GCC

Investor appetite for Gulf Arab bonds remains high: experts

The market for Gulf Arab bonds and Sukuk achieved an all-time high issuance of 70 billion U.S. dollars in 2017, with sustained investor appetite expected in 2018. A recent study titled "The GCC (Gulf Co-operation Council) Fixed Income Market: Then and Now," said that 70% of all debt and Sukuk issuances were from sovereigns, while 30% were from corporations. The study was conducted by Emirates NBD and Swiss portfolio management firm Fisch Asset Management. Regarding the outlook for 2018, increased debt issuance could continue in the region despite elevated geopolitical instability. According to Usman Ahmed, Head of Investments at Emirates NBD, growth of the GCC's debt investor base is expected to continue in 2018, with demand coming from the record inflows to emerging markets and supply provided by the diversification needs of the region.

#Bahraini bank plans aggressive #expansion in #Pakistan

Bahrain-based Ithmaar Bank plans to add more than 100 branches in Pakistan this year through its subsidiary Faysal Bank. Ithmaar's deputy CEO Abdul Hakeem al-Mutawa says banking penetration is less than 20% in Pakistan, so there are good opportunities to grow. Ithmaar Bank's parent company, Ithmaar Holding, listed recently on the Dubai Financial Market. Al-Mutawa believes the company is well established now to approach the capital markets and the bank has no imminent plans to raise funds through a bond or loan. Ithmaar Holding is also exploring the sale of its 25.4% stake in Bahrain's BBK, which has operations in Bahrain, Kuwait, India and Dubai. Al-Mutawa declined to comment on the timeframe for the disposal of the BBK stake.

#UAE-based real estate investment trust completes $210m deals

UAE-based Residential REIT has completed new property transactions worth AED772 million ($210.1 million). The deals were closed with Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, Arcapita and an unnamed large Saudi institution. Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank has contributed 165 residential units located in three buildings in Marina Square on Al Reem Island in Abu Dhabi. Arcapita and the Saudi institution have contributed three buildings with a total of 285 residential units located in Saadiyat Beach Residences on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi. Following the new acquisitions, the Residential REIT's portfolio includes a total of 1,069 units across Abu Dhabi, Ras Al Khaimah and Dubai.

#Saudi SEDCO Capital launches #REIT Fund

Saudi SEDCO Capital announced the offering of its first Shariah-compliant real estate investment traded fund SEDCO Capital REIT. The fund will be offered to the general public through an initial public offer during the period of Jan. 24 to Feb. 6. With an occupancy rate of over 92%, SEDCO Capital’s real estate portfolio has grown to include seven assets across various geographical regions. According to CEO Hasan Al-Jabri, SEDCO Capital Real Estate Income Fund targets to generate an initial net yield of 7% through the acquisition of additional assets and by utilizing capital. To facilitate the offering period, three receiving entities were appointed for investors to subscribe, these include NCB, Al Rajhi Bank and Samba Financial Group.

CIBAFI and The World Bank presenting study on "Corporate Governance Practices in Islamic banks 2017"

It is well established that good corporate governance strengthens institutions and financial sectors, and in so
doing contributes to building strong economies and economic growth.

Deficiencies in corporate governance were among the factors that contributed to the global financial crisis
(GFC) of 2007–08. As a result, global standard setters such as the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision
(BCBS) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have been updating and
strengthening their guidelines on good governance practices.

The Islamic Financial Services Board (IFSB), which sets standards for Islamic financial institutions, published its
Guiding Principles on Corporate Governance in 2006 as its standard IFSB-3. The Principles address, within the
context of corporate governance, the distinct features of Islamic banks, such as the different relationship that
they have with some of their stakeholders.

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The Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD) Signs Memorandum of Understanding with JANA to Test New Banking Model

The Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with JANA Bena'a Productive Families of Saudi Arabia in order to test a new banking model named Biniog Sathi. The MOU was singed by Khaled Al-Aboodi, the CEO of ICD and Mohammed Al Khamis, Chairman of JANA Bena'a Productive Families. The new banking model will resolve the problem of credit default in the banking industry with the help of Zakat and Sadaqa. JANA Bena'a Productive Families Centre provides interest free loans to support women in starting their own businesses.

Islamic banks defy market challenges in 2017

Islamic banks made big gains in financing growth and profitability in 2017 while keeping their operating costs and cost of risks under control. Dubai Islamic Bank (DIB), reported a net profit Dh4.5 billion for 2017, up 11% compared to 2016. Total income increased to Dh10.19 billion, up 18% compared to Dh8.63 billion for 2016. Net revenue for 2017 amounted to Dh7.68 billion, an increase of 14% compared with Dh6.76 billion in 2016. DIB Managing Director, Abdullah Al Hamli, says the UAE continues to be one of the leading Islamic finance markets, with assets now reaching around $150 billion, a 7% growth this year. Emirates Islamic reported a net profit of Dh702 million, up 565% compared to 2016. Decline in operating costs and impairments boosted net profits last year. Sharjah Islamic Bank (SIB) reported a full-year 2017 net profit of Dh477.7 million compared with Dh462.9 million in 2016.

Emirates picking eight banks to arrange US$1b #sukuk: sources

Emirates airlines has mandated eight banks to manage a sukuk sale to raise about US$1 billion. Mandated banks include HSBC, Standard Chartered, Citigroup, BNP Paribas, Emirates NBD, Dubai Islamic Bank, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank and Noor Bank. Emirates will join a list of regional issuers seeking funding before expected increases in US interest rates push up borrowing costs. Emirates typically raises financing each year from a combination of commercial loans, operating leases and export credit agency backed facilities. It last sold a bond in 2015, when it raised US$913 million from a 10-year sukuk to pay for four Airbus A380-800s. Emirates signed a deal last week for 36 additional Airbus SE A380 aircraft, handling the aircraft manufacturer the first orders for the model in more than two years.

Al Madina #Takaful names new CEO

#Oman's Al Madina Takaful announced the appointment of Usama Al Barwani as chief executive officer (CEO). Al Barwani was the acting CEO. He was one of the key people involved in transforming the company from a traditional insurance company into Oman’s first takaful insurance company. With a strong track-record of success, the company was recently awarded the Best Arab Company in the insurance category and he was also the recipient of the Best Arabian 100 CEO Award. Al Barwani has a degree in Strategic Management and Leadership ED (CMI) and has a Post Graduate Diploma in HRM in Information System Management and Education (CABA, Canada).

Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre enrols as observer member of Responsible Finance & Investment Foundation

The Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre (DIEDC) has enrolled as an observer member of the Responsible Finance & Investment (RFI) Foundation. DIEDC and the RFI Foundation will collaborate towards the common goal of shifting the focus of the financial sector from accumulating wealth to supporting equitable, inclusive, and sustainable growth. As a member, DIEDC gains access to the RFI Foundation’s research and its diverse network. Abdulla Mohammed Al Awar, CEO of DIEDC, said by joining the RFI Foundation, the efforts of the two entities integrate to identify universal principles that guide responsible finance. Blake Goud, CEO of the RFI Foundation, welcomed DIEDC as an observer member. He added that DIEDC was a valuable addition to the RFI Foundation’s member community that includes multilaterals organisations, commercial banks and asset managers.

Dana Gas #Sukuk Talks Stall as It Seeks 15% Discount on Buyback

Talks to resolve a dispute between Dana Gas and its sukuk holders broke down after the company proposed a 15% cut on some of the debt. The United Arab Emirates-based energy company suggested buying back about $200 million at 85 cents to the dollar, and rolling over the rest into new securities with a profit rate of 4%. In June, Dana Gas announced it no longer considers its sukuk compliant with Shariah standards. It has since missed profit payments in July and didn’t repay two $350 million mudarabah bonds due Oct. 31. Dana applied to set aside a Nov. 17 judgment that went against it because the company couldn’t participate in the trial. If its application is unsuccessful, Dana Gas will appeal against the judgment. If the appeal is successful, the issue will be reheard by the English High Court over a three-day period from Jan. 30.

#Saudi Arabia asks banks for proposals to refinance $10bn loan, raise more debt

Saudi Arabia has asked banks for proposals to refinance its $10 billion international syndicated loan. The refinancing of the loan, which was raised in 2016, will include a repricing of the facility and the extension of its maturity to 2023 from 2021. An Islamic finance tranche using a murabaha structure will be added to the loan. Fahad al-Saif, president of the debt management office, said the plans were a step towards Saudi Arabia's ambition of establishing a prominent position in international debt markets as part of its economic reforms. The country's $10 billion syndicated loan in early 2016 was followed later that year by a $17.5 billion debut bond issue, the largest bond ever sold by an emerging market issuer.

Islamic #FinTech in 2018

2018 may prove to be a pivotal year for Islamic finance stakeholders and their approach to FinTech. Potential areas where FinTech is likely to have an impact on Islamic finance are remittances, takaful, investment advisory services and online trading. Commentators see FinTech as an opportunity to provide genuine Islamic-compliant alternatives to the traditional banking model. In December 2017, KFH Bahrain, Al Baraka Banking Group and Bahrain Development Bank announced the establishment of a company dedicated to research and development in the Islamic-compliant FinTech sector. Operated by the Bahraini bank consortium, ALGO Bahrain will open in February 2018 and will be the largest dedicated FinTech hub in the Middle East and Africa. Bahrain FinTech Bay is operated by Singapore-based fintech incubator FinTech Consortium.

Dubai Islamic Bank weighs capital-raising in 2018 -CEO

Dubai Islamic Bank (DIB) plans to raise capital in 2018 to help support an expected double-digit rise in loan growth. DIB's CEO Adnan Chilwan said the bank was considering options including a rights issue and an issue of Islamic bonds. The final decision will be subject to regulatory approvals. The bank is now targeting loan growth of between 10 and 15% in 2018, the same target it set for 2017.

Exclusive: Weeks of talks fail to resolve Dana Gas #sukuk dispute - sources

Weeks of talks between UAE energy firm Dana Gas and some local holders of a disputed $700 million sukuk have failed to reach an agreement. Last year, Dana refused to redeem $700 million of maturing Islamic bonds, arguing they were no longer valid under United Arab Emirates (UAE) law because of changes in Islamic financial practice. The move shocked the global Islamic finance industry, as some investors worried it could set a precedent for other sukuk issuers. Dana proposed to swap its sukuk, but creditors rejected the proposal, saying the terms were unfavorable. The case moved to UAE and British courts. Legal proceedings in both countries are continuing, but in November a British court ruled in favor of Dana’s creditors.

#Emirates said to seek $1bn #sukuk to diversify funding

Dubai's Emirates airline plans to raise as much as $1bn through sukuk before higher US interest rates push up borrowing costs. A spokeswoman said the company was constantly seeking diverse sources of funding, including bank finance, operating leases, Islamic financing, sukuk and bonds. Governments in the Gulf oil-exporting countries borrowed from international bond markets at a record pace in 2017 as they sought to cover budget deficits worsened by low oil prices. Saudi Arabia raised $21.5bn through sukuk and other bonds, followed by Abu Dhabi’s $10bn issue and Kuwait’s $8bn fundraising. Emirates raised $913mn through a sukuk issue with a 10-year lifespan in 2015. Proceeds funded the acquisition of four Airbus A380-800s, the world’s largest passenger aircraft. Airbus recently questioned the future of the A380, in case Emirates does not place a crucial order for new airplanes.

#Qatar witnessing robust momentum in #fintech, says Sheikh Abdulla

According to Qatar Central Bank (QCB) Governor Sheikh Abdulla bin Saoud al-Thani, Qatar is witnessing a robust momentum in fintech. The country is opening up increasing opportunities for digital payments, money management, lending, loyalty and rewards, remittances, investments and advisory services. Sheik Abdulla said the QCB’s recently launched new strategy would need to ensure that fintech firms are enhancing the financial system. Although there have been some success stories, he said banks and insurance companies in the region have been slow to embrace innovation. The fintech industry in Qatar remains very small, but it has seen a few startups such as Hasalty. As a mobile application, Hasalty improves financial literacy for children supported by the Qatar Business Incubation Centre.

The First Investor acquires another #German asset

The First Investor (TFI) Qatar, a subsidiary of Barwa Bank Group has acquired a new office building in Frankfurt. The asset is another unique blend to TFI Euro Income Fund, which was launched in 2017 with sharia compliant stature. Europe continues to provide excellent investment and business environments given low inflation and low interest rate regime. TFI is keen to pursue its investment strategy with the aim to help clients achieve their objectives in a very challenging business environment. By that, TFI will soon launch another UK Income Fund and a US Income Fund together with many investment opportunities during 2018.

#Qatar’s QR25bn worth #sukuk to mature soon

Almost half of Qatar’s outstanding sukuk, worth of over QR25bn, will mature in 2018. With the ongoing growth of Shariah-compliant institutions, new issuances are vital. If no sukuk are issued in the country to replace the maturing ones, Shariah-compliant investors might look to other sukuk investments outside Qatar. According to the joint research of Qatar Financial Centre (QFC), Thomson Reuters and Islamic Research and Training Institute (IRTI), retail sukuk remains an untapped segment in most of the countries in GCC. Qatar can capitalise on selling sukuk to the retail market to promote both the primary and secondary capital market. Financial institutions have been leading corporate issuance in the GCCIn Qatar, Ezdan Holding Group is the only corporation outside financial institutions to issue sukuk. Ijarah continues to be the most popular sukuk structure in Qatar. However, Qatari corporate sukuk have all been issued based on wakalah structure, which has been gaining popularity in the recent years.

Head of Islamic finance body AAOIFI resigns

The head of the Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI) has resigned. Hamed Hassan Merah presented his resignation after more than three years and the board of trustees accepted it. As a complex organisation with 200 institutional members from across 45 countries, the AAOIFI had been slow to respond to issues relating to conflicts of interest and product standardisation. Under Merah, the AAOIFI tackled such issues head on, launching a review of its accounting, auditing and sharia standards. In November, Merah said AAOIFI would now prioritize wider adoption of its standards by engaging national regulators in key markets, including Turkey and Malaysia. Saudi Arabia’s central bank joined AAOIFI as an institutional member in October 2017.

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