GCC

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.

#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.

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.

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.

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.

#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.

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.

Bonds and #Sukuk: Structuring fixed income instruments in GCC

According to Fisch Asset Management CEO Philipp Good, the GCC bond and Sukuk market is generally sound. The GCC debt market has seen considerable development, in terms of issuance volume and spread, for both the conventional and Islamic space. The bond and Sukuk pipeline in the GCC for the last two to three years has been dominated by the senior unsecured USD format. At the same time, some project bond issuance has occurred in the GCC, which has utilised highly innovative structures. Recent hybrid issuances from corporates, and Additional Tier 1 bonds and Sukuk from banks such as First Abu Dhabi Bank, Dubai Islamic Bank and Noor Bank, all prove that there is plenty of scope for more sophisticated instruments to be offered. The investor base for GCC debt is now more diverse than ever before, and 2018 looks to be another strong year. It will probably be weighted towards corporates, with sovereigns having dominated the market in 2017.

GCC Islamic banks to outperform their conventional peers

According to ratings agency Moody’s, Islamic banks across the GCC are expected to outperform their conventional peers in the year ahead. Credit fundamentals have improved due to better underwriting practices and higher profitability. Along with their strengthening franchise, GCC Islamic banks have achieved sustainable improvements in their credit risk profiles. Their cost of risk is expected to stabilise at current levels driven by improvements in asset quality and risk management practices. Whereas these banks had to incur high provisioning charges on their loans and investments in the past, these charges have fallen to levels below those of conventional peers. New investments in distribution channels and technology could add to the costs. GCC Islamic banks are still making considerable investments in building their branch network and technology because they are younger and are more focused on reaching retail customers.

#UAE's Sharjah Islamic Bank gives initial price guidance for dollar #sukuk

Sharjah Islamic Bank has given initial price guidance in the 160 basis points over mid-swaps range for a planned five-year dollar sukuk issue that has been capped at $500 million. The bank is expected to price the Islamic bonds later on Wednesday. The bank has appointed HSBC and Standard Chartered Bank as global coordinators and Bank ABC, Dubai Islamic Bank, Emirates NBD Capital, First Abu Dhabi Bank, HSBC, Noor Bank, and Standard Chartered Bank as joint lead managers and bookrunners for the issue.

The Fourth Amongst DFM's Series Of Shari'a-Compliance #Standards: Dubai Financial Market Invites Experts To Advise On Its 'Standard On Investment Funds'

Dubai Financial Market (DFM) released the draft of its "Standard on Investment Funds", the first of its kind all-inclusive standard. The DFM invited Islamic finance professionals to provide counsel and feedback on the standard. The consultation period will be concluded on 11 May 2018. Dr. Hussein Hamed Hassan, Chairman of DFM’s Supervisory Board said the Standard complements the DFM Standard for Issuing, Acquiring and Trading Shares. It comprehensively explains the two ways of Shari’a-compliant fund management, Mudaraba or an investment agency contract (Wakala bil Istithmar) and the circumstances stipulating that fund management is responsible to pay Zakat. It also defines the key disclosures that should be included in the financial statements.

As #Sukuk Disputes Simmer, Islamic Scholars Ponder Legal Risks

Senior scholars in Islamic finance are exploring ways to prevent legal disputes with new rules aiming to clarify responsibilities. The discussions are part of the annual sharia conference of the Bahrain-based Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI). AAOIFI has developed a comprehensive sharia standard for sukuk that is being finalised, with work underway on three accounting standards and a governance standard. According to Said Bouheraoua, director of the Malaysia-based International Sharia Research Academy for Islamic finance, Dana Gas and other cases highlight the potential need to legislate work of scholars and penalties for breaches. At present, only the central bank of Malaysia has stipulated such fines, although this requires proving breaches occurred in 'bad faith' making penalties difficult to apply.

Ebdaa Bank backs #microfinance proposal for GCC charity projects

Ebdaa Bank has agreed to a proposal to microfinance charity projects to achieve their objectives to support low-income families. Ebdaa Bank CEO Dr Waleed Al Ghazawi welcomed officials from Almajdouie Group and stressed the need for the GCC to adopt microfinance due to its benefit for charity donations. The Almajdouie Group is visiting Bahrain to share ideas about their sustainable charity projects. The group’s new project is called "Basta", which has already launched six booths in Saudi Arabia, distributed in Dammam and Al Khobar. The project aims to support kiosks to develop their projects.

#UK injunction restricts Dana Gas dividends in $700 million #sukuk dispute

United Arab Emirates energy firm Dana Gas received a new injunction from the English High Court restricting its ability to pay dividends or increase its debt. Sukuk holders have been trying to force the company to redeem the sukuk since last year. Dana said in late March that it would seek shareholder approval on April 11 to pay a cash dividend for 2017. The dividend would be worth 5% of capital or about 349 million dirhams (67.4 million pounds). But the English High Court order blocked Dana from making dividend payments unless it also sets aside money to redeem the sukuk. It also prohibited Dana from increasing its debt by more than $25 million.

Islamic Scholars Debate Validity of #Cryptocurrencies

The world's top Islamic finance scholars are scrutinizing the validity of cryptocurrencies. The discussions are part of the annual sharia conference of the Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI) being held in Bahrain this week. The key question for scholars is whether cryptocurrencies fall under the so-called "ribawi" category, which includes commodities like gold and silver. AAOIFI primarily issues accounting and sharia standards for Islamic finance institutions, but there is no current indication on cryptocurrencies. Scholar deliberations, however, could clarify what types of cryptocurrencies are religiously acceptable and influence future product development.

Coincidental documents reveal Iranian Guard smuggled billions via Bahraini bank

Iranian owners of a Bahraini bank complained about Bahrain to an international arbitration court in the Netherlands. Bahrain responded with documents proving that $7 billion was smuggled through suspicious accounts with the consent and knowledge of the bank’s management. Future Bank was closed in 2015, but documents prove Iran’s secret assistance in evading international sanctions and smuggling billions of dollars over more than a decade. Bahraini officials criticized Future Bank for allowing the cleric Isa Qassim to make cash deposits totaling millions of dollars over several years, and directing some of the money to a charity linked to terrorism. Audits revealed then that in hundreds of cases, bank transfers were accompanied by specific instructions to avoid references to Iran or Iranian banking codes.

#Saudi- Finance Minister heads the Kingdom's delegation to the 43rd Islamic Development Bank board of governors Annual Meeting in Tunis

Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan will head the Kingdom's delegation to the 43rd Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of the Islamic Development Bank between April 4-5 in Tunis. The Saudi delegation will include Dr. Ahmad Al-Khulaifi, Governor of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA), Dr. Hamad Al-Bazie, Vice Minister of Finance, Eng. Yousef Al-Bassam, Vice President and Managing Director of the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD). The IDB annual meeting's agenda will comprise of discussion sessions about the 2017 IDB activities report, IDB's institutions annual report and the establishment of the Islamic Solidarity Fund for Development (ISFD). The ISFD aims to alleviate poverty, develop capacity, and eradicate illiteracy, diseases and epidemics in member countries via funding various productive, social and service projects and programs.

#Qatar central bank backs three-way Islamic bank #merger

Qatar’s central bank hopes the planned merger between three local Islamic banks can proceed this year. Masraf Al Rayan, Barwa Bank and International Bank of Qatar have been discussing a merger, though they missed the target date to complete the proposed deal. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic and transport ties with Qatar last June. Qatar accused them of trying to sabotage its financial markets and manipulate its currency. Sheikh Abdullah said that since the embargo started, the central bank had been meeting regularly with executives of banks to ensure daily control of liquidity levels and financial transfers. He added that Qatar plans to issue roughly the same amount of riyal debt in 2018 as it did in 2017, when it issued 47.5 billion riyals ($12.3 billion). That included 18.5 billion riyals of bonds and 15.4 billion riyals of sukuk.

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