Pakistan Observer

South America is on radar of Islamic finance

South America isn’t known to be a popular region for Islamic finance. However, there have been some activities to approach it as a new frontier. The first foray Islamic finance has made on the continent was into Suriname. Last year, the Central Bank of Suriname approved Islamic finance products and services in the banking sector and the first Islamic bank in the country, Trustbank Amanah, started operations on December 7, 2017. The other South American country opening up is Guyana. The Islamic Development Bank sees Guyana as a major oil and gas producer in the future when industrial development kicks in. In a first step the country received $900mn in financial and technical assistance from the Islamic Development Bank over a three-year period, commencing in 2018. The money will be used for development of Guyana’s economic infrastructure, the establishment of Islamic banking institutions is planned for later.

The evolving landscape of Islamic finance: regulatory developments

The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) has taken a number of measures for the effective regulation of Islamic finance in the country. The SECP has constituted a Shariah Advisory Board, consisting of renowned scholars and has established a dedicated Islamic Finance Department (IFD) to embed Islamic finance in the corporate sector and capital markets. New regulations have been issued under the provisions of the Companies Act. The SECP issued Draft Shariah Governance Regulations, 2018, a comprehensive set of regulations for governance of Shariah-compliant companies, Shariah-compliant securities and Islamic financial institutions. In order to encourage Sukuk issuances, the Sukuk Regulations, 2017, have been notified, and tax neutrality has been provided through an amendment to the Income Tax Ordinance. In February 2018, the SECP adopted three AAOIFI Shariah standards while in April 2018, the SECP issued draft notification for adoption of seven more AAOIFI Shariah Standards.

ABL asset management launches ABL Islamic asset allocation #fund

ABL Asset Management has launched the ABL Islamic Asset Allocation Fund (ABLIAAF), an open-end Shariah Compliant Asset Allocation Scheme. The fund is now open for subscription. ABL Islamic Asset Allocation Fund will operate under the guidelines of Al-Hilal Shariah Advisors Private Limited. The Shariah Supervisory Counsel is headed by Mufti Irshad Ahmad Aijaz, who is a renowned Shariah Scholar. ABLIAAF will invest in Shariah Compliant Equity, Fixed Income, Money Market Instruments and other permitted instruments. ABL Asset Management CEO Alee Khalid Ghaznavi said with this launch the company further expanded its offerings including Income Funds, Money Market Funds, Stock Funds, Fund of Funds, Asset allocation schemes and Pension Funds in both Islamic and Conventional manner.

#Uzbekistan set to develop Islamic banking system

Uzbekistan is joining the rising number of Central Asian nations to develop a Shariah-compliant banking system given its large Muslim population. This month, the Uzbek government issued a draft resolution to create infrastructure for Islamic banking and finance in the country. The aim is to create alternative financing opportunities in the former Soviet republic and open the doors for Islamic investors from the Middle East and Southeast Asia. To that end, the central bank has been tasked with developing a legal and regulatory framework not just for Islamic banking, but also for Takaful and securities trading, as well as financing for small and medium enterprises and Halal microfinance. The framework will include the launch of the Islamic Development Bank of Uzbekistan (IDBU), which will provide standard retail banking services, trade financing, property and commercial real estate financing, as well as leasing, Takaful and securities services.

Fitch issues rating for KFH #Sukuk

Fitch Ratings has assigned Kuwait Finance House’s sukuk programme an expected A+ and F1 rating. KFH Sukuk, the issuer and trustee, is a special purpose vehicle (SPV), incorporated in the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), solely to issue certificates (sukuk) under the programme. The trustee has been incorporated solely for the purpose of participating in the transactions contemplated by the transaction documents.

Venture capital in Islamic finance: A crucial concept

Venture capital was of limited significance in the Muslim world until the recent past. Things came into gear when Malaysia in 2016 launched the world’s first Islamic venture capital fund endowed with $100mn to provide seed financing for startup companies and entrepreneurs. A company financed by Islamic venture capital cannot have conventional debt on its books or use debt in any way for expansion. In a first step, a startup seeking Islamic venture capital needs to be checked very thoroughly. Next, suitable Shariah-compliant financing models need to be chosen. The three common structures used in Islamic venture capital are mudaraba, musharaka and wakala. A fourth concept is shirka, where two or more partners invest a certain amount of capital in a start-up and share the benefits on a pre-agreed basis. The investing parties are equally involved in any decision to change the strategy of the company, even after the disbursement of funds.

#Kazakhstan eyes sovereign #Sukuk, central Sharia board

Kazakhstan plans to issue sukuk in the coming months as part of its efforts to develop Islamic finance in the country. Alibek Nurbekov, head of the Islamic finance at the Astana International Financial Center (AIFC), said the final legislative changes to allow issuance of sovereign sukuk were nearly complete. Issuance of sovereign sukuk is planned in the first half of 2018 in total up to $300 million dollars. The sale would follow sukuk issued by the Development Bank of Kazakhstan in 2012, a deal that raised 240 million ringgit ($61.51 million) via the Malaysian market. Nurbekov added that a central sharia board would be established in the first half of the year, while rules covering Islamic insurers and a fund for Islamic endowments are also planned.

IIFM, BAFT to create MRPA for Islamic trade finance

BAFT (Bankers Association for Finance & Trade) and IIFM (International Islamic Financial Market) announced a memorandum of understanding to jointly create a master risk participation agreement to support Islamic Trade Finance. The Islamic Risk Participation Agreement (IMRPA) will incorporate the practical considerations for funded and unfunded risk participations in trade assets within a Shari’ah-compliant framework. BAFT President Tod Burwell said BAFT was proud to partner with IIFM to introduce some much-needed standardization to the market in support of Islamic trade. IIFM Chairman Khalid Hamad said this collaboration would contribute to increasing the trade finance business on a Shari’ah-compliant basis.

Ahmed Shuja Kidwai appointed CEO Al Baraka Bank

Ahmed Shuja Kidwai has been appointed as the new CEO of Al Baraka Bank (Pakistan). Kidwai replaces Shafqaat Ahmed, who led the bank for 25 years. Al Baraka Chairman Khalid Rashid Al Zayani thanked Shafqaat wishing him well in his future life and welcomed Ahmed Shuja Kidwai as the new Chief Executive Officer of the bank. Ahmed Shuja Kidwai has a diversified international banking experience of over forty years, he played a pivotal role in consolidating and establishing the bank's position especially in Karachi.

#Russia’s Sberbank inks MoU with ICD to offer Islamic finance products

Sberbank of Russia (SBR) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD) to help the bank’s clients access Islamic finance products. ICD senior regional manager Samir Taghiyev said the MoU would reinforce SBR efforts to develop Russia as a strong hub. He added that the ICD would help share its knowledge to develop the corporate, retail and private banking as well as the training needed. The MoU was signed by Okan Altasli, the Director of Regional offices at ICD and Oleg V Ganeev, Deputy Chairman of SBR. The document was signed on the sidelines of the 1st Russian Islamic Economy Forum co-organized by ICD, IAIB, Sberbank, KPMG and Thiqah in Moscow.

DIB boosts emirate’s #Sukuk listings to over $53b

Dubai Islamic Bank (DIB) is celebrating the listing of a $1 billion Sukuk on Nasdaq Dubai. The listing is the first benchmark dollar-denominated sukuk from a GCC issuer in 2018. DIB's Group CEO Dr Adnan Chilwan said the bank's master plan was developed a decade ago and has yielded solid results so far. He added that the strong demand for the credit continues to grow across a diverse global investor base. This issuance is DIB’s sixth sukuk on Nasdaq Dubai, making the bank the largest UAE debt issuer by value on the exchange with a total of $5.25 billion. The total value of all sukuk listed on Dubai’s exchanges has now reached $53.47 billion, the largest amount of any listing centre in the world.

#Innovations in Islamic Banking and Finance

The next phase of growth in Islamic banking will be driven by differentiation driven by innovation. There has been a remarkable 11% growth in global Islamic banking assets over the last 5 years. The opening up of a regulated Islamic banking market has allowed for banks to serve an untapped segment. Islamic banking drove innovation through a new set products and services that were Shari’ah compliant. In the future, developing a distinctive customer segment such as age groups or focus groups will be critical. A part of the customer base is quite indifferent to the Shari’ah angle, but more sensitive to the overall experience and the value proposition offered. While customer segmentation, product positioning and partnerships are all helpful, the piece that can make a significant impact is the technology-driven innovation, that is the right omni-channel experience for the customer.

#Takaful industry sees rapid growth

The Takaful industry is expected to see rapid growth thanks to consolidation and regulatory improvement. The December 2017 acquisition of Al Hilal Takaful by Takaful Emarat in the UAE has attracted international attention to the market potential of the sector and to the obvious necessity for consolidation. Takaful Emarat managing director Mohammad al-Hawari said that after the merger a combined digital platform would provide more efficient and cost-effective services. In the UAE there are 34 domestic and 27 foreign conventional and Islamic insurance companies. Like in the UAE, Saudi Arabia’s insurance market remains largely fragmented, with 33 listed Takaful operators competing against each other. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Oman and Qatar have already introduced new regulations specific to the Takaful industry, while Kuwait has a new insurance law draft. The future potential of Takaful in the GCC is driven by the reduction of state benefits.

BankIslami launches Shariah-compliant CP of Rs1.5b

BankIslami Pakistan has launched the country's First Shariah Compliant Commercial Paper (CP) Issue worth Rs1.5 billion for Hascol Petroleum. Hascol is Pakistan’s second largest Oil Marketing Company (OMC) in terms of volume managed through its more than 140,000 MT of oil storages and 498 retail outlets. BankIslami Pakistan acted as Mandated Lead Arranger & Advisor, Issuing & Paying Agent and Investment Agent for this CP Issue which was structured based on the Bai Salam cum Wakala model. The CP issue was oversubscribed by more than 80% of the issue size. The introduction of Shariah Compliant Commercial Paper is aimed to broaden avenues for Mutual Funds and other Institutional investors to invest in short-term/fixed income instruments in a Shariah-compliant manner.

#Innovation in Islamic finance

Islamic finance is one of the fastest growing areas of international finance. The mid 1990s saw Islamic finance offer a limited number of services, but today it is a fully integrated financial system which spans continents. Modernisation of the practice has also been driven by technological advances. New services such as online and mobile banking and payment services are essential. Financial institutions are also responding to the emergence of digital currencies and the blockchain which underpins them. The Islamic finance market is embracing both fintech and robo-advisors to analyse thousands of global securities and pinpoint those with the highest growth potential. An example of a robo-advisory firm in the Islamic finance market is Wahed Invest. Aside from FinTech, other Islamic microfinance models have had a larger impact over the last couple of years. Platforms such as Micro-Takaful and social finance have gained traction. FinTech is ideally suited to achieving Shariah compliance and will continue to prosper along with Islamic finance.

Islamic finance assets projected to reach $3.8tr by 2022

According to the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD), Islamic finance assets are projected to reach $3.8 trillion by 2022 from $2.2 trillion in 2016. In cooperation with Thomson Reuters, the ICD released its new report on Islamic Finance. In the report Bahrain features prominently among all GCC countries and second globally behind Malaysia. Bahrain is at the forefront of providing access to Islamic finance in addition to promoting it via education and financial literacy initiatives. The Central Bank of Bahrain recently released a new Shariah governance module which is impacting the Shariah compliance and governance standards of Islamic banks. Also, Bahrain continues to invest in technology and capitalize on the development of the ICT sector.

Islamic #FinTech in 2018

2018 may prove to be a pivotal year for Islamic finance stakeholders and their approach to FinTech. Potential areas where FinTech is likely to have an impact on Islamic finance are remittances, takaful, investment advisory services and online trading. Commentators see FinTech as an opportunity to provide genuine Islamic-compliant alternatives to the traditional banking model. In December 2017, KFH Bahrain, Al Baraka Banking Group and Bahrain Development Bank announced the establishment of a company dedicated to research and development in the Islamic-compliant FinTech sector. Operated by the Bahraini bank consortium, ALGO Bahrain will open in February 2018 and will be the largest dedicated FinTech hub in the Middle East and Africa. Bahrain FinTech Bay is operated by Singapore-based fintech incubator FinTech Consortium.

Digital currencies remain tricky subject for Islamic finance

The role and status of cryptocurrencies remains a hotly disputed issue in the Muslim world. While entrepreneurs and Islamic finance startups openly encourage the use of digital currencies, others keep thinking otherwise. The latest escalation in the dispute was a fatwa against all cryptocurrencies issued by the Egyptian Grand Mufti Shawki Allam. He said that since trading of cryptocurrencies was similar to gambling, it was forbidden in Islam. His fatwa came after Bitcoin in mid-December soared to almost $20,000 per token but then lost one third of its value in just 24 hours. In addition, Egypt’s legitimate bodies also do not consider trading a virtual currency to be acceptable. However, nations that play a substantial role in Islamic finance, namely Malaysia, Indonesia, UAE, Turkey and even Saudi Arabia have no problem to accept cryptocurrencies. In Dubai, OneGram was the first company to set up the Shariah-compliant cryptocurrency called OneGramCoin. There are already two real estate developers in Dubai, which accept payments in digital currencies.

Sharjah Islamic Bank issues #Sukuk to raise $72.47m

Sharjah Islamic Bank (SIB) has successfully completed the issuance of Dh266.8 million worth of Sukuk convertible into equity of the bank to the Sharjah Social Security Fund (SSSF). SIB chairman Abdul Rahman Al Owais announced that income generated from the bank’s dividends will be used for uplifting social activities in the emirate. The Ruler of Sharjah nominated an entity engaged in endowment activities to subscribe to Sukuk equal to 10% of SIB’s capital and converting it into equity for the bank at a nominal value of Dh1 each. Al Owais expects that the capitalisation ratios will be strengthened by around 100 bps with the issuance of this capital. He added that by virtue of this exercise, SIB’s shared capital has increased from Dh2,668,050,000 to Dh2,934,855,000.

Global #Sukuk issuance looks ‘uncertain’ for 2018

According to ratings agency S&P Global, the outlook for Islamic bonds remains uncertain for the coming year. Global Sukuk issuance in 2017 reached $97.9 billion, an increase of 45.3%, from the $67.4 billion recorded in 2016. The increase was underpinned by large issuances by GCC countries, particularly Saudi Arabia. Non-GCC countries also contributed to the rise, with Hong Kong tapping the market again last year and Nigeria issuing its first Sukuk. Morocco and Tunisia are expected to issue Sukuks this year. The report said while core Islamic finance countries will continue to have "significant" financing needs in 2018, the Sukuk market could be held back by tightening global liquidity.

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