According to Moody’s Investors Service, a proposed merger between three Qatari banks would help “rebalance” the banking sector in the country. The merger is currently at due diligence stage and will be subject to approval by the relevant authorities. The merged entity between Masraf Al Rayan, Barwa Bank and International Bank of Qatar would create the largest Islamic bank and second largest lender in Qatar. Total assets would amount to around QAR173bn ($48bn) and the market share would be around 14%. Moody’s assistant vice president Nitish Bhojnagarwala said Islamic banking asset growth has outpaced conventional banking in Qatar, as demonstrated by a 21% compound annual growth rate of loans for Islamic banks between 2011 and 2016 compared with 14% for the conventional banks. The GCC is witnessing a consolidation in the banking sector, with the two largest lenders in Abu Dhabi also currently preparing to merge.
Qatar Islamic Bank's QInvest is exiting the St. Edmund’s Terrace LP Fund. The Shari'ah compliant fund was jointly owned by QInvest and a range of GCC institutional and retail investors. It invested GBP 50 million into developing a new, prime residential project through a real estate development company. The Fund was created to provide investors with the opportunity to invest in London’s prime residential market. At completion, the Fund generated 22% net returns to investors. Craig Cowie, Head of Real Estate at QInvest said the returns exceeded expectations and added a notable asset to the luxury real estate market in London. The project, 50 St. Edmund’s Terrace, completed in June 2015 and comprises of three residential blocks and 37 units. It delivered an average selling price in excess of GBP 2,600 per square foot.
Dubai Islamic Bank became the first Gulf financial institution to print a sukuk this year as it priced a US$1bn 3.664% five-year issuance. The only other bank from the region to have issued this year is Gulf International Bank, which sold a conventional US$500m five-year last month. Proceeds will go towards refinancing a US$500m sukuk coming due in May, as well as a US$300m maturity for the subsidiary Tamweel. Middle East accounts took 61%, Europe 20%, and Asia 19%. By investor type, banks got 52%, asset managers 39%, agencies 3%, private banks 2% and insurers 2%. Lead arrangers include Bank ABC, DIB, Emirates NBD, HSBC, KFH, Maybank, National Bank of Abu Dhabi, Sharjah Islamic Bank and Standard Chartered.
According to Fitch Ratings, the plan to introduce Value Added Tax (VAT) in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states could be a key test for the region's Islamic finance industry. Saudi Arabia and Bahrain approved the implementation of VAT in the GCC, however, local implementation laws must still be agreed in each country. This paves the way for the introduction of an expected 5% VAT rate as early as the beginning of 2018. Without tax neutrality or equality rules, the introduction of VAT would put Islamic finance transactions at a disadvantage to conventional transactions. A VAT charge adds to the instalment payments in a murabaha, while a conventional transaction would not have VAT for the sale of the asset added to the interest payments. Numerous countries with VAT have provided for some form of tax neutrality or equality for Islamic finance transactions, including Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey and Pakistan.
The banking sector in #Kuwait remains solid, robust and unaffected by regional events. The operating environment can be described as low-risk thanks to the country’s central bank regulatory role and conservative approach. Kuwait International Bank (KIB) has risen to become one of the most established in Kuwait. The bank's CEO, Loai Muqames, says diversification into the retail sector took priority with the launch of stand-alone retail banking operations. Since adopting a unified CRM system the quality and efficiency of the customer service has dramatically increased. KIB partners with Kuwait’s telecom providers to offer SMS banking for those account holders without a mobile internet connection. KIB is also investing in those sectors related to the $100bn government funded national development plan currently in motion. These sectors include infrastructure, oil and gas, energy, and real estate.
According to S&P Global Ratings, the lower liquidity level in the GCC is not the main reason for a drop in the region’s sukuk issuances in recent years. The volume of sukuk was muted last year, particularly compared with conventional bond issuance in GCC countries. S&P believes the complexity of structuring sukuk is the main reason behind muted sukuk issuance in 2016 and it will continue to weigh on volumes in 2017. S&P also estimates GCC sovereigns financing needs at around $275bn over the next three years, the majority of which pertains to Saudi Arabia. While sukuk comprise only a small amount of total outstanding issuance, various governments established the necessary legal frameworks for their issuance.
Applications for Islamic car loans in the UAE grew by 64.79% from 2015 to 2016. Despite growth in Islamic car loans, car loans based on traditional finance were more popular among UAE residents in 2016. Emirates NBD’s Feature-Packed Auto Loan was the most applied-for car loan in 2016. The second most applied-for auto loan of 2016 was that of HSBC, the third, fourth and fifth most applied-for car loans of 2016 were from Islamic banks. Emirates Islamic’s Auto Finance product came in third place, while Noor Bank’s Auto Finance and Ajman Bank’s Car Finance came in fourth and fifth respectively.
The Investment Corporation of Dubai (ICD) has completed the issuance of a US$1 billion 10-year sukuk. The $1billion sukuk will be listed on the Nasdaq Dubai exchange and is the first to be issued from the region in 2017 and the second for ICD since 2014. International investor participation was robust with 26% of the issuance subscribed by investors based in the United Kingdom and Europe and 15% by investors based in Asia. Regional investor participation consisted of 58% of the total subscription with the remaining 1% of the investors based around the rest of the world. CEO Mohammed Al Shaibani said the issuance proves the ICD’s ability to provide a stable foundation that supports the ongoing success of Dubai.
Dubai Islamic Bank will meet fixed income investors in London on Feb. 6 ahead of a potential sukuk issuance. A five-year benchmark issue, which usually means upwards of $500 million, might follow. The lender has appointed Bank ABC, Dubai Islamic Bank, Emirates NBD, HSBC, KFH Capital, Maybank Investment Bank Berhard, National Bank of Abu Dhabi, Sharjah Islamic Bank and Standard Chartered Bank as joint lead managers and bookrunners.
The Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre (DIEDC) announced the launch of its refreshed strategy for 2017-2021. Making the announcement, Sheikh Hamdan said the first part of the strategy includes identifying new key performance indicators (KPIs) for monitoring the growth of important sectors. The second component is enhancing Dubai’s status as a reference for Islamic finance, Halal sector and Islamic lifestyle that includes culture, art, fashion and family tourism. Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri said the DIEDC’s latest goal is to demonstrate the positive impact of Islamic economy. It is necessary to establish the structural framework of the ecosystem. Finance, production and consumption must feature in it as integrated systems aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Al Mansouri pointed out the need for universally accepted standards across Islamic economy sectors and stressed that the UAE will focus on refining these standards.
Awqaf and Minors Affairs Foundation (AMAF) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) to collaborate in areas related to endowment services enhancing the prosperity of Muslim societies. Tayeb Al-Rais, Secretary General of AMAF, and Dr Bandar Al Hajjar, Chairman and President of IDB, signed the MoU in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The two parties will work towards maximising the availability of Islamic banking services to the endowment sector. AMAF and IDB will also explore the possibilities of forging endowment partnerships and engaging third parties. Other areas of cooperation include building successful marketing strategies and providing advanced endowment tools for banking, finance, and investment.
The UN appointed Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty in the Gulf has concluded his mission on 19th January. In his report Dr. Mohamed Ramady highlights that poverty encompasses non-financial targets that encompasses women’s right to work and move freely, inhibiting factors that lead to family poverty. It is meaningless to adopt an absolute line given a large variance in GCC GDP per capita, ranging from around $ 25,000 in Saudi Arabia to $ 95,000 in Qatar. National poverty line figures accordingly vary from $ 1,300 per month to $ 5,000 levels. Cash payment handouts to reduce subsidies to balance national budgets are short-term measures. The key to poverty eradication is education, access to work and removal of social restrictions. To varying degrees, all the Gulf countries have given emphasis to ensuring more female work and civil and political participation. The UN Report also highlighted an uneven corporate social responsibility to carry out effective training and offer more opportunities for female workers and handicapped employees.
#Saudi-based Alinma Bank’s chief executive officer, Abdul Mohsen Al Fares discusses the bank's earnings and lending growth. Alinma Bank achieved a new record in the last quarter. Growth drivers include the infrastructure projects that started two years ago and will take other three of five years to complete. In terms of net interest margins, Al Fares believes that the recovery will come gradually. As interest rate is rising, the margin will also go up. Alinma Bank has expansion plans for 2017, it currently has 164 branches across the kingdom and it plans to open 12 new branches this year.
The #UAE-based Emirates Real Estate Fund (EREF) has procured a AED700 million ($190.6 million) Shari’ah compliant finance facility with Emirates NBD. CEO of Emirates NBD Asset Management Tariq Bin Hendi said the facility would enable the bank to complete strategic acquisitions to boost the value of the fund. Over the last 24 months the fund has invested over $163 million in real estate acquisitions including Binghatti Terraces in Dubai Silicon Oasis, Arabian Oryx House in Al Barsha Heights, part of Burj Daman Office Tower in the DIFC and a residential building in Remraam, Dubailand. The partially undrawn facility is a five-year, profit-only Mudharabah facility with a 10% repayment of principal in its fourth year.
Kuwait Finance House (KFH) has welcomed the Central Bank of Kuwait (CBK)’s instructions and regulations regarding the role of Sharia Supervisory Boards in Islamic banks. Islamic Banks would be given until December 31st, 2017 to fulfill the requirements. Isa Abdullah Duwaishan, Executive Manager Shariah Control & Advisory at KFH, stated that the executive team of the board encompasses qualified Shariah controllers who audit the compliance and commitment of all bank departments to sharia rules. He reiterated the efforts of continually improving the skills of Shariah controllers and the Shariah staff in the bank through engaging them in specialized training courses. KFH's Shariah Supervisory Board issues Fatwa and Shariah reports that are viewed as a reference to other banks.
Saudi Binladin Group (SBG) is negotiating with banks an extension of up to two years on a 10 billion riyal ($2.7 billion) Islamic credit facility used to pay for building work at the kingdom’s Grand Mosque in Mecca. Contractors in Saudi Arabia have had to deal with delays and late payment after the government trimmed spending to adjust to the impact of lower oil prices. Mecca’s mayor Osama bin Fadl Al-Bar told Reuters in September that the expansion would be completed in either 2017 or 2018. But the timeline for the mosque has now been delayed. SBG had received some of the backlog of payment owed to it by the government in recent months, but a large portion remains outstanding.
#Saudi Arabia’s Bank AlJazira has reported a drop in profits of 32.25% to SAR 872 million for 2016. Profits for Q4 2016 were down 4.4% on a year ago to SAR 152 million. Earnings per share were down from SAR 3.22 to SAR 2.18. However, the loans and advances portfolio contracted by 0.18% to SAR 42 billion. The bank attributed the fall in net income to a decrease in operating income by 14%. There is also a decrease in net special commission income, net trading income and other operating income against an increase in net exchange income and net banking fees. Total equity as of end-2016 was SAR 8,104 million, comparing with amount of SAR 7,413 million the previous year, an increase of 9%.
Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (ADIB) has launched its First Shari'ah compliant equity investment structured note of the year 2017. The note is linked to a basket of undervalued blue chip companies from diversified sectors including healthcare, technology & telecommunications. The investment note has a maturity of one year and minimises investment risk by providing 100% capital protection to the capital invested. The note is currently open for subscription until 22 January, 2017 with a minimum investment requirement of $30,000. ADIB’s last three matured equity investment notes have yielded returns of 4.2%, 4.8% and 6.2%, respectively.
Nogaholding, the investment arm of Bahrain’s National Oil and Gas Authority (NOGA), has approached banks with the aim of setting up an international bond programme. The bond programme could be either for conventional bonds or for sukuk, but since Nogaholding’s latest U.S. dollar fund-raising exercise was an Islamic loan, a sukuk programme seemed more likely. A spokeswoman for Nogaholding declined to comment. In March last year, the company raised a $570 million murabaha facility with a five-year maturity. The 2016 loan backed projects such as the Bahrain LNG Import Terminal, a modernisation programme for Bahrain Petroleum, and expansion of facilities at the Bahrain National Gas Expansion.
Saudi Arabia plans a new Islamic bond issue in a sale that could come as early as February. The sharia-compliant sukuk will form part of a pipeline of bond sales to finance the kingdom’s budget deficit and invest in economic diversification away from oil. Last year, Saudi Arabia set a record for developing countries with its first sovereign bond sale, attracting $67bn in investor bids for a $17.5bn issue. Bashar Al-Natoor, global head of Islamic finance at Fitch Ratings, said diversification is natural for any emerging market, but the fall in oil prices have made it a necessity for exporters like Saudi Arabia. Lower oil prices have led to a drop in government reserves held in banks, which in turn has had an impact on their willingness to lend, so they have to look for alternative sources of financing.