The National

#Bahrain's GFH Financial Group launches $200 million schools investment arm

GFH Financial Group, the Bahrain-based Islamic investment bank, plans to invest $200 million (Dh734m) in the privately-owned schools sector through its new investment platform, Britus Education. Developed and emerging markets have both seen a surge in private education during the last decade. Britus Education will invest in mid-market schools that can be improved through maximising student capacity, improving academic outcomes and optimising fee structures. According to a report published by Alpen Capital, the total number of students in GCC schools is set to grow at a compound annual rate of 2.3% per year to reach 14.5 million in 2022. Enrolment in private schools is expected to grow at a compound rate of 4.1% per year until 2022, much faster than the 1.3% growth anticipated for public schools.

Islamic pound is demanding credibility from today's consumer brands

A new trend is emerging among consumers, one that emphasises the importance of ethical consumption. Over the past 20 years, Muslim consumers have been searching for brands and products that speak to their religious identity. According to the seventh edition of the State of the Global Islamic Economy report published last week, Muslims spent $2.2 trillion last year on food, pharmaceuticals and lifestyle products and services. This is set to rise to $3.2 trillion by 2024. With the majority of Muslims under the age of 30 and many living in countries with large consumer markets, such as Indonesia, Malaysia and the UAE, there is immense potential for the global community. Halal brands are now finding their way into a wider consumer beauty movement seeking cruelty-free, animal-free products.

Assets under management in GCC to grow steadily from $260bn in 2018, Moody's says

The asset management industry in the Arabian Gulf is set to grow, as regional governments overhaul their hydrocarbon-dependent economies and ease regulations. According to Moody’s Investors Service, investment managers in the six-member economic bloc of the GCC had $260 billion (Dh954bn) of assets under management at the end of last year. The Gulf states are trying to overhaul their economies and cut their dependence on oil. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are pursuing their own economic reforms to develop alternative lines of revenue. Both countries have introduced laws to broaden their appeal to foreign investors. Moody’s expects global market leaders to expand their presence in the Saudi Arabia due to a relaxation of foreign ownership limits coupled with more transparent regulations.

Boards of Kuwait Finance House and Ahli United Bank agree terms of possible #merger

The boards of Kuwait Finance House and Ahli United Bank agreed on a share swap ratio. AUB said its board approved a final exchange ratio between the two lenders of one KFH share for every 2.325581 AUB shares. A final decision on the deal is subject to approval from shareholders of both banks, central banks and other authorities in Kuwait and Bahrain. The approved ratio is the same as the one announced in January, when the lenders hired HSBC and Credit Suisse as advisers to carry out financial and legal due diligence of each other’s accounts. According to equity analysts Mohamad Al Hajj and Elena Sanchez-Cabezudo, this merger would increase KFH’s expected weight within MSCI Emerging Market Index by 8 basis points and increase expected flows in May 2020 by $370 million. KFH has tried to acquire AUB in the past, but talks stalled over a difference in valuation.

Gaps in Islamic finance a pressing issue, says ICIEC

The Islamic Corporation for the Insurance of Investment and Export Credit (ICIEC) is trying to fill a gap in the absence of third-party guarantees, which has affected liquidity and hindered growth of Sharia-compliant financing. ICIEC head Oussama Kaisi said the group was engaging with central banks of several countries to find ways to increase liquidity for Islamic financing and allow more third-party guarantees. He added that by accessing the sukuk market companies can increase their investor base through stronger ratings, raise loan tenors and decrease borrowing costs. The value of sukuk issuance in 2018 was $115 billion (Dh422.33bn) and the market looks set for a similar amount this year. According to Standard & Poor’s, the UAE may sell $8bn worth of sukuk this year, slightly lower than $9.1bn recorded at the end of 2018, with private-sector corporations dominating the issuances.

Potential Noor Bank acquisition 'positive' for Dubai Islamic Bank

According to Egyptian investment bank EFG-Hermes, the potential acquisition of Noor Bank by Dubai Islamic Bank would be a positive move for the buyer. Also, there is room for more consolidation among local lenders as the UAE is overbanked, with 22 local and 38 foreign banks, most of which have "sub-optimal" market shares. EFG-Hermes expects a potential transaction to be made through a share-swap. It estimates a share-swap of 1 DIB share for 7.8 Noor Bank shares that would lead to a 1% earnings per share dilution for DIB. The merged entity would have an assets market share of 10%, as Noor Bank's assets amount to Dh51 billion or 2% market share and DIB’s assets amount to Dh224bn or 8% as of 2018.

Dana Gas issues new #sukuk, drawing earlier dispute to a close

Dana Gas has completed refinancing its $700 million sukuk which has been sized down to $530m. The issuance of the debt instrument had been completed and listed on the Euronext Dublin, previously known as the Irish Stock Exchange. Dana has paid $235m in redemptions, profit payments and early participation fees bringing an end to its long legal battle. Dana Gas CEO Patrick Allman-Ward said the new sukuk represented a fair consensual deal for all sukuk holders. The new sukuk will have a three-year life, maturing in October 2020, with a new profit rate of 4% per annum. Legal proceedings in courts in the UK and UAE have been brought to an end by all parties. Last month, Dana Gas received about $44m in dividends from Kurdistan Region of Iraq for the first half of the year and expected its output from operations there to rise by 25% in the third quarter.

ADIB plans a Dh1.16bn rights issue and tapping the #sukuk market

Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (ADIB) plans to maintain growth and pay off some of its old debt. The board of ADIB is recommending to increase the bank’s issued capital through more than a Dh1.16 billion rights issue. The proposed deal includes issuing 464 million new shares at a nominal face value of Dh1 per share. The bank’s board has also proposed the issuance of a $750m (Dh2.75 billion) perpetual tier 1 sukuk, and the repayment of its $1bn hybrid tier 1 sukuk issued in 2012. ADIB’s vice-chairman Khamis Buharoon said the pace of the bank's growth has been fast, increasing its number of customers to 1 million in the UAE, nearly double the number it had five years ago. He noted that the bank was raising capital to maintain its growth trajectory, while maintaining a capital buffer.

#Sukuk issuance growth to remain 'unspectacular' on structural constraints, Fitch says

According to Fitch Ratings, the moderate growth in sukuk issuances in the first quarter underpins continued investor interest, but it also points out to structural constraints. The total volume of sukuk rated by Fitch for the three-month period through to March end, stood at $80 billion (Dh294bn), a 6% rise from the figures recorded at the end of 2017. New sukuk issuance with a maturity of more than 18 months from the Arabian Gulf states, Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey and Pakistan came in at $14.9bn for the first quarter of 2018, a modest 1% year-on-year rise. The issuances during the first quarter of 2018 were largely driven by the GCC region, whose funding needs are likely to fall if oil prices stay high. Issuer funding needs and investor appetite for the remainder of the year will be determined by factors including oil prices and tighter global financing conditions.

Dana Gas close to a deal on $700m #sukuk dispute, say sources

Dana Gas has reached an agreement with key holders of $700m of its sukuk to restructure the securities. A committee representing sukukholders agreed to accept an immediate cash payout of 20 cents to the dollar and to roll the rest into a three-year security. According to the agreement, the new security will pay an annual coupon of 4%, bondholders agreed to remove the convertible option in the securities. Dana Gas said it would pay a further 20% of the sukuk after two years and will raise the coupon to 6% if it fails to do so. The majority of sukukholders have agreed to the terms. Investment bank Houlihan Lokey is advising Dana Gas and Moelis & Co is the consultant to the committee of sukukholders.

Inherent tension in #sukuk market, says analyst

The Dana Gas controversy has shown that Sharia-compliance driven structural complexity can expose investors to legal risks that do not apply to conventional instruments. The industry has struggled to harmonise, given the fractured nature of the Islamic capital markets. Most current market participants seek to replicate the risk, return and rating profile of the corresponding conventional instrument. In the current sukuk market there exists an inherent tension between the underlying equity and asset financing principles encouraged by Islam and the current investor/issuer demand for a debt-like instrument. If implemented, standards would reduce the costs for investors and issuers. Issuers can re-use already endorsed market structures saving costs and hence encouraging them to issue more.

Wahed Invest: a Sharia-compliant #investment #robo-adviser

Robo-advisers are opening up investment advice to the masses. They can provide sound investment advice for a fraction of the cost of their human counterparts, making it affordable enough for those with as little as US$100 to invest. Junaid Wahedna has taken the robo-investment concept a step further, making it available for those looking for Sharia-compliant investment options. Wahed Invest charges far lower fees than those charged by a conventional wealth manager. The robo-advisor Betterment has accrued over $10 billion worth of assets under management in the US since its launch in 2008. Currently, all of Wahed’s clients are from the US and Mr Wahedna says it plans to start accepting international customers. The company has 50 full-time employees and it has offices in New York, London, Dubai and Mumbai. The company sees a lot of potential in India, having seen strong demand for Islamic investing in the country from its pre-registered clients.

Dana Gas says appeal against BlackRock joining #sukuk trial rejected

The English Court of Appeal has refused Dana Gas' appeal against fund manager BlackRock to participate in English court proceedings. Dana is refusing to redeem its $700 million outstanding sukuk on the grounds that they are no longer sharia-compliant and therefore unlawful in the United Arab Emirates. Courts in both Britain and the UAE are hearing the case. On November 17 the English High Court ruled in favour of the sukuk holders. Dana plans to set aside this judgement on the grounds that the company was not permitted to represent itself in court. Regardless of the result of that application, additional legal proceedings in England are expected.

#Bahrain to launch compulsory risk regime for Islamic banks

The Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB) will publish a consultation on a proposed risk assessment framework for Islamic banks in the first quarter of 2018. Khalid Hamad Abdul-Rahman Hamad, director of banking supervision at CBB, said the bank was planning to issue a very detailed risk management toolkit to improve risk management practices taken by Islamic banks. Under the proposed new rules, banks are required to have proper reserves, be it profit equalisation reserves or investment risk reserves. Whenever banks are investing, they must have a pre-plan regarding how much of bank assets will be funded by unrestricted investment accounts and how much will be invested from funds.

The Sharia-compliant #gold standard - one year on

Interest in gold has soared since the Shariah standard for gold was introduced almost a year ago. The standard was approved as a collaboration between the Bahrain based Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI) and The World Gold Council (WGC) in London. Natalie Dempster, managing director at the WGC, says a number of existing gold products have now been certified as Shariah compliant and are being marketed as such. Several new regionally issued products are also under development. Adopting a Shariah standard has implications not just for the Muslim world but the UAE itself. Dubai in particular is rising as a purchase and investment destination. This has led to the emergence of institutions such as Noor Bank, Regal Assets and others that will buy and store bullion on behalf of clients from around the world.

Exclusive: First Islamic #robo-adviser to launch in Mena

The first Sharia-compliant robo advisers plans to start operations in the UAE soon, as it looks to a US$2 million funding boost this week from the Dubai venture capital firm Beco Capital. The digitally automated investment adviser Wahed Invest launched in the USA five months ago. CEO Junaid Wahedna said the company was in the process of moving to a new office in Dubai which will become the company’s new global headquarters. Wahed Invest expects to start regional operations by mid-Nov­ember, focusing initially on the UAE. According to Wahedna, the target for ethical, Sharia robo-advisory is the younger demographic, 25-35 years old, digitally savvy and educated millennials. The minimum investment of $100 enables it to tap into a broader customer base.

Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank says its ramping up spending on digital technologies

Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (ADIB) is planning to spend significant financial resources on digital technology this year. The lender is not rushing to downsize its branch network, as clients continue to value human interaction. According to Phil King, head of retail banking at ADIB, the bank is also planning to open three to five branches across the UAE next year. King noted that while mobile banking transactions at ADIB rose 49% in the first half of the year, there was a 10% drop in visits made by customers to the bank’s branches in the same period. He added that new branches would be smaller in size, ranging between 35 to 70 square meters versus the larger ones of the past. As a result of the bank’s increase in consumer lending, ADIB’s retail staff has grown 7% so far this year to 247 employees compared to a year-earlier period. ADIB's second-quarter net profit rose 8.7%, beating analyst forecast, thanks to a drop in provisions, gains in income from credit cards and other fee products.

Bondholders push back on Dana Gas #sukuk invalidation claims in London court

Dana Gas sought to have US$700 million worth of Islamic bonds declared unlawful so it could avoid repaying its investors. The bondholder group, led by Blackrock, demanded in court that Dana Gas repays millions of pounds, or hand over stock in a subsidiary that runs its operations in Egypt. It also wanted the court to ban Dana Gas from issuing any new sukuk. The courtroom battle is notable for the absence of Dana Gas, which has been prevented from taking part because of an injunction in the UAE. Any prospect of an early conclusion has been disputed by Dana Gas, which has claimed that litigation could continue in the UAE and could last up to ten years. The trial in London, which is expected to last up to two weeks, is due to hear evidence from the former general counsel of Dana Gas.

Applying VAT to Islamic finance products can get complicated

Some countries have introduced laws to level the playing field between Islamic and conventional finance when it comes to the relationship between VAT and financial products. Whereas countries like Malaysia and Singapore have legislated to level the playing field between conventional and Islamic finance by recognising its religious underpinning, the United Kingdom have dealt with the issue in a not dissimilar manner but with a secular approach. Customers have enough difficulty understanding conventional finance. Investment in training to ensure product sales persons can comfortably communicate their Islamic finance offerings will be essential.

#Abu #Dhabi #Islamic #Bank praises #UAE #Central #Bank clampdown on mis-selling #investments

Central Bank issued a notificaiton in May this year about mis-selling of investments. The UAE‘s largest Sharia-compliant lender, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, has welcomed efforts by the central bank to clamp down on unscrupulous sales of investment plans to UAE expats It said, the reputation of the industry as a whole had been damaged by dishonest brokers.
“More regulation is a good thing and we work very closely with the central bank” and other wealth management institutions who wish to improve their services, said Daffer Luqman of Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank. “At the end of the day the reputation of the business affects everybody. If an institution does a bad job of promoting or marketing a service it affects the whole industry so it’s very important that this business is regulated, that it’s regulated effectively and that everybody plays by the rules.”

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