GCC

#Bahrain continues to stand out in Islamic finance development

According to the Thomson Reuters Islamic Finance Development Report 2016, Bahrain leads the GCC’s Islamic finance development for the fourth consecutive year. The report is jointly produced by Thomson Reuters and the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD). Bahrain ranks first globally in terms of Governance due to its well established regulatory environment and governance mechanisms. The regulations cover Islamic financial institutions including Islamic asset management and Sukuk. Bahrain is among the top ten countries for the other indicators as well. For the Knowledge indicator, its Islamic finance ecosystem is supported by 17 providers offering Islamic finance related education including universities and institutions. Meanwhile, its Islamic financial institutions continue to contribute socially, with US$ 18.5 million charity, zakat and Qardh al Hasan funds disbursed in 2015.

GFH signs final #Sukuk restructuring agreement with Gulf Holding and Al Rajhi Bank

GFH Financial Group (GFH) has signed a final Sukuk restructuring agreement with Gulf Holding Company (GHC) and Al Rajhi Bank. The agreement allows for the rescheduling of the Villamar project’s finances and officially marks the re-launch of the project located in the Bahrain Financial Harbour. Villamar @ The Harbour is one of the flagship projects of GHC and is valued at $700 million, being a residential complex spread over 35,900 square meters. As per the agreement, GFH will participate in financing completion of the project with an amount up to $50 million. The restructuring will have a positive impact on GFH’s shareholding in Gulf Holding Company.

#Islamic #banks slowly #embrace #green #finance – survey

Islamic banks are gradually embracing socially responsible finance, from renewable energy to microfinance efforts, helping unlock new funding sources for environmentally-friendly projects, an industry survey shows. The two sectors have developed separately from each other, but green projects could benefit from tapping Islamic banks in countries like the United Arab Emirates and Malaysia, where they now hold a quarter of total banking assets.
Around two-thirds of financing in Saudi Arabia follows Islamic principles, which forbid investing in gambling, tobacco and alcohol. This resembles the screening methodology used by ethical funds in Western markets. Green finance is increasingly important for Islamic banks seeking to differentiate themselves from their conventional peers, the Bahrain-based General Council for Islamic Banks and Financial Institutions (CIBAFI) said in a report.

Spotlight on #careers of #women in #Islamic #finance

Next week’s influential World Islamic Banking Conference in Bahrain will see a lot of interesting and highly relevant keynotes, debates and panels, but also a premiere that highlights a phenomenon not yet clearly studied in the industry: The role of women in Islamic finance and the opportunities that arise for them.
Simply Sharia Human Capital, a London-based recruitment and training center solely dedicated to Islamic finance, at the conference will unveil a report called “Women in Islamic Finance & Islamic Economy: Unlocking Talent,” one of the rare studies that actually look into roles, careers and achievements of women in the Islamic finance industry, and the job opportunities it holds for female career seekers from an educational perspective.

#GCC: Minimum #parking requirements must be revised

In order to improve the feasibility of middle- and low-income housing, eight main links must be optimised. The cost of land, trunk infrastructure, site planning, design, financing, construction, offtake, and management must all be lowered, while producing high-quality units close to employment, healthcare, educational, and recreational amenities. In turn, policy-makers and developers must examine each development stage carefully, identifying associated costs and eliminating unnecessary ones. Minimum onsite parking requrements can negatively impact the feasibility of middle- and low-income housing. Changes to onsite parking requirements must be supported by well-managed on-street parking and other public parking options. Advanced data collection technology could also be enlisted to measure parking use in residential buildings and to fine-tune parking options based on real-world conditions.

AAOIFI Shari'ah Board Adopts New Shari'ah #Standards on (Gold) and (Liability of Investment Manager)

The Shari’ah Board of AAOIFI held its annual meeting from 17 to 19 November 2016 in the Kingdom of Bahrain. The meeting was concluded with issuance of a number of resolutions as well as the adoption of two new Shari'ah standards. The new standard on the Liability of Investment Manager defines the concepts of transgression and negligence and breach of contractual stipulations on the part of the investment manager. The standard also sets out the Shari'ah rulings pertaining to investment manager's liability or volunteering to bear liability. AAOIFI has also approved a new standard on Gold and it Trading Controls. The standard will be officially launched at a press conference whose date will be announced shortly. It will also be published together with other standards in the new edition of AAOIFI's standards.

HSBC Said to Advise #Saudi Pension Fund on Financial Hub Sale

The local unit of HSBC Holdings is advising Saudi Arabia’s Public Pension Agency on the sale of its struggling financial hub to the country’s sovereign wealth fund. The Public Investment Fund is offering to acquire the Riyadh district for less than the pension fund’s 30 billion riyals ($8 billion) investment. The wealth fund is being advised by JPMorgan Chase, but a deal hasn’t been reached yet. The King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD) is about 70% complete and is failing to attract its target clientele, banks, auditors and lawyers. The sale is meant to rehabilitate the 1.6 million square-meter district which includes over 70 buildings. The district will become a special economic zone with looser visa rules and direct links to Riyadh airport as part of plans to restructure the development.

QIIB expects to receive licence for Moroccan JV before year-end: CEO

#Qatar International Islamic Bank (QIIB) expects to secure the licence from the Moroccan authorities for its joint-venture bank in the kingdom before the year-end. CEO Abdulbasit A. al-Shaibei said QIIB firmly believed that Morocco presented a 'good opportunity' for the bank, being a gateway to North Africa, which is in need of Shariah-based, value-driven banking. He said QIIB and its partners in Morocco have identified the branches and installed the IT systems. While there are opportunities, al-Shaibei said any new market would pose some challenges. In terms of overseas ventures, QIIB will now be focused only on Morocco. Al-Shaibei said 2016 was a challenging year not just in the Middle East, but everywhere. However, he said he remained very optimistic about the Qatari economy and the future opportunities of the country.

#Saudi Investment Bank closes 500 million riyals #sukuk

Saudi Investment Bank closed a 500 million riyals ($133.3 million) Tier 1 sukuk sale on Monday. The subordinated Islamic bond was sold privately. The debt transaction will boost the bank's capital base and its capital adequacy ratio, in addition to diversifying the Saudi bank's funding sources and its maturity profile. The joint lead managers of the transaction were Alistithmar for Financial Securities and Brokerage and J.P. Morgan Saudi Arabia.

#Shares in Abu Dhabi banks suspended after merger speculation

Trading of shares in Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, Union National Bank and Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank were suspended on Sunday. The shares jumped last week because of renewed speculation that the Abu Dhabi government might engineer a merger between ADCB and UNB, and another between ADIB and Al Hilal Bank. Both moves would be part of an efficiency drive. There was no immediate official statement from the banks, but banking industry sources said the banks were expected to send statements denying that they had plans to merge.

Talal Al Zain to head new Islamic investment bank in Abu Dhabi

The newly formed Islamic investment bank ADCorp has named Talal Al Zain as its chief executive. Its two main shareholders, Abu Dhabi Financial Group (ADFG) and GFH Financial, said the new company has an authorised capital of US$100 million and will be the first Sharia-compliant institution in Abu Dhabi Global Market. Mr Al Zain, formerly chief executive of PineBridge Investments Middle East, said that ADCorp would focus on corporate finance, wealth and asset management for institutions and ultra high net worth ­clients. He said that geographically the firm’s investment strategy will allow ADCorp to become the long-term business partner of choice for clients in the region.

GCC banks looking to Africa for new opportunities: EY

According to EY’s GCC Wealth and Asset Management Report 2016 'Global forces drive regional realities', the larger local banks in the GCC are approaching saturation in their home market and are starting to venture out to new markets such as Africa. George Triplow, EY's Wealth and Asset Management Leader says the UAE’s strong ties with African markets has encouraged a number of African businesses to use Dubai and the Dubai International Financial Center as an infrastructure hub. The regional retail wealth management sector faces the ongoing issue of lack of transparency and independence. According to Triplow, the key would be to provide lower costs, genuinely independent advice and technology-supported portfolio diversification with a focus on passive funds and exchange-traded funds, rather than complex structured products.

Groundbreaking Eskan bank REIT public offering opens today

The initial public offering of the Eskan Bank Realty Income Trust (REIT) has opened today. The BD 14.4 million offering represents 72.9% of the Trust’s total size of BD 19.8 million, and has a target of 6.5% in net distributable income payable semi-annually. This Sharia-compliant offering is reserved for Bahraini and GCC nationals and is open to individual and institutional applicants. Securities & Investment Company (SICO) is the mandated lead manager, while Bahrain Islamic Bank (BisB) has been appointed as the receiving bank. According to Eskan Bank's General Manager Dr. Khalid Abdulla, the REIT enables investors to share in a diversified portfolio of properties, namely Segaya Plaza and Danaat Al Madina, offering diversification within the real estate sector. The properties currently have an occupancy rate of over 85%, and the Trust intends to increase its Sharia-compliant property portfolio.

Nasdaq Dubai and IdealRatings launch Islamic bond indices

Nasdaq Dubai and IdealRatings have launched a suite of indices tracking the performance of global Islamic bonds. The indices may serve as the underlying to future investment products including exchange-traded funds. To be eligible for inclusion in the indices, each bond must have a minimum size of at least $100m, a remaining time to maturity of at least three months, and must be approved by a Shariah accredited board. The Nasdaq Dubai IdealRatings Sukuk Index family comprises the Global Sukuk Index as well as several indices covering distinct segments of the market. They include investment grade issuances, issuances by sovereigns, issuances by corporates, issuances by financial institutions and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) issuances. As of 1 October 2016 the Global Sukuk Index has returned 3.1% year-to-date and 15.2% since the index’s base date of 1 November 2012.

Majority suffering from financial distress – Poll

The latest #Saudi Arabian survey conducted by Riyali Financial Literacy Program shows that more than 86% of the respondents have suffered from some form of financial distress. This high percentage sheds light on the importance of spreading financial awareness to manage a stable financial life. The survey also showed that most of the commitments that the participants failed to fulfill were finance installments (44%), followed by borrowing from friends and family (34%), and then credit card payments (22%). In addition to that, the survey highlighted another noticeable problem, which is the high debt burden ratio where monthly installments of 42% of the participants exceeded 60% of their monthly salary. In this regard, the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) has set the limit at 33% for the monthly debt burden that a customer can afford, to be able to successfully pay off debts.

#Conference on challenges in #sukuk markets

The Sukuk Conference organized by the Saudi Capital Market Authority (CMA) in collaboration with the World Bank will be held on Dec. 6, 2016. Government officials and representatives from the World Bank and the private sector will participate in the conference. The conference sessions will include topics such as: elements of sukuk markets, dynamics of sukuk markets, establishment of an effective environment for sukuk market, regulatory issues in the sukuk market and the role of debt markets in economic growth. The CMA aims to encourage the issuance of debt instruments and also to promote the economic development of the Kingdom within the 2030 Vision.

Noor Bank closes AED850 Million syndicated Islamic Financing Facility for Ajman Bank

Noor Bank closed an AED 850 million Syndicated Islamic Financing Facility for Ajman Bank. The two-year Shari’a compliant facility shall be utilised towards Ajman Bank’s future growth plans. Noor Bank was mandated for the second time to act as Lead Arranger. Dubai Islamic Bank, First Gulf Bank, Sharjah Islamic Bank, The Arab Investment Company and Warba Bank joined the deal as Mandated Lead Arrangers, while National Bank of Bahrain participated as an Arranger. Commenting on the facility, Noor Bank's CEO Hussain Al Qemzi said that this syndication was testament to Noor Bank's service quality and the relationship amongst the two institutions. He expressed his gratitude to Ajman Bank and all the partner banks who helped to close the transaction.

Gulf Islamic Investments raises US.$145 million for Silicon Valley Technology Company Apttus

Gulf Islamic Investments (GII), a UAE based Islamic financial services company, announced the closing of US.$145 million fund raising for Apttus, a Silicon valley based software company. The funds will be used to complete the Quote-to-Cash customer process and the Procure-to-Pay supplier process. This is the fourth company out of Silicon Valley for which GII has raised funds for in the last 2 years, bringing the total amount raised to $350 million. GII further confirms a continuing partnership with Apttus to lend strong support to the company’s business development and market penetration in the GCC region. According to GII Founding Partner, Mohammed Alhassan, Apttus provides a golden opportunity at the level of business model and also in terms of achieving satisfying returns.

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Are Contract for Differences #CFD / #Binary Options halal? Well, no. Why?

Many Muslims contacted me in the last years with one single repeating question: Are CFD and/or Binary Options halal meaning permissible in Islam? There are indeed forex brokers offering so called Islamic accounts avoiding outright interest. But still: A contract of difference does not involve the ownership of any underlying (currency, stocks etc.) hence money against money is exchanged in different amounts - this is the most simple test for the prohibited Riba. Any Muslim receiving such offers should therefore insist of receiving the Fatwa and if not provided leave out.

The intention on those trading activities everyone can ask himself; mostly it will be akin to gambling and this on top of the fact that the trading activity itself is a zero sum game; meaning what one wins another looses, which rules out again to participate in such business. It does not do any better that aside from luck the outcome is influenced by know how - the same is true for classical money games as Poker or Backgammon. Still nobody would classify Poker therefore as halal.

#Saudi boost for #sukuk market

The international sukuk market received a major boost when Saudi Finance Minister Ibrahim Al Assaf confirmed that the kingdom’s public debt issuance programme will not be limited to conventional bonds and that sukuk will play an important role. The global sukuk market had a flat year in 2015, impacted by the slump in the price of crude oil and other commodities. The signs are of a rebound this year, with sukuk issuances already reaching US$50 billion in the first four months of the year. The Saudi announcement augurs well for the sukuk market next year. The Saudi Finance Ministry had also stressed that the kingdom plans to raise US$120 billion from the international markets by 2020. Saudi bankers expect a debut Saudi sovereign sukuk early next year and stress the need for a well-structured public borrowing policy in the international market.

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