USA

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.

Margin #debt is at a record high in #US markets

According to the US Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, investors have borrowed a record $642.8 billion against investment portfolios. The leverage from this margin debt is a bid to increase returns, but it leaves investors vulnerable if asset prices decline. There was a market correction in February, but the question remains whether the recent correction was a one-off event. Either way, this is where the Federal Reserve has to be concerned about financial stability. When the credit markets become an integral facet sustaining asset markets, a sustained fall in asset prices can boomerang back onto the financial system.

Three Reasons Millennials Should Choose An Islamic Home Finance Provider

There are three main reasons millennial homebuyers should work with an Islamic home finance provider. The first reason is less debt, less stress. Guidance Residential’s Declining Balance Co-ownership Program is a smart, low stress way to grow home owners’ equity and achieve the American Dream. Shariah principles ensure that both parties enjoy the benefits of a transaction without exploitation by either party. Secondly, faith and finance can go together. Guidance Residential’s home finance program was developed under the supervision of leading scholars of Islamic finance and with federally mandated institutions like Freddie Mac. Thirdly, social justice is a concern for many Muslim-American communities in the U.S. Islamic home finance provider programs have always avoided the speculative and unfair practices that were prevalent in the housing market. Since its inception in 2002, Guidance Residential has grown to provide over $4.6 billion in home financing and is the largest Islamic home financing provider in the U.S.

US$50m of i-VCAP Islamic ETF expected to be subscribed

i-VCAP Management is expecting US$50 million (RM198 million) to be subscribed upon its initial subscription period via an initial public offering on Feb 9. The MyETF-US50 will be the first US dollar-denominated Syariah-compliant security to be listed on Bursa Malaysia. i-VCAP CEO Khairi Shahrin Arief Baki said ETFs are one of the fastest growing investment products in the world. The MyETF-US50 is aimed at providing investment results that closely correspond to the performance of the benchmark index, the Dow Jones Islamic market US Titans 50. According to i-VCAP chairman Tuan Haji Rosli Abdullah, the MyETF-US50 enables investors to access the US equity market in US dollars, marking a new chapter in the Malaysian capital market.

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.

#Bahrain-headquartered investment firm buys controlling stake in Mentor-based MC Sign

Bahrains's Arcapita has acquired 75% interest in Mentor-based signage and lighting services firm MC Sign. The deal is worth more than $100 million. Atif A. Abdulmalik, Arcapita's CEO, said the company was well positioned to acquire market share in a highly fragmented industry that is dominated by locally-focused, sub-scale service providers. Arcapita's investment in MC Sign reflects the firm's global presence, with offices in Bahrain, Atlanta, London and Singapore. The investment firm has been active in the Middle East too. In October 2017, the firm partnered with Bahrain's sovereign wealth fund Mumtalakat to acquire 90% stake in Abu Dhabi's NAS United Healthcare Services. This was preceded by another deal through which Arcapita acquired logistics assets worth $150 million in Dubai.

#American University Offers Graduate #Certificate in Islamic Finance

American University is offering a graduate certificate in Islamic Finance to prepare professionals for both emerging and established markets. The curriculum includes courses that focus on the role of Islamic finance in the global economy and Islamic capital markets. For Ghiyath Nakshbendi, an executive at American University, the graduate certificate is a dream come true. He regularly brings in experts to speak to classes. Speakers who visit and Skype in include CEOs, lawyers and high-profile Islamic finance professionals from Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain. Nakshbendi does not want finance professionals to be deterred by the "Islamic" in Islamic finance. Students enrolled in the certificate program come from a variety of backgrounds and religious traditions. He believes that the program will help redefine the way professionals do business.

Guidance Residential CEO Talks #Fintech

The strategy of 'technology first' and the automation of everything is not how businesses usually start. The traditional barriers have been human and financial capital, as well as various regulatory barriers. Fintech starts with anyone’s business and applies a 'technology first' approach to that model. Islamic finance in the US has taken hold. There are several institutions offering Islamic financial products. They all have websites, a comprehensive online foundation and a robust social media presence. That used to be enough once you have overcome the traditional barriers to entry, but that is no longer the case. Experts predict that in the near future, no enterprise will succeed and flourish without the right fintech services in place. Guidance Residential, a leader in the US Islamic home financing market, was among the first to identify the trend and face that challenge.

Ibdar Bank and partners acquire Boston office building for $48mln

#Bahrain-based Ibdar Bank has acquired a prime office building in Boston, USA. The deal is a collaboration with US property manager Lincoln Property Company and asset manager Ritz Banc Group and the total size is $48 million. The Boston property is a single-let building leased to Amazon Robotics, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Amazon Inc. The area is regarded as the "technology corridor", and is home to many well-known technology-related companies making it the epicentre of robotic innovation. The bank’s head of real estate, Bassam Kameshki, said the Boston metropolitan area has witnessed substantial growth within the technology and medical sectors. He ensured that Ibdar Bank will be working to add further value to the property and ensure a profitable exit scenario.

The #continuing allure of #Islamic #finance

The total Islamic finance industry was estimated at around $ 1.9 trillion in assets for the year end of 2016, and it pales into insignificance compared with traditional finance. However of special interest is the growing popularity of Islamic finance from both the Muslim and non-Muslim financial institutions and investors. Islamic assets are very much concentrated in the banking sector which holds $1.5 trillion in total, with the Islamic bonds or sukuks worth $320 billion, and investment funds and insurance or so called takaful worth $56 billion and $25 billion respectively.
The majority are purchase and sale or murabaha and leasing or ijara transactions. Some major Gulf companies are turning to the sukuk market to raise funds, with Saudi Aramco and the Government of Saudi Arabia both successfully launching sukuk tranches which were heavily oversubscribed.

#Satyajit #Das: Despite #appearances, the idea of #social #progress is a #myth

The world cannot acknowledge the idea that human progress might be at an end or even have stopped. The belief that science, technology advances as well as social and political systems can provide continuous improvement in life of humans is perhaps the most important idea in Western civilisation. Yet attempts to measure the actual progress are oddly vague. In January 2016, the Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi dispensed with practicalities arguing that “Europe cannot just be a grey technical debate about constraints, but must again be a great dream”.

QInvest and GCC investor launch “Magnolia Fund” to invest in #US #residential #market

#Qatar's QInvest announced its collaboration with a GCC institutional investor to create the Magnolia Real Estate Fund. The fund has already completed its first acquisition of an asset in Colorado, USA. The acquisition was funded using an Ijarah property debt structure. The Magnolia Fund is focused on investing in the fast-growing, income-generating multifamily residential market in the US. The Fund is building a portfolio of assets in the sector and plans to make more acquisitions during 2017. The newly acquired asset is located in Fox Creek, Thornton, a northern suburb of Denver, Colorado. The asset is projected to yield net cash in excess of eight per cent on annual basis and a net IRR in the range of 12-13%. The multifamily manager TruAmerica has co-invested in the asset and will oversee the day-to-day operations of the property.

In the Trump era, one US Muslim #investor tries a louder voice

Bashar Qasem is the most outspoken voice among Muslim investors in the United States. He was the only Islamic financial representative among religious shareholder advocates who sent a letter in February to protest U.S. President Donald Trump’s travel ban. Qasem's Azzad Asset Management firm started its work in 2005, weighing in on issues like worker safety, climate change and lobbying disclosures. This direct advocacy will test whether U.S. Muslim investors will support the sort of faith-based shareholder activism common among other religious groups. Qasem's strategy appears to be helping to differentiate his firm from other asset management firms. Azzad's assets increased 11% in 2016 to US$487 million (£393 million) at year-end. Growth included US$5.7 million into the firm’s mutual funds, the third consecutive year of inflows.

#American #Muslims Grapple With Interest-Based Borrowing

Samantha Lord-Konare converted to Islam six years ago and then she found herself in a quandary because of a student and credit card loan that her new religion prohibited. Lord-Konare vowed not to use her credit card but resolving the issue of her student loan was more challenging.
She consulted the imam who presented her with four options. She could pay off her loan in one lump sum, obtain an interest-free loan, receive the money as a gift, or do her best to pay off her student loan as quickly as she could. "Of course, I had to choose the last. I could never ask someone for that amount of money," said Lord-Konare.
Islamic scholars say there is a clear prohibition on usury in the Koran. The Shariah also stipulates that Muslims should acquire wealth in a legal and ethical manner; any element of usury, gambling or chancing is forbidden.

Qatar- Islamic finance making inroads into the #US

Islamic finance is increasingly making inroads into the US in a variety of forms, but widely out of the radar of the broader public. In the recent past, there has been a rise in the number of Islamic financial service providers. There are now about three dozen official Islamic finance providers in the US. Among the top institutions offering Islamic financial services in the country in terms of asset size are Lariba American Finance House and the associated Bank of Whittier in Los Angeles, as well as University Islamic Financial in Michigan. In terms of skills training, Harvard University has an Harvard Islamic Finance Program and the Franco-American Alliance for Islamic Finance is organising Islamic finance seminars this summer. On the consumer side, Islamic finance in the US is mostly prevalent in the real estate market.

Massive gold-backed #ETF certified as sharia compliant

US-based State Street Global Advisors announced that a huge exchange-traded fund for investment in gold has been certified as being sharia compliant. The question of whether ETFs themselves comply with Islamic law has not been addressed. The fund, called SPDR Gold Shares, is one of the world's largest ETFs, having a net asset balance of more than $30 billion. Managed and marketed by State Street Global, it is listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The World Gold Council paved the way for certification by asking the Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions to determine criteria for gold trading. The AAOIFI announced standards for gold trading in December 2016. Joseph Cavatoni, who is in charge of ETFs at the World Gold Council, said the certification is an important step toward meeting demand for gold in the Islamic financial market.

Azzad joins coalition asking CEOs to oppose Pres. Trump's refugee and immigrant ban

Azzad Asset Management has joined other socially responsible investment institutions in signing a coalition letter to the 19 CEOs who are members of President Trump's Strategic and Policy Forum. The letter asks to oppose the president's recent executive order barring refugees and certain immigrants from seven majority-Muslim countries. In addition to public outcry against the ban on humanitarian and constitutional grounds, many have pointed out the negative impact of barring international workers on the economy. The letter was signed by 64 socially responsible investment firms and human rights and religious organizations. The Strategic and Policy Forum's first meeting is scheduled for February 3.

Charles Haresnape to leave Aldermore

Charles Haresnape, Aldermore’s group managing director of mortgages, is leaving the real estate company after six years. Haresnape will be joining shariah-compliant Gatehouse Bank as chief executive. An Aldermore spokeswoman confirmed that Haresnape was leaving and said he had been instrumental to the growth of the company's mortgage business. She added that Charles Haresnape would remain in the business whilst Aldermore searched for his replacement.

Trump policies, higher rates may spark emerging market #debt crisis

US President Donald Trump has been accused of courting international trade friction and a new international debt crisis. There were already signs given the huge debt built up over a decade of record low interest rates, and that rates had begun rising. The next international debt crisis could well be in the emerging market corporate sector. Global debt has reached US$217 trillion, equal to a record 325% of global gross domestic product. Investors in Brazil, South Korea, Thailand, Chile, Czech and Malaysia especially have been big borrowers. While most of this has been in local currencies, corporates in India, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Russia as well as Hong Kong and Singapore have borrowed heavily in foreign currency. This creates a currency mismatch situation.

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