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Speaking at the Middle East Investment Conference in Dubai, Ibrahim Warde, adjunct professor at Tufts University in the United States and a noted author on Islamic finance, argued that since the 1990s Islamic finance has gained much more international acceptability but that it continues to grapple with the fundamental form-versus-substance debate. With the current size of the Islamic finance market at over $1.3 trillion, Warde believes that it is not an exaggeration to say that in the world of finance, the fastest growing segment is Islamic finance.
Issues raised and discussed at length during “International Workshop on Zakat, Waqf and Islamic Microfinance” and the idea of “Strengthening Islamic Social Finance Sector” were presented by Arshad Ajmal, Vice President of Sahulat Microfinance Society, at a programme organised by Forum for Discussion on Economic Issues. The event is a joint forum of Sahulat and Radiance Viewsweekly which was held in the national capital on 26 May. Mr. Ajmal, who was the only person invited from India as a resource person on Islamic Microfinance, shared his experience which he gathered and the points he raised during the workshop. Another notable point discussed was whether an Islamic Microfinance institution should and can be treated as a banking institution. Moreover, it was pointed out that Islamic finance places itself heavily on debt instruments and less on equity instruments.
At the 4th Annual World Islamic Banking Conference: Asia Summit (WIBC Asia 2013) in Singapore, Bahrain based international standard-setting body the International Islamic Financial Market (IIFM) announced the launch of IIFM Inter-Bank Unrestricted Master Investment Wakalah Agreement. This global standard document is supplemented with an Operational Guidance Memorandum. It is developed to be used in the Islamic inter-bank market between financial institutions in order to manage their liquidity requirements. It is also aimed to minimise the over reliance on the use of the Commodity Murabaha in the inter-bank market transactions. The key main features of this Agreement is that the Investor, the Muwakkil, will appoint the Wakil as its Agent to invest its funds in a Shari’ah compliant manner in exchange for a fee.
Dubai World has sold one of its UK assets as part of its efforts to repay creditors. A unit of Toronto-based investment company Brookfield Asset Management has bought logistics warehouse developer Gazeley from Dubai World subsidiary Economic Zones World (EZW). However, they did not disclose the value of the transaction. Proceeds from the sale of Gazeley are expected to go towards the repayment of a $1.2 billion loan secured by associate firm JAFZA in June last year. EZW had pledged up to US$300 million for JAFZA from the proceeds raised by the Gazeley sale, and should the sale be completed, funds will be used to part-repay the bank facility. The sale is the first major divestments of a foreign asset by Dubai World since it agreed on a debt deal with creditors in 2011. The restructuring agreement promised full repayment to creditors through a series of disposals of overseas assets.
The initiative to transform Dubai into the world’s capital of the Islamic economy is progressing steadily towards the goals as scheduled, said Mohammed Abdullah Al Gergawi, Chairman of Dubai’s Islamic Economy Higher Committee. During its meeting, the committee viewed the work of its major teams tasked with implementing the initiative. The meetings provide an opportunity to discuss the role of these sectors in the implementation of the initiative, he added. All strategic partners and experts are included in these meetings and workshops so as to exchange views and ideas on the initiative, and reach a form of fruitful and constructive cooperation. Dubai’s Islamic economy platform includes finance instruments, insurance, contracts arbitration, Islamic food industry and trade standards (halal food), and quality management standards.
The Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector ( ICD ) and Chad's Ministry of Finance and Budget have signed a partnership agreement aiming at the creation of a local leasing company (ijara) and a local Islamic bank compliant to the principles of Islamic finance. The two future entities -- leasing company and Islamic bank -- will provide Shariah-compliant financial services and products with a special focus on the SME sector. Through this agreement, ICD will contribute to promote the development of Islamic finance and support SMEs. Minister of Finance and Budget of Chad Atteib Doutoum thanked the ICD and reaffirmed his full support to make the private sector a key player in the economic development of the country. He then promised to provide the necessary support of his Ministry to implement the two financial institutions.
Ten executives from six banking organisations in Korea recently participated in a training course on Islamic finance in collaboration with Qatar Central Bank (QCB). It was intended to enhance the understanding of Islamic finance so that it could be applied in Korea. The trainees had a deeper look at the financial industry in the Middle East, including Qatar, licensing systems, main principles of Islamic finance, basic contracts and case studies on Islamic financial products. They visited Qatar Islamic Bank, Qatar Financial Centre, Qatar Islamic Insurance Company, Barwa Bank, Masraf Al Rayan and others. The training was part of an agreement signed by the Middle East-Korea Financial Co-operation delegation and QCB last January.
Bahrain-based Venture Capital Bank reported a fifth consecutive quarter of profitable performance. The Islamic investment bank posted a net profit of $20.2 million on total revenue of $39.6m for the 15 months ended March 2013. For the quarter ended March this year, the profit was $1.7m and the revenue $5.08m. Total revenue increased 472 per cent on annualised basis to $39.6m for the 15-month period. Concurrently, total expenses decreased by 26pc on an annualised basis to $13.5m for the 15-month period as a result of cost reduction and organisational improvements. Shareholders' equity has grown by 9pc on an annualised basis to $199.2m as of March this year. The results affirm the bank's strategic focus on key sectors, such as healthcare, agribusiness, oil and gas and shipping and in the more economically and politically stable markets in the Mena region.
Experts say the growth potential for Islamic finance in Singapore is still strong. Sukuk or Islamic bond issuances totalled US$137 billion in 2012, up from US$92b in 2011. Yet there is still a gap to fill in the Islamic capital market. According to Mr Ng Nam Sin, Assistant Managing Director (Development) at the Monetary Authority of Singapore, the increased volume of issuance is still insufficient to meet the huge demand for Islamic assets for investments and Islamic financial institutions to manage their liabilities. Moreover, there is also a need to broaden the range of Islamic capital market products. Singapore already has the right infrastructure and good regulations already in place. Experts say Singapore's strong regulatory environment and the depth and diversity of its capital markets will enable it to capture a bigger slice of the Islamic financing market.
State-owned Islamic Bank of Thailand plans to increase its capital by 7.11 billion baht (US$234.9mil) and issue a 5 billion baht sukuk, the country's first-ever Islamic bond. The bank plans to issue the 5billion-baht subordinated sukuk to increase its capital ratio. Last year, bank officials said the sukuk would have a likely maturity of 5 years and the bank would appoint Malaysia's CIMB Bank to handle the deal, targeting domestic and institutional investors in Malaysia and Hong Kong. The bank expects to raise 927 million baht in capital this month and 6.2 billion baht in the fourth quarter. The bank, rated BBB by Fitch, also wants to seek investors to establish a presence in the Middle East in the next three years, while increasing its domestic network of branches to 130 from 106 now. It hopes this strategy will help it to return to profit this year and help the country's Islamic financial sector grow.
According to World Bank, on an average, annual housing need in Pakistan is 1.1 million units which require an annual funding of around Rs3.3 trillion per year. While conventional banks/DFIs are stepping away from the housing finance, the share of Islamic banks and HBFC is surging. The gross house loans of Islamic banks grew year-on-year by 15 percent as of December 2012. Among Islamic banks, Meezan Bank, Burj Bank and BankIslami remained the major growth propellers. Islamic housing finance instruments are attractive to the consumers because of the co-ownership nature of the contract instead of borrowing and lending. Besides, with the purchase of share consistently, the rental amount is gradually reduced every month. Facilitating Islamic banks to extend loans coupled with the suggested development of secondary mortgage market is expected to buttress the housing finance in Pakistan.
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) led its first sukuk in more than three years after helping a Saudi property developer raise $450 million. The bank was a lead arranger on Dar Al Arkan Real Estate Development Co. (ALARKAN)’s sukuk on May 21, reforging links with the Riyadh-based real estate company after helping arrange the sale of its $450 million five-year bonds in February 2010. The New York-based bank is seeking to catch up with U.S. competitors as demand accelerates for securities that conform to Islamic principles. Increased competition in the industry could work in banks’ favor, as lower fees increase the chances borrowers will come to market and more banks means a greater profile for the Islamic industry.
The African Guarantee Fund (AGF), reportedly has agreed to guarantee an unspecified portion of KES 100 million (USD 1.2 million) to be loaned by Gulf African Bank (GAB) to SMEs in Kenya. After the signing of the agreement, GAB Managing Director Asad Ahmed reportedly expressed his belief that the deal will help to increase the bank’s financing and risk management capabilities. AGF was established in Kenya in June 2012 with initial capital sufficient to issue partial guarantees of loans totaling USD 50 million. AGF has branches in nine African countries as of March 2013. As of March 2011, GAB had total assets of KES 9.6 billion (USD 112.3 million) and customer deposits of KES 8.2 billion (USD 96 million).
Islamic finance is based on two intrinsic features: risk-sharing and the link between financial transactions and the real economy. This critical link brings prudence to the system, promotes equity relative to debt, broadens financial participation, and minimizes overall vulnerability. Another dimension of Islamic finance is the promotion of economic welfare and social justice guided by the objectives of Shariah. Whether Islamic finance is a catalyst for inclusive growth and sustainable development is not as straightforward as one may hope. There are several other areas of Islamic finance which need significant improvements, including regulatory oversight, tax treatment, risk-management practices, and the level of awareness. Despite these limitations, Islamic finance has potential to serve as a tool for financial inclusion through leveraging the entrepreneurial potential of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) across sectors and bringing the financially underserved into the economic mainstream.
The Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD) moves in the Islamic banking sector of Kazakhstan with a mandate of converting a regional Bank into an Islamic bank with expected investment of up to 35 percent of the subscribed and paid up capital of the bank. Accordingly, it will become second Islamic bank in the country. Earlier, ICD , together with a diverse group of International and local investors including owners of Zaman Group established the first Islamic Leasing (Ijara) Company in Kazakhstan with authorized capital of $ 36 million. In addition, ICD extended $ 20 million for the real estate development project and committed $ 40 million lines of financing facility for the SME sector in the country.
Borsa Istanbul (BIST) aims to become one of the most prominent centers that work in accordance with the principles of participation banking in the Middle East, Europe and Africa. Capital Markets Board (SPK) has prepared a regulation on non-interest financing tools, such as five new types of Islamic bond. The new rules, which were sent to Prime Minister’s office for approval this week, will allow Turkish corporate and banks, as well as the Treasury, to issue the world’s most widely used types of sukuk, giving them access to a wider pool of investors via a global market estimated at more than $100 billion. Turkey has also started an initiative to allow companies from 60 countries, chosen according to BIST’s vision of “Istanbul International Finance Center,” to sell their capital market tools in Istanbul and also to buy and sale of tools which are already sold.
Bank Indonesia holds The 3rd Bank Indonesia International Seminar on Islamic Finance on 30-31 May 2013, in Bali. The seminar's theme is, "A New Phase of Islamic Finance: Capturing the Untapped Area to Improve the Quality of Economic Development".The seminar is expected to revisit the essense and purpose of the Islamic finance, and explore new sources of growth to maintain the current high level of growth in the Islamic finance industry. The area of discussion includes shariah norms in the economy, the application of Islamic finance in the government sector, the promotion of inclusive growth, and the implementation of macroprudential policies in Islamic finance. The seminar is attended bymore than 200 participants representing regulators, practitioners, and scholars in Islamic banking and finance, both domesticand international.
Noor Islamic Bank (Noor) is targeting Dhs5bn of lending to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) over the next five years with the launch of Noor Trade. This Shari'a compliant banking service is specifically tailored for SMEs that contribute significantly to the UAE's trade flows. In support of its Noor Trade strategy, Noor has opened its first dedicated trade branch in Almas Tower, home of the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC), in Jumeirah Lake Towers (JLT). A second similar branch is scheduled to open in Deira, in July. Under the Noor Trade brand, clients will have access to fully Shari'a compliant financial services, including cash management, trade, and working capital solutions, along with consumer, treasury and takaful products packaged at preferential rates based on eligibility criteria.
During the past year, there have been a number of cross-regional sukuk, mostly by Gulf issuers tapping Malaysia's highly liquid market. However, sukuk structures are not standardised, and some Gulf-based sharia scholars have objected to certain structures used in Asia, a region which has proven to be more flexible in its transactions. Sukuk issuance in the Middle East outside of the Gulf is also becoming more attractive, notably Turkey, which was recently elevated to investment grade credit status and is bidding to develop an Islamic finance industry. Growth in cross-border Islamic bond issues points to greater convergence in the industry, opening the door to a much wider pool of investors.