Mahmood Hashim Al Kooheji, the head of Bahrain’s sovereign wealth fund, Mumtalakat, is intent on brokering safe, considered deals that yield long-term growth. The wealth fund is taking an increased interest in the comparatively stable sectors of healthcare, education and industry. As evidence of this strategy, Mumtalakat last year took an undisclosed equity stake in Italian healthcare firm KOS Group. In October 2015, Mumtalakat took a majority stake in UAE-based GEMS Education as part of an investment group that included US private equity firm Blackstone. Al Kooheji expects another deal to be reached next year to launch GEMS schools in Bahrain. He also points out that Mumtalakat announced six new deals in 2016, a significant number for a small fund. According to Al Kooheji, Mumtalakat is now truly diversifed in the GCC, US, UK and Europe and this will continue in the future.
Bahrain's GFH Financial Group may merge with Dubai-based Shuaa Capital, GFH said in a statement. A web of ties between GFH and Shuaa began forming last year. In May, Abu Dhabi Financial Group (ADFG) and GFH said they were jointly setting up an Islamic bank called ADCorp with initial capital of $100 million. In November, ADFG bought a 48.36% stake in Shuaa, which has a market capitalisation of about $535 million. In December, Shuaa bought 14% of Bahrain's Khaleeji Commercial Bank for $25 million. GFH owns 47% of Khaleeji. On Sunday, Shuaa said it would acquire Integrated Capital and Integrated Securities, both controlled by ADFG. Integrated Capital owns 11.74% of GFH. ADFG officials did not respond to requests for comment about the possible merger.
The Bahrain-based Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI) has issued a draft standard on murabaha to update guidance on the most common financing tool used by Islamic banks. AAOIFI is conducting a wide review of its standards to encourage convergence of industry practices and increase consumer appeal. The proposed standard would supercede two earlier ones on murabaha. It would also cover new areas such as the accounting treatment on the liability side of a murabaha transaction. AAOIFI is seeking industry feedback on the draft until the end of March, aiming to make the final version effective from January 2019.
The General Council for Islamic Banks and Financial Institutions (CIBAFI) and the Islamic Research and Training Institute (IRTI) are jointly organising the yearly meeting of the Directors of Operations and Investments of Islamic Financial Institutions (IFIs). The theme this year will be "Bringing Islamic Investment of IFIs to the Next Frontier" and is held between March 22-23 in Manama. Experts in Islamic Investments will gather to discuss the disruptive agendas of the Islamic investments and look into topics of Strategies in the Infrastructure and Project Finance; Private Banking Capabilities of IFIs; Direct Equity Investment of IFIs; Sustainability Criteria in Islamic Investment Framework among other significant topics.
The Bahraini Gulf Finance House (GFH) would seek to get rid of its Tunisian project, the Tunis Financial Harbor. The project was to be one of the largest Bahraini investments in Tunisia, which would be worth 7.5 billion USD. Tunis Financial Harbor was initially designed to make Tunisia a regional financial hub, but eventually turned into a simple real estate program. GFH is currently seeking to pass the hand and to pass the project on to another investor. The cause would be the financial difficulties of the Bahraini group.
Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI) has launched a comprehensive report on "AAOIFI in 850 Days". The report provides concise details, including infographs, illustrations, and statistical figures, covering AAOIFI's developments in activities over the period from September 2014 to end of December 2016. Dr. Hamed Merah, AAOIFI's Secretary General, said that AAOIFI embarks on efforts to enhance transparency as key to effective communication. Meanwhile, AAOIFI's statute was amended, and a set of 7 by-laws, policies and procedures, charters were developed. These include launching of AAOFI's Shari'ah standards translation projects (for Russian, French, and Urdu languages), and publication of AAOIFI's standards in paper and digital formats including a mobile app for smart phones. The section on strategic relationships cover AAOIFI's ties with stakeholders, specifically development of ties with institutional members. The report highlighted AAOIFI's keenness to further solidify its relationship with central banks and regulatory and supervisory authorities.
Bahrain's Gulf Finance House (GFH) is distancing itself from its major Tunisian property project, Tunis Financial Harbour (TFH). GFH's local subsidiary, Tunis Bay Project Co is to drop out of the residential golf course project.
According to Fitch Ratings, the plan to introduce Value Added Tax (VAT) in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states could be a key test for the region's Islamic finance industry. Saudi Arabia and Bahrain approved the implementation of VAT in the GCC, however, local implementation laws must still be agreed in each country. This paves the way for the introduction of an expected 5% VAT rate as early as the beginning of 2018. Without tax neutrality or equality rules, the introduction of VAT would put Islamic finance transactions at a disadvantage to conventional transactions. A VAT charge adds to the instalment payments in a murabaha, while a conventional transaction would not have VAT for the sale of the asset added to the interest payments. Numerous countries with VAT have provided for some form of tax neutrality or equality for Islamic finance transactions, including Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey and Pakistan.
Nogaholding, the investment arm of Bahrain’s National Oil and Gas Authority (NOGA), has approached banks with the aim of setting up an international bond programme. The bond programme could be either for conventional bonds or for sukuk, but since Nogaholding’s latest U.S. dollar fund-raising exercise was an Islamic loan, a sukuk programme seemed more likely. A spokeswoman for Nogaholding declined to comment. In March last year, the company raised a $570 million murabaha facility with a five-year maturity. The 2016 loan backed projects such as the Bahrain LNG Import Terminal, a modernisation programme for Bahrain Petroleum, and expansion of facilities at the Bahrain National Gas Expansion.
The Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB) has announced plans to close down Future Bank, a joint venture between two Iranian lenders – Bank Saderat and Bank Melli – and Bahrain’s Ahli United Bank, said a report. The CBB said it intends to submit a petition to the competent court for compulsory liquidation of the Bahrain-based retail bank, reported the Gulf Daily News, our sister publication.
Kuwait's central bank has issued new governance rules for Islamic banks, including requirements for external sharia audits, as regulators seek more transparency and accountability in the sector. Regulatory scrutiny over Islamic banks has been building as they now hold around a quarter of total banking assets in the Gulf, while in Kuwait that figure stands at around 40 %. Kuwait's central bank said the rules published this week aim to increase customer confidence in Islamic banking by strengthening both internal and external oversight. This follows similar steps by Bahrain which proposed new requirements in September for its Islamic banks, including external sharia audits. The central bank directive, which must be fully implemented by January 2018, provides guidance covering independence of sharia boards as well as fit and proper criteria for scholars.
Bahrain-based Bank Alkhair has obtained approval from the State Bank of Pakistan to sell its stake in Pakistan’s Burj Bank to Al Baraka Pakistan Limited (ABPL). This transaction follows the announcement on 5 September 2016 about the merger of Pakistan’s Burj Bank and ABPL, creating an institution with assets totaling more than $1.1 billion. Ayman Sejiny, Group CEO of Bank Alkhair said the bank was pleased to sell its stake in Pakistan’s Burj Bank to Al Baraka Pakistan Limited. Bank Alkhair has completed several landmark transactions since its inception, including the establishment of t’azur, a regional Takaful company and the acquisition of Bahrain Financing Company, the oldest foreign exchange and remittance houses in the GCC.
The assets in #Bahrain’s Islamic banking sector have risen from $1.9 billion in 2000 to $25.1 billion in 2015 and account for around 13% of the kingdom’s total banking assets. According to Director & Group CEO of Al Salam Bank-Bahrain, Yousif Abdulla Taqi, the bank is particularly appealing to a growing number of international clients. Investors are attracted to Islamic finance products for various reasons such as: diversification, ethical investments and asset-based investments. Al Salam Bank-Bahrain (ASBB) has a 6% market share of total Bahraini bank financing. The bank recently signed an agreement with Eagle Hills Diyar and Diyar Al Muharraq to set up an escrow account for the real estate development projects in the kingdom.
Malaysia and Bahrain should take the lead in exploring the potential of introducing the world’s first Islamic financial technology (fintech). According to Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB) Director David Parker, the favourable initiatives undertaken by regulators from both countries provide a positive edge for Islamic fintech. In Malaysia, Bank Negara Malaysia Governor, Datuk Muhammad Ibrahim said a regulatory framework to enable the adoption of fintech would likely be announced by year-end. During the 23rd Annual World Islamic Banking Conference held here, Bahrain Central Bank Governor Rasheed Mohammed Al Maraj hinted that the bank would soon issue regulations to facilitate fintech solutions. Bahrain Islamic Bank CEO Hassan Amin Jarrar described the need to introduce Islamic fintech to the world Islamic financial market as "critical" and if Malaysia and Bahrain do not take the first step, other big countries will snatch away the advantages.
Bahrain-based Venture Capital Bank seeks investment in the health, education and food sectors in Turkey, according to the bank's chief executive officer. "We trust the growth potential of the Turkish economy. We want to make new investments in health, education and food sectors in Turkey in 2017," Mohammed Janahi explained this week. Further he said Turkey had always been on the agenda of the bank since the day it was established. Janahi also explained the bank's first move was to buy the majority of the shares of a Turkish company in 2012 that produces concentrated fruit, which he said amounted to around $300 million.
"The company's profits have tripled since that day. We intend to expand our capacity with additional acquisitions," he said. According to Janahi, they focused on the food, education and health sectors as they are least affected sectors by everyday events in the country. "From the beginning, we need to explain that our main goal is to establish a strategic partnership and enlarge the business," he added.
Al Baraka Banking Group is targeting the sale of capital-boosting sukuk worth $300 million in the first quarter of 2017. The announcement was made on the sidelines of an Islamic banking conference by the group's CEO Adnan Ahmed Yousef. He also added that the issue would enhance the bank's core Tier 1 capital. Al Baraka had a total capital adequacy ratio of 15.15 percent as of June 30, according to a regulatory disclosure on its website.
According to the Thomson Reuters Islamic Finance Development Report 2016, Bahrain leads the GCC’s Islamic finance development for the fourth consecutive year. The report is jointly produced by Thomson Reuters and the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD). Bahrain ranks first globally in terms of Governance due to its well established regulatory environment and governance mechanisms. The regulations cover Islamic financial institutions including Islamic asset management and Sukuk. Bahrain is among the top ten countries for the other indicators as well. For the Knowledge indicator, its Islamic finance ecosystem is supported by 17 providers offering Islamic finance related education including universities and institutions. Meanwhile, its Islamic financial institutions continue to contribute socially, with US$ 18.5 million charity, zakat and Qardh al Hasan funds disbursed in 2015.
GFH 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.
Reconciling accounting standards and religious principles is challenging the Islamic banks and their regulators as they adapt to new international book-keeping rules due to come into force in 2018. The new rules, known as IFRS 9, will leave their mark on all major products used by Islamic banks - from simple savings accounts to Islamic bonds - and impact their bottom-lines. Banks around the globe are gearing up to implement IFRS 9 from January 2018, posing a particular challenge for many Islamic finance contracts as they change the way financial assets are classified and measured, requiring lenders to book expected losses in advance. The problem for most Islamic financial products is that their accounting treatment can often diverge from the actual economic substance of a transaction, a key concept behind IFRS 9. This has prompted the Bahrain-based Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI) to set up a working group to look at ways to revise its rules
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.