GCC

Dana gas saga far from over

Last month, Dana Gas tried to impose on investors a restructuring of the payment of its two outstanding sukuk tranches totalling US$700 million. The company got an injunction in the High Court in London restraining sukuk holders from taking any hostile action against Dana. The overriding concern is that if the High Court in London rules against Dana Gas, the matter goes to trial and Dana Gas wins, it would set an appalling precedent that can undermine the integrity of sukuk as a fundraising instrument. Syariah advisories agree that the only solution would be the introduction of a world sukuk standard supported by local laws, an Apex Sukuk Standard, which would give legal and syariah certainty. Any dispute could either be subject to arbitration or recourse to law. Dana Gas re-scheduled yet another conference call with sukuk holders to discuss the matter. The High Court in London scheduled a hearing for September. This saga is far from over.

UAE's Dana Gas aims to propose new #sukuk terms in coming weeks

According to Dana Gas CEO Patrick Allman-Ward, the company aims to communicate proposed terms of a restructured sukuk issue in coming weeks. He spoke to sukuk holders in a conference call, but there was no question and answer session and no immediate response from creditors. In mid-June, Dana stunned creditors by announcing it would halt payments on its four-year sukuk because they no longer complied with changing interpretations of the Sharia code. Dana said it would exchange the sukuk for new Islamic instruments with lower profit rates than the existing paper. Investors and bankers are concerned that other sukuk issuers could imitate Dana in refusing to redeem paper on the grounds that it has lost its sharia-compliance. CEO Allman-Ward insisted that Dana's arguments did not apply to other, lawful sukuk formats. Dana's existing paper features profit rates of 7 and 9%. The new sukuk would provide profit distributions at less than half the rates. Sukuk holders are contesting the plan in courts in London and the emirate of Sharjah.

Amid Dana debacle, Islamic finance seeks safeguards against illegality claims

The Islamic finance industry is seeking ways to safeguard deals against challenges to their religious permissibility. Sharjah-based Dana Gas declared it would not make payments on $700 million of sukuk because Islamic finance standards had changed since the instruments were issued. This raised concern across the Islamic finance industry that more companies could avoid redeeming sukuk by adopting the same argument as Dana. To try to avoid similar cases in future, investors may demand more detailed and restrictive language in sukuk documentation. Such language already exists for some sukuk, but it is not used consistently and is not standardised. Investors may also screen the groups of scholars who provide sharia endorsements for sukuk. The newly formed high sharia authority for Islamic banking and finance is expected to set rules and a general framework for Islamic finance governance in the United Arab Emirates.

London court to hear Dana Gas #sukuk case in September

London's High Court plans to hold a full hearing in September on efforts by Abu Dhabi-listed Dana Gas to restructure $700 million of its outstanding sukuk. Dana Gas declared the bonds invalid last month, saying they were no longer compliant with changing interpretations of the Sharia law. The judge upheld an interim High Court injunction blocking holders of the bonds from enforcing claims related to the securities against Dana Gas. However, he imposed restrictions on asset sales by Dana and its ability to raise more debt or pay dividends. The case has worried the Islamic finance industry as it has raised the prospect that other firms could justify not honouring obligations by claiming sharia-based financial standards had changed.

CIMB Islamic CEO says Dana Gas’ case is a dud, won’t hurt market

According to Mohamed Rafe Mohamed Haneef, CEO of CIMB Islamic Bank, Dana Gas’s case will leave the global Islamic finance industry relatively unaffected. Dana Gas said it no longer considered its two securities due in October as compliant with Islamic principles under UAE law. Unlike Malaysia, most Arab countries have no centralised Shariah boards to approve deal structures. In Haneef's opinion, Dana Gas’s case will probably be dismissed, as the sukuk agreement is subject to laws in both the United Arab Emirates and the U.K. A U.K. court is due to issue a ruling on Dana Gas' attempt to extend an injunction preventing sukuk holders from taking action regarding the debt. The company has proposed restructuring the notes on terms that are less advantageous to investors and plans to explain the legal action on a conference call with investors on July 6.

#Saudi #insurer Enaya to offer Sharia-compliant policies

Health insurer Saudi Enaya has joined hands with Shariyah Review Bureau, a global Sharia Advisory firm, to offer Sharia-compliant value creating policies. CEO Lee Shurey stated that offering Sharia compliant products provides a tremendous opportunity to strengthen Enaya’s position in the region. The company had already identified Islamic cooperative insurance as a major potential more than three years ago. Enaya's HR director Moneer Brembali said that the insurer has undertaken several initiatives over the years and this agreement with SRB is another demonstration of their commitment to customers. He added that SRB’s Sharia Review Certification and Audit experience will complement the company's knowledge. SRB is a Sharia Advisor which currently serves 24% of the Saudi Cooperative Insurance market in the kingdom. It also has an established record of innovation to expand and improve leading insurance practices.

ANALYSIS: Can GCC Islamic banks escape the oil-price cycle?

More and more stakeholders concede that the Shari’ah-authorized way of banking has hit a glass ceiling. They acknowledge that Islamic banking and financial services have largely failed to innovate at the speed they were expected to. It is also admitted that Islamic finance is caught in an oil-price cycle, definitely in the Gulf and wider Middle East region. Global rating agency, Standard & Poor’s, estimates that Islamic banks in the GCC are expected to face a tough year ahead. According to S&P Head of Islamic Finance, Mohamed Damak, GCC Islamic banks’ asset quality indicators will deteriorate in the second half of this year and in 2018. Very few Islamic banks have set aside significant amounts of profit-equalization reserves. As for oil price, both Islamic and conventional banks are affected and must adopt a new strategy that is not highly dependent of energy prices. For that a diversification of the economy is needed, which doesn’t seem to be happening anytime soon.

UAE's Dana Gas will try again to hold call on #sukuk restructuring

Dana Gas has rescheduled a telephone call with sukuk holders to this Thursday at 4 p.m. The call would outline the company's proposal to restructure its outstanding $700 million of sukuk. Dana is claiming it must exchange the instruments because they are no longer lawful following changes in Islamic finance. The company had originally scheduled the call for June 21, but on that day it decided to postpone the call. Dana said it made several approaches to an ad hoc committee of creditors to arrange a call but each invitation was declined.

Shariah-compliant, gold-backed #digi-coins could change Islamic finance

The launch of the first-ever Islamic finance-compatible cryptocurrency could be a game changer for the entire Islamic banking industry. OneGram calls itself the world’s first Shariah-compliant cryptocurrency whose value is backed by actual gold reserves. The company started selling a total stock of 12.4mn digital tokens on May 21 that are backed by one gram of gold each. The Initial Coin Offering programme aims to raise around $500mn. At its sister company GoldGuard, OneGram will store the physical gold in a vault inside the Dubai Airport Free Zone. OneGram’s founder and CEO, Mohammed Ibrahim Khan, says he felt inspired by Bitcoin whose use is subdued in the Arab world. He added that OneGram has Shariah scholars on its board who ensure that the company is fully compliant with Islamic finance requirements. According to Mohammed, large-scale funds of more than $200mn have been committed by Dubai-based Tabarak Investment Capital. The sale of the OneGram coins is going on until September 22 this year and no more coins will be ever issued from then.

World’s Largest Islamic Bank Successfully Completes Ripple #Blockchain Trial

Saudi Arabia’s largest bank recently completed its first cross-border transfer using Ripple technology. Having Al Rajhi Bank on board is a major validation for the blockchain service provider. Money was transferred between Al Rajhi Bank offices across Saudi Arabia and Jordan. The transfer took mere seconds to complete and reduced fees to a bare minimum. Completing this trial will help Saudi Arabia digitize the customer banking experience even further. More specifically, digitizing the banking experience will allow for faster and cheaper transactions. Al Rajhi Bank runs over 200 remittance centers across the country. The whole Kingdom of Saudi Arabia may soon see mass adoption of Ripple’s ecosystem.

Interview with Ahmed Abdul Rahim, Chief Executive Officer of Ithmaar Bank

In this interview, Ahmed Abdul Rahim talks about Ithmaar Bank’s recent performance, the global Islamic banking industry and the increasing use of technology in banking. Ithmaar Bank is now entirely focused on retail banking and is considered one of the biggest Islamic retail banks in Bahrain. The waiting period at the branches has been reduced and the customer is provided various delivery channels for services like call center, Internet banking, EasyPay and mobile banking. EasyPay is the first-of-its-kind mobile-payment service in Bahrain. The service enables customers to shop simply by tapping their mobile phones at the checkout counters of participating merchants. As a pioneering Islamic retail bank, Ithmaar ensures that all its products and services are compliant with Islamic Sharia rules and that business is conducted accordingly.

Dana debacle highlights need for unified Islamic finance regulator

A recent report from Standard & Poor’s said that Islamic financial assets had accelerated toward the end of 2016, but that such progress was unsustainable in the long term. The agency pointed out too that a lack of standardization was a barrier to creating a truly global industry based in the Middle East. The Islamic economy would continue to grow but at much lower rates than in the boom years from 2007 onward. It is against this background that recent events at Dana Gas should be seen. In 2013, the company issued sukuk totaling $700 million. Dana, which does a lot of its business in Egypt and Iraq, had problems getting paid in those countries. Earlier this month, Dana said it had received new legal advice which meant its sukuk were no longer to be considered Shariah-compliant. The Dana debacle confirms the belief that what is really needed is a much more standardized regulatory approach in the Islamic finance market.

Fitch: Dana Gas case highlights #Sukuk's legal uncertainties

According to Fitch Ratings, credit rating implications for sukuk arising from Dana Gas's attempt to have its mudaraba sukuk declared unlawful will take time to emerge. The impact of the move remains unclear until all relevant proceedings are resolved. Fitch added that sharia compliance typically does not have credit implications for Fitch-rated sukuk. Fitch does not rate Dana Gas or its sukuk. Dana Gas started court proceedings in the UAE to have its sukuk declared unlawful and unenforceable in the UAE. Sukuk regulations have been introduced and updated in several countries in recent years, but standardisation, harmonisation and legal precedents are limited in most jurisdictions. This case could set an important precedent for the relationship between sharia compliance and credit risk, and give greater clarity on enforceability.

The rise of Islamic fintech, global opportunities for #Bahrain

At the moment Islamic fintech is more of an aspiration than a reality. As the fintech industry and the demand for ethical investments grows exponentially, we are witnessing a want for the convergence of two. Seeing this space in the Middle Eastern banking industry, the Kingdom of Bahrain has entered a partnership with fintech incubator Singapore Fintech Consortium (SFC) and asset management and advisory firm Trucial Investment Partners. This partnership stands to initiate, nurture and sustain Bahrain’s fintech ecosystem while pulling from the experience of global industry leaders. Likewise, Bahrain has also recently opened a consultation led by the Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB), with the aim of establishing a regulatory sandbox for fintech. It enables businesses to take advantage of the concentration of Islamic financial institutions and the consultation focuses on crowdfunding, including Shari’ah-compliant crowdfunding.

Moody's: Dana Gas Shari'ah breech is credit negative for #Sukuk investors

Dana Gas petitioned the English High Court of Justice for injunction after commencing legal proceedings in Sharjah courts to have its Mudharaba Sukuk declared unlawful. Dana Gas publicly stated on 13 June 2017 that its $700 million Sukuk in its present form is not Shari'ah compliant and is therefore unlawful in the UAE. If the company's petitions are upheld by the Sharjah courts, it would trigger a standstill on the two upcoming contractual payments, a credit negative for the Dana Gas Sukuk investors. Although most investors regard the company’s announcement as a tactical move in its debt negotiations, a ruling in favour of Dana Gas would potentially send shockwaves among Islamic finance and Sukuk investors.

#Kuwait’s Islamic finance sector on strong growth trajectory, IMF says

According to a recent study by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Kuwait’s Islamic financial services sector is growing rapidly, with Islamic banking emerging as the most developed component of the industry. Islamic banks’ market share increased rapidly between 2005 and 2010 and has since then stabilised at around 38%. Kuwait’s Islamic banking sector includes systemically important banks. The largest Islamic bank in Kuwait accounts for 23% of total banking system assets, over 70% of the Islamic banking assets. The capital adequacy ratio and Tier-1 capital remain above 15%. The IMF report notes that the economic diversification effort could help drive further growth in Kuwait’s Islamic banking industry.

Fitch: Dana Gas Case Highlights #Sukuk Legal Uncertainties

According to Fitch Ratings, credit rating implications for sukuk arising from Dana Gas's attempt to have its mudaraba sukuk declared unlawful will take time to emerge. The impact of the move remains unclear until all relevant proceedings are resolved. Fitch added that sharia compliance typically does not have credit implications for Fitch-rated sukuk. Fitch does not rate Dana Gas or its sukuk. Dana Gas started court proceedings in the UAE to have its sukuk declared unlawful and unenforceable in the UAE. Sukuk regulations have been introduced and updated in several countries in recent years, but standardisation, harmonisation and legal precedents are limited in most jurisdictions. This case could set an important precedent for the relationship between sharia compliance and credit risk, and give greater clarity on enforceability.

Three-way bank #merger in #Qatar aims to close by year end -sources

Executives working on a three-way bank merger in Qatar expect to finish valuing the deal in the coming weeks. Shareholders at Masraf Al Rayan, Barwa Bank and International Bank of Qatar are committed to pushing ahead with the deal despite the current embargo by some of Qatar's Arab neighbours. A shake-up has long been mooted in the Qatari banking sector given that 18 local and international commercial banks serve a population of 2.6 million. The more than two-week travel and diplomatic boycott could further dent bank performance if the dispute drags on. In December, Reuters reported that the trio had begun merger talks which would create the Gulf state's second-largest bank. The new bank, which would be run in compliance with Islamic banking principles, would have assets worth around 160 billion riyals ($43.6 billion).

Goldilocks Investment builds Dana Gas stake

An Abu Dhabi Global Market fund, Goldilocks Investment, has acquired 5% of Dana Gas. Goldilocks has a reputation of buying companies going through financial difficulties. Goldilocks has recently acquired 350 million shares in Dana Gas, which has seen its share price rise by nearly 70% in the past month. Goldilocks is part of Jassim Alseddiqi's Abu Dhabi Financial Group, a diversified investment company with about US$5 billion under management. Dana Gas has assets in Egypt and the Kurdish region of Iraq that have had good operational results but have suffered from erratic payments. Dana Gas also has an ongoing dispute with holders of its $700 million in sukuk, for which it has taken preemptive legal action to avoid a declaration of default.

#GCC governments seek to diversify funding with Islamic #bonds

According to S&P Global Ratings, GCC sukuk issuances jumped 37.7% in the first half of 2017 as governments are seeking to plug deficits amid low oil prices. The rating agency added that issuances of sukuk will not grow at the same rate in the next couple of years, with hurdles such as a lack of standardisation of sukuk rules deterring sales. Mohamed Damak, primary credit analyst at S&P, said the volume of sukuk issuance is expected to remain strong in 2017, but this is likely to be the exception rather than a new norm. 2016 was a record year for regional bond issues in the GCC region, with over $60bn worth of fixed income sold. Last year Saudi Arabia sold $17.5bn worth of bonds in its first international sale and Qatar sold $9bn. Despite the record value of issuances, S&P said that a big funding gap remains. It is estimated at $275bn and about half of that gap is expected to be raised through bonds and sukuk.

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