USA

New York Online Investment Firm Gets Aramco Financing for Islamic Products

New York-based Wahed Invest has secured financing from oil giant Saudi Aramco to expand into the Middle East and make Riyadh its regional hub. The Saudi Aramco Entrepreneurship Ventures extended the funding to the online Islamic investment platform as part of a $25 million funding round. The three-year-old Wahed Invest, which has secured a license to operate in Saudi Arabia, aims to get regulatory approval in 20 more countries. It currently has licenses to operate in nine countries. The company's Islamic Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) holds investments in Apple, Johnson & Johnson, and Intel Corp. Wahed Invest is also contemplating listing its Islamic ETF on the Saudi stock exchange. Its ETF was listed on the Nasdaq last year.

El-Gamal claims lender violated sharia terms on Tribeca tower loan

Sharif El-Gamal put together one of the most unusual financing packages when he secured a sharia-compliant construction loan four years ago for his Tribeca condo tower. El-Gamal is now claiming that the Malaysian bank that made the loan has violated the sharia terms. El-Gamal argues Maybank violated the terms of their agreement by refusing to release construction funds to complete the project at 45 Park Place. He is seeking damages equal to the projected sellout of the development about $245 million. Maybank claims El-Gamal defaulted on his loan when he failed to repay the $108 million balance when it came due in April.

Elon Musk bekommt 765 Millionen US-Dollar

Elon Musk ist berechtigt, eine etwa 765 Millionen US-Dollar hohe Vergütung zu beziehen, weil der Börsenkurs von Tesla eine vorher vereinbare Zielmarke über längere Zeit gehalten hat. Auch Gewinn und Umsatz haben die vereinbarten Zielmarken erreicht. Musk erhält kein Gehalt, sondern nur Optionen, die aufgrund von vorher definierten Zielen gezogen werden können. Diese beziehen sich auf das Umsatz- und Gewinnwachstum. Die Zielvereinbarung zwischen Tesla und Elon Musk ist so ambitioniert, dass es als nahezu unmöglich gilt, dass Musk sie vollständig erfüllen kann. Tesla muss Musk allerdings den Mindestlohn von rund 37.000 US-Dollar jährlich zahlen. Die Schecks soll Musk angeblich jedoch nicht einlösen.

Gulf Islamic Investments’ Acquisition of Class A New York Office Building

Gulf Islamic Investments (GII) has announced the acquisition of 140 & 150 Grand Street Plaza, an office building in White Plains, Westchester County, New York, USA on behalf of its investors. Located just 30 minutes away from Manhattan, the Class A office building seats within the urban center of White Plains. The Property is strategically located within one block of the Federal, Supreme, District and County courthouses making it the preferred destination for government-affiliated and law-related tenants. GII is a UAE-based financial services company regulated by the Emirates Securities and Commodities Authority (ESCA). GII was advised by a cross border Orrick team led by Düsseldorf-based M&A and private equity partner Oliver Duys.

When Religion Tangles With Tax Law: Things to Consider (Podcast)

In this podcast Sam Brunson, professor at Loyola University Chicago School of Law, talks about accommodating religious practice with United States Tax Law. In his book, 'God and the IRS', he lays out a three-question framework when considering tax exceptions based on religious practice. The first is: Does an individual’s religion cause them to act in a tax disadvantaged way. The second is: If it does, what kind of accommodation would put them in a similar after-tax position as someone without the religious constraints. And third, it asks whether there’s an extrinsic reason not to grant the accommodation. The book tries to provide a basis for deciding when an accommodation makes sense and when an accommodation doesn’t make sense.

Faith-based institutions answer The Call for impact investing (audio)

Agents of Impact aligned with Catholic, Jewish and Muslim institutions found common ground in using capital to usher in a fairer economy. Last month, the Catholic Impact Investing Collaborative announced a half-dozen institutions with $40 billion in assets have signed a “Catholic impact Investing pledge.” The Catholic impact pledgers are among a number of Catholic institutions carving out portions of their portfolio for direct, private impact investing strategies. Billion-dollar Catholic Relief Services allocates capital to direct investing, blended finance, technical services and capacity building. Other faith institutions are seeing impact investing as a way to complement their philanthropy. A faith-based organization that supports a nonprofit that helps poor farmers in India can complement that work by also investing in a business that buys from those farmers.

4 types of data necessary for outcome-based financing

The U.N. General Assembly is underway this week, and the global development community has descended upon New York en masse. Impact bonds are just one example of outcome-based financing, where private investors provide upfront capital, repaid conditional on the achievement of pre-determined metrics. Although evidence is sparse on the relative merits of this mechanism, millions of dollars are being invested in their design and implementation.

Here’s why regulators are so worried about Facebook’s digital currency

Policymakers around the world have upped the pressure on libra, the digital currency being introduced by Facebook, amid concerns it could heavily disrupt the global financial system. It appears to be a running theme from a number of regulators and lawmakers, who worry libra would compete with government currencies. That’s because Facebook is such an influential platform, with more than 2.4 billion monthly active users as of July 2019.

Libra de Facebook : une question de "sécurité nationale" pour le Trésor américain

La future cryptomonnaie du géant des réseaux sociaux pourrait être "mal utilisée pour blanchir de l'argent ou financer le terrorisme" s'inquiète le secrétaire au Trésor américain. Le promoteur du projet chez Facebook, David Marcus, sera auditionné au Sénat. David Marcus a déclaré ne pas être "très à l'aise" avec l'idée de monnaie digitale mondiale de Facebook qui aura "fort à faire pour rassurer" le Trésor et la banque centrale américaine, le Fed. Marcus avait balayé les sujets réglementaires, faisant valoir que l'Association Libra ne serait pas en contact direct avec les consommateurs et que ce serait aux portefeuilles numériques en Libra, comme le futur Calibra que compte lancer Facebook, qui devraient être régulés, notamment au titre des obligations de connaissance client et de lutte contre le blanchiment.

Wealthy #philanthropists call on themselves to pay more tax

A group of wealthy Americans have written an open letter to the 2020 presidential candidates in support of a wealth tax. The letter is signed by 20 individuals including philanthropist George Soros, Facebook’s co-founder Chris Hughes, Disney heiress Abigail Disney and Blue Haven Initiative co-founders Liesel Pritzker Simmons and Ian Simmons. The group outlined six key reasons why they are in favour of a wealth tax, including using it to fight climate crisis, boosting the economy, improving public health and strengthening freedom and democracy. While the letter refers to arguments against a wealth tax, the signatories claim these are mostly technical and often overstated. The letter further shows that polls indicate that higher taxes for the wealthy is politically popular.

US startup PayJoy unlocks smartphone loans for Asia's unbanked

American startup PayJoy makes it easier for people without a bank account or credit profile to purchase a smartphone on installment. The phones and loans are provided by third parties. What PayJoy provides is proprietary software that locks the phone if payments are not made on time, making the device unusable. Once the missed installments are paid, the phone is unlocked and can be used as normal. According to PayJoy, its technology can do more than just put smartphones in users' hands. Customers' payment histories are reported back to local credit bureaus, which serves to build up credit profiles. PayJoy aims to expand in emerging markets such as Asia, particularly in India and Indonesia. In most markets, PayJoy partners up with local mobile makers, distributors and lending institutions. The company then takes a cut from every loan originated using its technology, a business model that lowers costs as well as risks for PayJoy.

For $83,000, Harvard teaches rich kids how to do good (and make money)

In collaboration with the World Economic Forum, Harvard University and the University of Zurich have launched a course called "Impact Investing for the Next Generation". In this context, that generation means the heirs to some of capitalism's greatest fortunes. Participants had to pass an interview before paying up to $US12,000 ($17,240) for a week of classes in the US and Switzerland, not including airfares and board.

Faith-Based Finance

What caused the global financial crisis? And how can the United States avoid a repeat? Those questions have sparked endless discussions among economists, policymakers, financiers, and voters over the last decade. The crisis not only entailed the worst financial shock and recession in the United States since 1929; it also shook the country’s global reputation for financial competence. Numerous explanations have been offered: the U.S. Federal Reserve kept interest rates too low, Asia’s savings glut drove up the U.S. housing market, the banks had captured regulators and politicians in Washington, mortgage lenders made foolish loans, the credit-rating agencies willfully downplayed risks.

Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art Awards $2.4 Million in Grants

New York's Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art has announced fifteen grants totaling $2.49 million in support of arts and media projects dedicated to strengthening relationships between U.S. Muslim and non-Muslim communities. The grants are part of the foundation's Building Bridges 2018-2019 Program, which supports theatrical and literary programming, documentary films, hands-on workshops, and a "jingle truck" created by a Pakistani truck-art painter that will tour elementary schools. Senior program officer Zeyba Rahman said the projects proposed by grantees offer an inspired, inventive, arts-based approach to deepen connections between Muslims and their neighbors in the U.S. For a complete list of Building Bridges Grant Program awardees, see the DDCF website.

The Hajdari Group Unveils Newly Pioneered Sharia-Compliant Investment Strategies Option: 'InvestHalal' Wealth Management for American Muslim Investors

The Hajdari Group recently announced the creation of its newest, faith-based financial planning platform: InvestHalal. InvestHalal utilizes a strict code-of-ethics and series of standards established by prestigious global authorities like the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA), and the Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI). Access to faith-based investment strategies has generally been unavailable in the United States to Islamic investors. President of the Hajdari Group, Zaim Hajdari said the Hajdari Group has finally remedied this oversight. InvestHalal offers asset allocation and investment diversification options, a wide variety of investment alternatives and services structured to individual needs: retirement, education, tax and estate planning, as well as other Sharia-compliant wealth allocation.

Wahed Invest robo-adviser expands with new Islamic index funds

New York-based Wahed Invest has launched two sharia compliant index-tracking funds under its robo-adviser platform. According to CEO Junaid Wahedna, the company's goal is to make every asset class available to Muslim investors. The new equity funds launched by Wahed will track indices that are screened by Standard & Poor's. The funds have no lockup period and only charge an advisory fee rather than a management fee. Wahedna added that a recurring deposits tool has proven to be popular among clients, most of whom are first-time investors. Wahed raised $5 million in seed capital last year. The investment firm is backed by Gulf investors and venture firms including Boston-based Cue Ball Capital and Dubai-based BECO Capital.

Hill International to Provide Project Management for Bank Aljazira Project, Supporting #Saudi Arabia National Vision 2030

Hill International has received a three-year contract from Bank Aljazira to provide project management services for Aljazira’s Regional Management Office Building in Riyadh. The project will be one of Riyadh’s landmarks, reflecting Bank Aljazira’s image and its alignment with the Saudi Arabia National Vision 2030. The project location is planned to be north of the Capital, in the center of new major developments for the next 20 years. Hill International provides program management, project management, construction management and other consulting services to clients in a variety of market sectors. According to Engineering News-Record magazine, Hill International is the eighth-largest construction management firm in the United States.

Saudi-based ITFC, Federated Investors to launch $300 mln trade finance #fund

The Saudi-based International Islamic Trade Finance Corp (ITFC) plans to launch a $300 million fund alongside U.S. fund manager Federated Investors. The sharia-compliant fund is expected to launch later this year and would invest in energy-related structured trade, supply chain financing and project finance assets of sovereign entities. The fund will be managed by ITFC with input from Federated Investors. The two firms have worked together on Islamic trade finance transactions since 2014.

MICROCAPITAL BRIEF: Blossom Finance Launches Shariah-compliant #Microfinance #Fund to Invest in BMT Microfinance Institutions in #Indonesia via PBMT Ventura

US-based Blossom Finance recently launched a fund that will lend local-currency on the Indonesian island of Java via Permodalan BMT (PBMT) Ventura. Baitul Maal wat Tamwil (BMTs) are financial institutions that follow Shariah law. They provide savings and loan services primarily to people who do not use traditional banks. The new fund is Blossom’s first microfinance fund that is open to investment from the public. The minimum investment is USD 1,000, although US-based investors must be accredited before participation. Blossom is accepting investments into the fund in US dollars as well as the cryptocurrencies Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash and Ethereum. In testing its platform since 2015, Blossom has generally returned investors annualized profits around 7% with terms of 6 to 12 months.

Gotta Have Faith: A Biblically Responsible #Investment Strategy

There are several ways for financial advisors to diversify an investment portfolio. For example, the James Biblically Responsible Investment ETF (JBRI) tries to reflect the performance of the James Biblically Responsible Investment Index. Indexing methodology screens out or excludes companies engaged in activities that are objectionable from a biblical perspective. This type of indexing methodology is a subset of the broader socially responsible investing branch of investments where investors try to achieve profitable investment goals while still adhering to one's principles. According to James Investment Research, JBRI is constructing a portfolio comprised of the most attractive stocks meeting Christian principles and criteria. The fund can be used as a core equity holding, an ESG option, or as a Smart Beta holding.

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