift the injunction preventing Dana Gas and Deutsche from participating in the UK proceedings.

Dubai’s Arqaam Capital launches specialist fixed income #funds in DIFC

Dubai-based investment bank Arqaam Capital has announced the launch of two specialist fixed income funds located within Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC). The high income fund will invest in emerging markets with a focus on the MENA region and will include a mixture of fixed and floating rate investments. The Islamic fixed income fund will invest in sukuk issued by sovereigns, quasi-sovereigns and corporates. Arqaam Capital said the funds are denominated in US dollars and pegged currencies and will target annual returns of 6 and 7%. The new funds will be co-managed by Abdul Kadir Hussain, head of fixed income asset management, and Zeina Rizk, director of fixed income asset management.

QIB named as safest Islamic bank in #Qatar

Qatar Islamic Bank (QIB) has been recognised by Global Finance as the safest Islamic Bank in Qatar and one of the safest Banks in the Middle East. Also, QIB was recognised as the second safest Bank across the banking sector, and the third safest Islamic Bank in the Middle East. Global Finance evaluates the ratings and total assets size of the banks, which were selected through an evaluation of long-term foreign currency ratings from Moody's, Standard & Poor's and Fitch. QIB's Group CEO Bassel Gamal said he was proud to be active contributor to Qatar's growing financial sector and to the country's National Vision 2030. Total assets of the Bank have increased by 9.2% compared to the first half of 2016, and now stand at QR147bn. Income for the first half of this year is QR3.14bn registering 18.4% compared to QR2.657bn for the first half of 2016.

London judge postpones decision on Dana Gas #sukuk hearing

A London High Court judge will decide on Friday whether to continue proceedings on the validity of $700 million sukuk issued by Dana Gas. United Arab Emirates producer Dana Gas started proceedings in June to have its sukuk declared invalid and unlawful because of changes in the interpretation of Islamic finance. A last-minute injunction obtained by some shareholders prevented Dana Gas from participating in the trial. High Court judge George Leggatt on Tuesday adjourned the trial and decided to reserve judgement until Friday. The outcome of the trial could have significant repercussions for sukuk issuers and investors worldwide, as it could set a precedent for other issuers. The case is being disputed in UK and UAE courts because while the purchase undertaking is regulated by English law, the mudarabah agreement underlying the sukuk structure is regulated by UAE law.

Dana Gas and partners start arbitration case against MOL over #Kurdistan settlement

Dana Gas and its partner Crescent Petroleum have begun arbitration proceedings against Hungary's MOL Group over Dana's settlement agreement with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). The KRG agreed to pay $1 billion to the consortium and to reclassify some additional $1.24 billion from debt to outstanding costs. MOL is unsatisfied with the way Dana Gas, Crescent Petroleum and the Pearl consortium handled the settlement and would have pursued a final litigation and enforcement outcome against KRG instead. Dana and Crescent Petroleum own a combined 70% stake in the Pearl consortium, while Austria's OMV, Germany's RWE, and MOL each own 10%. The KRG settlement boosted Dana's cash balance and lifted the company's stock on the Abu Dhabi stock exchange by 14%. Last week Dana bondholders requested a $300 million cash paydown, but Dana refused the proposal and the case is now being disputed in a London High Court.

#Saudi Domestic #Sukuk: Indication of Financial Solidity

The Saudi Finance Ministry announced that the third domestic sukuk issuance reached 350% in a record rate, while the first issuance was at 297% and the second at 300%. These figures indicate the solidity of the Saudi financial and banking sectors. The government received more than 24 billion riyals (USD6.4 billion) in bids for its third riyal-denominated sukuk. The latest issuance was divided into three tranches as follows: 2.4 billion riyals (USD640 million) from a five-year tranche, 3.9 billion riyals (USD1.04 billion) from seven-year notes and 700 million riyals (USD186.6 million) through a 10-year tranche. Thirteen licensed commercial banks qualified for the domestic sukuk program. Once the program was established, financial institutions competed two months ago to submit investment applications in the first issued domestic sukuk in the local market.

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