GCC

Mazoon #Sukuk receives Fitch rating

Fitch Ratings has assigned Mazoon Electricity Company's Sukuk an expected rating of 'BBB'. The expected rating is in line with Mazoon Electricity’s Issuer Default Rating (IDR) of 'BBB', which has a negative outlook. Mazoon Assets Company’s is the issuer of the certificates and trustee and is a closed joint stock company in accordance with the laws of the Sultanate. The trustee has been incorporated solely for the purpose of participating in the transactions contemplated by the transaction documents. Earlier, Moody’s Investors Service assigned a Baa2 rating to Mazoon’s Sukuk certificates. The outlook on all ratings is negative.

#UAE Central Bank warns against #Bitcoin

The UAE Central Bank has warned against Bitcoin, terming it as unofficial and lacking sufficient supervision. According to Governor Mubarak Rashed Al Mansouri, it can be easily used in money laundering and in funding terror activities. Al Mansouri also said the central bank has completed the formation of a committee for developing Islamic Sharia-compliant products in order to support the Islamic finance sector. On the level of the UAE financial exposure to global capital markets, the governor said local markets have a slight exposure as the existing liquid assets now account for 17% of the banking sector's total assets. He added that UAE banks are robust enough to deal with risks as they have sufficient capital on account of the rising level of individual deposits.

Islamic Development Bank (IDB) celebrates listing $1.25 billion #Sukuk on Nasdaq Dubai

Dr. Zamir Iqbal, Chief Financial Officer of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), rang the market-opening bell to mark the listing of a $1.25 billion Sukuk on Nasdaq Dubai. 53% of the five-year Sukuk issuance was acquired by investors in the EMEA region, while 47% went to investors based in Asia, with an annual return of 2.261%. The IDB is one of the largest Sukuk issuers on Nasdaq Dubai, with a current total of eight listings valued at $10.25 billion. The bell-ringing ceremony was attended by Hamed Ali, CEO of Nasdaq, as well as Azahari Bin Abd Kudus, Capital Markets Manager of the IDB. Dubai is a leading international centre for Sukuk activity, with Sukuk listings in the Emirate currently totalling $52.47 billion.

#Saudi Arabia joins AAOIFI, bringing potential boost to finance sector

Saudi Arabia’s central bank has joined the Islamic financial regulator Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI). The move could increase cross-border financial deals in the region, as guidelines will apply to all financial institutions within Saudi Arabia. Both conventional and Islamic banks will now be subject to the same standards, potentially encouraging deals with other Muslim countries. AAOIFI Chairman Sheikh Ebrahim bin Khalifa Al Khalifa stated that the addition of the Saudi central bank would help foster closer collaboration with the kingdom. Saudi Arabia may now hold ambitions of becoming a global heavyweight in the Islamic finance sector. However, it will face intense competition from Malaysia, South Africa and the UK.

Dubai Economy launches Sharia-compliant #smart #programme

Dubai Economy in partnership with Dar Al Tawreeq has launched a Sharia-compliant smart programme to offer receivables finance to suppliers dealing with government entities in Dubai. Dubai Economy is the first government entity to offer such a financing option to suppliers. Faster payment will support businesses in growing sustainably and maintaining cash flows. Businesses working with government entities can use the smart software developed by Dar Al Tawreeq to ensure liquidity by obtaining financing on their invoices. The programme also provides easy access to on-demand working capital for businesses at no additional cost. The programme was launched by Khalid Al Kassim, Assistant Director General in Dubai Economy and Haitham Al Refaie, CEO of Tawreeq Holdings. The programme emphasises the principle of public-private partnership adopted by Dubai in its evolution into an Islamic Economy Capital.

S&P report discusses whether #Fintech could disrupt GCC banks' business models

S&P Global Ratings believes that financial technology could reduce the profitability of some business lines of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) banks. S&P's credit analyst Mohamed Damak said fintech could impinge on retail banking, particularly money transfer and foreign-currency exchange. This would push some banks to adjust their operations through increased digitalization, branch network reduction, and staff rationalization. He added that fintech alone is not expected to have a significant influence on GCC banks ratings in the next two years. He believes that banks will be able to adapt to the changing operating environment through collaboration with fintech companies and cost-reduction measures. Furthermore, regulators in the GCC will continue to protect the financial stability of their banking systems. Fintech is not yet a negative rating driver. However, it will increasingly become a force to be reckoned with.

#Saudi Arabia's IDB Plans #Blockchain-Based Financial Inclusion Product

The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) plans to use blockchain technology to develop sharia-compliant products to support financial inclusion in its member countries. The bank's Islamic Research and Training Institute signed an agreement with local firm Ateon and Belgium-based SettleMint for the development of the project. Blockchain involves a shared electronic ledger that allows all parties to track information, removing the need for third-party verification. The IDB said such features would allow for instantaneous clearing and settlement of transactions and asset exchanges, while helping eliminate counterparty risk.

Dagong and IIRA maintain the Ratings of Al Baraka Banking Group and revise the Outlook Upwards

Dagong Global Credit Rating and Islamic International Rating Agency (IIRA) have jointly maintained the ratings of AlBaraka Banking Group (ABG) at BBB+/A3. At the same time, IIRA has re-affirmed the national scale ratings of ABG at A+/A2. Outlook on the assigned ratings has been revised to 'stable' from 'negative' indicating the macroeconomic and political stability in ABG’s core countries. ABG operates through a globally diversified franchise spread across 11 jurisdictions in Europe, Africa and Asia. ABG’s ratings derive strength from the recent tier 1 Sukuk issuance this year. While the Group’s subsidiaries are individually governed by their supervisors, the Group maintains close coordination and oversight. Furthermore, Bahrain's institutional framework for Islamic banks ensures adherence to a strong framework for Shari'ah governance.

Interview: How #Bahrain Is Aiming To Position Itself As A Regional #Fintech Hub

In this interview David Parker, Executive Director of Bahrain's Economic Development Board, talks about the kingdom's efforts to position itself as a fintech hub. He recognizes that certain regulatory requirements can make it more challenging for firms to experiment. To mitigate this, the Central Bank of Bahrain launched a regulatory sandbox to help enable innovation. A number of accelerators and incubators have also launched operations recently, including the region’s first cloud accelerator, operated by C5 and powered by Amazon Web Services (AWS). When determining the structure of the regulatory sandbox, the Board was in close consultation with the industry. An agreement was signted with the Singapore Fintech Consortium and advisory firm Trucial Investment Partners to support the local Fintech ecosystem. The Central Bank also issued directives on crowdfunding for both Shariah compliant and non-Shariah compliant platforms and launched a national e-wallet.

Warba Bank heads towards innovation breakthrough in Islamic banking sector

#Kuwait's Warba Bank announced its financial results for the first nine months of 2017. Net profits increased by 442% reaching KD 4.752 m compared to KD 877 K for the same period last year. The increase in the Bank’s total revenues was driven by strong performance of all business units. The total revenues reached KD 42.66 million at an increase of 63% compared to the first nine months of 2016. Moreover, the operating revenues increased by 70%, amounting to KD 26.800 million by the end of September 2017 compared to KD 15.741 million for the same period of 2016. Warba Bank's CEO Shaheen Hamad Al-Ghanem said that the Bank has successfully accomplished a number of deals most notably a strategic financing deal in the aviation sector in Kuwait. Warba Bank also participated in Sharia -complaint co-financing for the Ziraat Participation Bank of Turkey amounting $236 million. The Bank also participated in arranging the $400 million Sukuk issuance of the Dubai-based Miraas Holding for Real Estate Development.

#Arab Petroleum Investments Corp hires banks for dollar #sukuk -lead

Arab Petroleum Investments Corporation (APICORP) has mandated banks to arrange a series of fixed income investor meetings ahead of a potential sukuk sale. The sale is that of a potential five-year benchmark US dollar-denominated sukuk. Meetings will start on October 19 in Riyadh and end on October 24 in London. Apicorp has hired Bank ABC, Crédit Agricole Corporate and Investment Bank, Emirates NBD Capital, First Abu Dhabi Bank, HSBC, KFH Capital and Standard Chartered Bank as joint lead managers and bookrunners for the planned deal.

Dubai Entrepreneur Launches Shariah-Compliant #Cryptocurrency Token

Dubai-based entrepreneur Com Mirz is set to launch a new Shariah-compliant cryptocurrency called Habibi Coin. The startup has already seen a staggering 750-member syndicate that is willing to invest in Habibi Coins with a $100-million initial coin offering (ICO). That is in addition to $3 million dollars raised by Mirza. In the same way that Bitcoin works as a decentralized payment system of digital currency with peer-to-peer transactions, Habibi Coin is essentially the bitcoin of the Middle East as it involves no intermediary. There is a significant rise in technology and digital currency that is paving the way forward in the Middle East. The Middle East is set to undertake one of the largest Shariah-compliant tokens, the Habibi Coin.

Ibdar Bank and partners acquire Boston office building for $48mln

#Bahrain-based Ibdar Bank has acquired a prime office building in Boston, USA. The deal is a collaboration with US property manager Lincoln Property Company and asset manager Ritz Banc Group and the total size is $48 million. The Boston property is a single-let building leased to Amazon Robotics, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Amazon Inc. The area is regarded as the "technology corridor", and is home to many well-known technology-related companies making it the epicentre of robotic innovation. The bank’s head of real estate, Bassam Kameshki, said the Boston metropolitan area has witnessed substantial growth within the technology and medical sectors. He ensured that Ibdar Bank will be working to add further value to the property and ensure a profitable exit scenario.

Dubai Aerospace plans #sukuk issue by mid-2018

Dubai Aerospace Enterprise (DAE) intends to tap the Islamic bond market within the next nine months to diversify the company's funding. DAE Chief Executive Firoz Tarapore confirmed that the company intended to issue a sukuk very soon, but did not specify how much the company could raise. According to Tarapore, DAE wants to change its capital structure to include a higher percentage of unsecured debt. The company intends to be a benchmark issuer in the U.S. debt market. DAE has already raised $2.3 billion in the United States through a senior bond issue this year to finance its acquisition of AWAS.

MIDEAST #DEBT-#Qataris hold non-deal bond roadshows as rift drags on -sources

Qatari banks have met investors in Europe and Asia to gauge their interest in potential U.S. dollar bond issues. Access to international debt markets has become problematic since the diplomatic crisis has erupted. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic and transport ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism. Cross-border deposits accounted for about a quarter of Qatar's total deposits, so banks started to look for alternative funding. Al Khalij Commercial Bank, Doha Bank, Qatar International Islamic Bank and QNB have all met investors in recent weeks. Feedback was positive, but investors also made clear that issuers would have to pay premiums in order to attract sufficient demand. According to an international portfolio manager, the premium that Qatari banks would have to pay is about 30-40 basis points. A second fund manager said Qatari banks would have to pay up not only because of the increased political risk, but also because of general market conditions in the region.

Exclusive - #Saudi Arabia preparing tougher rules for insurers - sources

Saudi Arabia’s central bank is preparing tougher rules for insurance companies. A new supervisory framework will be introduced in the coming months that will force insurers to boost capital significantly and improve internal risk controls. The moves are aimed at triggering consolidation in the insurance industry and forcing weaker companies to merge with stronger ones. The proposed changes were discussed during a meeting between officials of the Saudi Arabia Monetary Authority (SAMA) and senior insurance executives. Saudi Arabia’s insurance market is fragmented, with only a few companies dominating the sector and an abundance of smaller firms unable to make inroads. The central bank does not want the smaller companies to fail, as more than half of the shares are owned by politically sensitive retail investors in a market unaccustomed to liquidations.

Arcapita And Mumtalakat Acquire NAS United Healthcare Services

Arcapita and Bahrain Mumtalakat Holding Company have partnered to acquire an approximately 90% stake in NAS United Healthcare Services (NAS). Arcapita is a global Shari'ah compliant alternative investment manager. Mumtalakat is the sovereign wealth fund of the Kingdom of Bahrain. Abu Dhabi-based NAS is a regional leader in the provision of third-party administrator services to more than 40 health insurance and takaful companies in the Arabian Gulf. NAS services a pool of more than 500,000 insured members and processes more than 3 million medical claims per year. The market for outsourced medical claims management in the GCC region is expected to grow significantly. Most GCC governments have either implemented mandatory healthcare insurance coverage or plan to launch initiatives in the next 2 to 3 years.

Qatar International Islamic Bank readies $2 bln #sukuk programme

Qatar International Islamic Bank has finished creating a $2 billion sukuk issuance programme and is preparing to issue it when market conditions improve. Qatar's access to international bond markets has become problematic since Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic and transport ties with the country. Instead of debt markets banks have turned to privately placed bond and sukuk deals, as well as bilateral loans. Qatari banks are facing greater urgency to secure funding because banks from the four Arab countries have been withdrawing deposits from Qatar. Last month the largest Qatari lender, Qatar National Bank, raised $630 million in Taiwan’s Formosa bond market. Commercial Bank of Qatar is also considering whether to borrow money on the Taiwanese bond market.

What the West doesn’t understand about #UAE foreign #aid

In 2013, 2014, and 2016, the UAE was the world’s biggest international donor, disbursing billions of dollars each year. In 2015, it had the fourth highest aid per capita in the world. Most westerners have no idea that the UAE is so active in foreign aid. Around 90% of its foreign aid is developmental with the rest going on humanitarian and religious/cultural assistance. The recipients are primarily developing Arab and Islamic countries, including Egypt, Yemen, and Jordan. A key factor is a difference in Islamic and secular westerner attitudes to charity. When Islamic banks in the Gulf region are solicited for funds to support civil society projects, they often donate only on the condition that their donation be anonymous. Going forward, transparency efforts must continue. However, the UAE must also work hard to protect the dignity of its aid recipients via appropriate levels of discreetness.

#United Arab Emirates: The Securities And Commodities Authority (SCA) Launched A Strategy For Islamic Capital Market Development

The Securities and Commodities Authority (SCA) launched a strategy for Islamic capital market development. The strategy includes the supervisory role played by SCA, the role played by self-regulatory organizations (SROs) and the challenges encountered. SCA's role is to issue legislative regulations for the Islamic capital market, updates on sukuk and capital adequacy regulations, the introduction of shari'ah board governance system and the organization of training programs. Markets' role is to issue provisions regulating trading securities, update existing regulations and develop investment indicators for Islamic securities. There are numerous challenges facing the Islamic finance market. They include the high costs of Islamic contracts, the increased complexity of Islamic products, the difference in perspectives of Islamic law and the availability of trained and qualified human resources.

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