GCC

Gulf Finance House launches USD 3 bn project in Tunisia

Xinhua reported on 9 January that Gulf Finance House (GFH) launches a new USD 3 bn project in Tunisia, named "Tunis City Communication". In December 2007 GFH has already announced the "Tunis Financial Harbour", with an investment close to USD 3 bn.

Al Hilal Bank stalls overseas plans

TradeArabia published a Reuters News on 8 January that Abu Dhabi's government-owned Al Hilal Bank is unlikely to break even this year and may slow overseas expansion due to the global crisis but will grow organically in the UAE. Al Hilal became operational in June last year and expected originally to turn a profit in 2009.

Investment Dar is considering selling a stake in real estate firm Oqyana

Gulf Daily News reported on 9 January that Kuwait's Investment Dar, is considering selling a stake in real estate affiliate Oqyana. Daily As-Seyassah said Dar had received an offer from an unidentified Gulf investor to buy 50 % of its stake in Oqyana.

Bank Al Jazira plans USD 40 mn dividend

Ameinfo reported on 8 January that Saudi-based Bank Al Jazira plans a SAR 150 mn or SAR 0.5 a share, cash dividend payout for 2008.

Dubai launches Islamic commodity hedge fund index

Reuters reported on 7 January that the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre Authority (DMCC) and Shariah Capital launched an index tracking the performance of Islamic hedge funds investing in commodities.The index performance will be calculated and reported by Thomson Reuters (TRI.TO). The index is based on four hedge funds, part of the DSAM Kauthar Commodity Fund and investing in gold, energy, natural resources and mining. Each fund has received start capital of $50 million from the DMCC.

Crisis offsets Islamic wealth management 2008 gain

Guardian reported based on Reuters on 7 January that market volatility wiped out all of the asset gains made by the Islamic fund management industry in the year to September 2008, citing US-based research and data provider Cerulli Associates. Sharia-compliant fund managers had assets of USD 65 bn at the end of the 3rd quarter 2008, including assets managed via discretionary mandates for institutions and high net-worth individuals and mutual funds. Assets invested in Islamic-compliant mutual funds rose by 50 % while the number of such funds doubled in the three years to 2008. Islamic mutual funds alone accounted for USD 35 bn-- up from USD 23.2 bn gathered in 2005. Sukuk funds remained a rare offering. Once markets stabilise this industry can potentially expand at a rate of above 10 % a year, the report said. Saudi Arabia is currently the largest domestic market for shariah investments. Challenges named in a poll by Cerulli were named the Sharia compliance costs, convincing investors of the Sharia compliance, the discrepancy in Sharia standards and the lack of 3rd party distribution.

Report order form: http://www.cerulli.com/pdfs/2008_Shariah_Info_Packet.pdf

Qatar Investment Authority invests into local banks USD 3.57 bn

The daily Alqabas reported on 8 January that the Qatar Investment Authority invests Qatary Riyyal 13 billion in the local banking sector, including the three Islamic banks. Qatar International Islamic Bank agreed to the new investor, which is going to hold 20 % of the shares after the capital raise.

Kuwait's Investment Dar discusses sale of Aston Martin

Ulf Laessing wrote in Reuters on 6 January that Investment Dar, is in talks with a Saudi investor to sell up to 10 % in luxury car maker Aston Martin, citing the daily newspaper Rai. The firm said in December that they would consider to sell up to 20 %. Further Kuwait Finance House may buy Investment Dar's 40 % stake in a Bahraini financial institution. Eventually the newspaper is quoted Investment Dar considers to sell all majority stakes to an investor group to cover liabilities.

Kuwait plans Sukuk to help ailing firms

Gulf Daily News reported on 7 January that Kuwait may issues Sukuk or Murabaha facilities using qualified investment firm's assets as collateral. Citing another daily Al Rai, saying the government had finalised plans for a bill to do so, but may need parliament's approval. Several of the investment firms have said they need fresh funds and have difficulties raising them. Global Investment House and Investment Dar both are said as seeking finance up to USD 1 bn. Further the daily newspaper Al Qabas wrote that Global is still waiting response from foreign financers on a 3-month moratorium to repay elder loans.

Deyaar's contracts will be Shariah-compliant

Business 24/7 reported on 6 January that the real estate developer said that Deyaar's contracts will be Shariah-compliant and they are going to deal exclusively with Islamic banks. Deyaar is an affiliate of Dubai Islamic Bank. Markus Giebel, the CEO of Deyaar has written a column for Business 24/7.

Minhaj Shari'ah Financial Advisory opened in Dubai International Financial Centre

Zawya reported that Dr. Abdul Sattar Abu Ghuddah the Chairman of Minhaj announced the launch of its operations in DIFC, which will provide advisory and training services. Sheikh Amin Fateh is the resident Sharia Advisor. The other Sharia scholars involved are: Dr. Mohammad Sultan Al Olama, Dr. Muhammad Amin Qattan, Dr. Yousef Abdullah Al-Shubaily, SH. Abdul Sattar Kattan and Dr. Ibrahim Ali Alshal.

About Minhaj
MINHAJ is a DIFC based company specializing in providing Shari'ah financial advisory services, supervision, Shari'ah auditing, revision and training for Islamic and traditional financial institutions. It is the outcome of a partnership between Tharaa Holding and a number of most prominent scholars and specialists in the Islamic financial services industry world wide.

Source: 

http://www.zawya.com/Story.cfm/sidZAWYA20090106092423/Minhaj%20Shari'ah%20Financial%20Advisory%20launched%20in%20DIFC

Noor Investment launches Noor Takaful

AMEInfo reported on 6 January about the announcement of Noor Investment Group to launch its Noor Takaful brand. All services will be offered either through Noor Takaful Family or Noor Takaful General, which are headquartered in Dubai and have a combined paid up capital of Dhs 150 mn, offering a suite of general and family takaful coverage for individuals, businesses and corporate clients. The aim is to expand the reach of these companies to include the Middle East and North African region.

According to Arabian Business, the international expansion plans of Noor are holded for the time.

http://www.arabianbusiness.com/542803-noor-investments-international-exp...

Alternative to GCC Currency Union?

Chris Cook opined in an Asia Times Online feature as guest writer that the Gulf takes the wrong currency path, commenting on the announced creation of a GCC currency union along the lines of the Euro. He sees the alternative to the central banking model as a peer-to-peer "Gulf Clearing Union" similar to the Swiss Wirtschaftsring-Genossenschaft. WIR members are obliged to give security over their property by way of collateral, it is a monetary system that is "property-backed". The key innovation that will enable a Gulf Clearing Union is the simple expedient of creating - within a suitable legal framework - a "petro" unit redeemable in a constant amount of energy value. Settlement of credit would take place in petros, in goods or services by reference to the petro, or in dollars or other currency acceptable to the seller.

Chris Cook is a former director of the International Petroleum Exchange and is now a strategic market consultant, entrepreneur and commentator.

Swiss WIR bank concept: http://www.wir.ch/

Islamic Commodity Investments

Devon Maylie reported on 5 January in Barron`s magazine, that commodity-focused companies and hedge funds are introducing special products that comply with Islamic law, either equity based or as direct exposure to commodities. Ian MacDonald, executive director for gold and precious metals at Dubai Multi Commodities Center is cited to claim that there are not enough effort spent on Sharia compliant commodity products so far. The DMCC is seed financing with USD 50 mn each a range of commodity oriented equity funds managed by BlackRock Capital Management, Tocqueville Asset Management, Zweig-DiMenna International Managers and Lucas Capital Management on its platform in partnership with US based Shariah Capital. London-based ETF Securities last year launched an exchange-traded fund for precious metals that is being marketed to Sharia investors. The World Gold Council is also partnering with DMCC to launch a similar product in March.

Rasmala MENA Private Equity Fund 2 announces first closing with USD 120 million

Arabianbusiness reported on 5 January the successful first closing of the Sharia compliant fund Rasmala MENA Private Equity Fund 2, with USD 120 million in commitments received. The fund is primarily focused on mid-cap opportunities in the GCC and Egypt that benefit from the region’s GDP growth.

Tamer Bazzari is Deputy CEO at Rasmala and member of the Fund’s investment committee.

Nakheel Sukuk yields 32 %

Dubai`s corporate bonds pricing in further economic difficulties according to Nish Popa, ING Investment Management. The yield on the 3-year Sukuk issued by Nakheel Development, soared to 32% from 5% in January 2008.

Saudi Hollandi Bank SAR 775 mn Tier 2 Sukuk

Arab News reported on 31 December that Saudi Hollandi Bank closed its SAR 775 mn first tranche of a SAR 1.5 bn Tier-II Sukuk issuance approved by the bank`s shareholders. The 10-year floating rate note is 2 % above SIBOR (Saudi Interbank Offered Rate) and can be called at the end of 5 years. According to the Chairman Mubarak Al-Khafrah Saudi Hollandi is the first to support its capital in this way. Saudi Hollandi Capital acted as sole lead manager & book runner for this transaction.

Geoff Calvert is the managing director.

Blue Orchard: Middle East next growth area for micro finance

Shveta Pathak reported in Business 24/7 on 30 December about the opportunity of micro finance in the Middle East interviewing Jack Lowe, President of BlueOrchard, USA, a Swiss micro finance company.

Jack Lowe, President of BlueOrchard, USA, sees the stable returns and low volatility offered by micro finance as key benefits making it a preferred asset class. The stable returns and low volatility are achieved because micro finance is closely linked to real economy, the society and has the advantage of managing the current situation better.

With the UAE Ministry of Economy having been assigned the task of launching a federal strategy to develop a programme to support and finance small start-ups in the UAE, micro finance institutions are hopeful of tapping the market Lowe told Emirates Business in an exclusive interview.

Excerpts from the interview: http://www.business24-7.ae/articles/2008/12/pages/12302008_f5a31399c6914...

GLOBAL CHALLENGE: Gulf investors are being sought to fund USD 100 mn contests

Richard Agnew wrote on Arabian Business on 29 December about the Global Challenge: Gulf investors are being sought to fund USD 100 mn contests to tackle world changing breakthroughs in fields such as space exploration and life sciences. Peter Diamandis is chairman of the US-based X-Prize Foundation, which manages on behalf of the investors the contest.

Launched in 1996, the X-Prize Foundation is credited with helping to kickstart the commercial space industry through the Ansari X-Prize — a USD 10 mn competition won by the Paul Allen-backed SpaceShipOne vehicle in 2004. Large prices should change the way people think, from questioning the feasibility to discussing the delivery. Future contest may focus on mapping the ocean floor, boosting food production, and for example a person who is severely handicapped from spinal cord injuries could be given the ability to regain their functionality.

http://www.xprize.org/

Shariah compliant green fund launched

Hedge Fund Review reported on 22 December about the Falcon Fund launched by Da Vinci Invest of Zurich, aiming to invest in the carbon markets and forestry.

The fund will actively trade the carbon markets on a short-term basis and invest in forestry for the long term. Da Vinci Invest expects this strategy provide consistent value growth, diversification and an environmental benefit. Rainforest Invest, Forest Finance and Miller Forest will source opportunities in Panama, Costa Rica and Paraguay.

Only land formerly used for agricultural will be planted. No rainforest will be cut to farm the plantations. The Da Vinci Green Falcon Fund will charge a 2% management fee and a 20% incentive fee.

Da Vinci Invest, incorporated in 2004 as a UK company, is based in Zug.

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