Kenya's government has unveiled a package of initiatives under its latest budget to develop Islamic finance in the country, as part of efforts to mobilise local funds and set Nairobi as a regional hub for the sector. The moves could spur Kenya's decade-old Islamic banking sector and help the government fund infrastructure in a country where Muslims account for about 10% of the population of some 44 million.
Finance Minister Henry Rotich outlined the steps as part of the country's 2017/2018 budget, released on Thursday, aiming to level the playing field between Islamic and interest-based transactions. Amendments to the Public Finance Management Act will also allow the government to issue Islamic bonds, or sukuk, as an alternative funding source. This could prove useful for a government that has set aside billions for infrastructure, with a fiscal deficit set at 524.6 billion shillings ($5.10 billion).
Kenya launched an office dedicated to oversee its Islamic finance industry and help prepare for the issue a debut sovereign shariah-compliant bond. With 11% of Muslim population, Kenya has seen the emergence of Islamic institutions in recent years, including two banks, five Islamic banking windows offered by commercial lenders, insurance firms and a unit trust fund. The government wants to build up the industry as part of a long-term plan to turn Nairobi into an International Financial Centre. Kenya, which has applied to become a member of the Islamic Financial Services board, is carrying out legal and policy reforms to facilitate the growth of the industry. According to Kamau Thugge, the principal secretary at the Treasury, the government will consider issuing a sovereign Sukuk as soon as the legal and policy reforms are implemented.
Saudi International Petrochemical Company (Sipchem) plans to recall a sukuk maturing on July 6 three weeks early. The firm will send a notice to sukuk holders informing them of its intentions and will use available cash to pay it off. It originally issued 1.8 billion riyals of sukuk in 2011. Sipchem also plans to issue a new sukuk and appointed Riyad Capital and NCB Capital as lead managers for the issue.
Bahrain-based Al Baraka Banking Group will establish a banking unit in Morocco after receiving approval from local authorities. The bank said entry to the Morocco market would significantly help diversify assets and income sources for the group. In contrast with its peers in the Gulf, Al Baraka has built the bulk of its business outside of the region, including units in Pakistan, Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia and South Africa.
Nigeria's debt management office (DMO) and capital market regulator have agreed to collaborate on a debut issuance of sovereign Islamic bonds (sukuk) before the end of the year, the two bodies said. The move could spur wider issuance of sukuk in one of Africa's most liquid debt markets, following similar sovereign deals from Senegal and Ivory Coast. Issuing a sovereign sukuk will attract significant amounts of affordable capital from the Gulf countries and other established Islamic markets around the world into Nigeria, the DMO said in its statement on Wednesday. The statement did not give a potential size for a maiden sukuk deal, although the DMO is a regular issuer of five- and ten-year local-currency bonds.
The Bahrain-based Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI) said last week that it had taken up the development of a standard for gold, a project which was launched last year by the World Gold Council (WGC), a London-based market development body. The WGC published an exposure draft in November which analysts believe could accelerate the timetable for the creation of a final standard. Such drafts have traditionally taken AAOIFI scholars two years to develop internally. The WGC's draft outlines several uses for gold such as investment accounts, derivative contracts, security collateral, exchange-traded funds and Islamic bonds, said Natalie Dempster, WGC managing director of central banks and public policy.
Ivory Coast will launch the first tranche of a previously announced Islamic bond programme this year, government spokesman Bruno Kone said on Wednesday. The local currency sukuk bond will be for 150 billion CFA francs ($252 million). In April, Ivory Coast announced that it would conduct a 300 billion CFA franc ($504 million) Islamic bond programme in two phases between 2015 and 2020. African countries are increasingly tapping the sukuk market for funding to take advantage of rising demand for Islamic paper among investors in the Middle East and southeast Asia.
Demand for Islamic bonds issued by the International Islamic Liquidity Management Corp (IILM) is growing, signaling widening popularity for a programme designed as a cross-border tool for Islamic banks to manage their liquidity needs. The Kuala Lumpur-based body is a likely beneficiary of a decision by Malaysia's central bank to wind down its own sales of sukuk, which could in turn spur the IILM to expand its $3 billion issuance programme. A boost in demand could help widen the membership base of the IILM and encourage regulators across Asia and the Middle East to approve the use of IILM sukuk by their Islamic banks. Growing popularity of IILM sukuk could also improve its secondary market activity.
The Republic of Turkey is seeking to raise US$1.5bn from the issuance of sukuk and yen-denominated bonds this year, according to a treasury official. The sovereign, rated Baa3 by Moody's and BBB- by Fitch, is to raise around USD400m-equivalent from the yen-denominated transaction and the rest from the sukuk. The sovereign is aiming to price the sukuk in the fourth quarter of the year, and the yen-denominated deal at some point in the second half of the year, according to the official.
Morocco's government adopted a bill on Thursday to regulate Islamic insurance, legislation that will face a final vote by parliament later this year. It is the last step in Morocco's legislative package to regulate the country's fledgling Islamic finance industry. Earlier this year, it issued a decree allowing the creation of a sharia board to oversee the sector. The bill adopted by the government goes into details on authorisations, takaful and retakaful products and operating process. Sharia-compliant insurance will be overseen by the same sharia board of Islamic scholars in charge of Islamic banking. The bill also includes some amendments of the law regulating the conventional insurance sector.
The Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD) will lead manage a 300 billion CFA franc ($480 million) Islamic bond programme for Ivory Coast. The programme will issue Ivory Coast's first sovereign sukuk in order to finance development projects. It will be conducted in two equal phases of 150 billion CFA francs and extend from 2015 to 2020, the ICD said in a statement. As lead manager, the ICD will structure the sukuk programme, appoint and coordinate other consultants, liaise with government officials and oversee the entire process of the offer, it said. Senegal and South Africa issued their first sukuk last year, while Niger's government plans to establish an Islamic bond programme and Nigeria has been considering an issue.
The Malaysia-based International Islamic Liquidity Management Corp (IILM) will hold two auctions next week to issue a combined $990 million worth of sukuk, under a programme that is now authorised to issue $3 billion in short-term paper. The IILM will auction $490 million worth of three-month sukuk and $500 million of six-month sukuk next Tuesday. It is only the second time the IILM has issued six-month paper. The IILM programme, rated A-1 by Standard and Poor's, has $1.85 billion worth of sukuk currently outstanding. Its sukuk programme permits maturities of up to one year.
The Bahrain-based Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI) has appointed a new secretary-general. Saudi Arabian national Hamed Hassan Merah has been chosen for the post, replacing Khaled Al Fakih, who left the organisation in May after two and a half years in charge. Merah most recently worked with Solidarity Saudi Takaful Company and before that with Riyadh-based Jadwa Investment. Established in 1990, AAOIFI issues guidelines that are followed wholly or in part by Islamic financial institutions around the world. But as Islamic banking has grown globally over the last several years, other standard-setting bodies have become increasingly active and influential.
Islamic bond programmes from a trio of big conventional banks are set to expand the boundaries of Islamic finance, helping open the market to first-time issuers while testing the banks' ability to win over industry purists. Since June, France's Societe Generale, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ (BTMU) and Goldman Sachs have set up sukuk programmes, aiming to tap the pool of cash-rich Islamic investors. An abortive plan by Goldman to issue sukuk in 2011 showed the obstacles which conventional banks can face in the market. But if the three banks are successful and become regular sukuk issuers, they could help to widen Islamic finance beyond its core markets in the Middle East and southeast Asia.
Malaysia-based International Islamic Liquidity Management Corp (IILM) hopes to widen its membership base as it seeks feedback from the market on its Islamic bond issuance programme. The IILM's short-term sukuk programme now has $1.65 billion of sukuk outstanding and could eventually grow to more than $2 billion; nine countries are directly represented in the IILM and it is keen to add more. A wider membership would boost demand for the IILM's sukuk, since Islamic banks in certain countries cannot hold IILM sukuk without permission from their local regulator. One potential new member is Oman; that country's central bank governor told Reuters last October that it was considering whether to join the IILM or allow its banks to hold IILM sukuk.
The Indonesian government raised $1.5 billion worth of Islamic bonds on Tuesday, attracting the largest order book ever achieved for a sovereign sukuk from southeast Asia. The 10-year sukuk drew strong investor demand - order books were worth $10.2 billion - helping reduce the yield of sukuk which had originally started in the vicinity of 4.625 percent on Monday, before being trimmed to 4.35 percent. Indonesia's sukuk kickstarts what looks to be a busy month for sovereign issuance, with Luxembourg, Hong Kong and South Africa conducting investor meetings ahead of their respective transactions. Indonesia's sukuk was rated Baa3 by Moody's. CIMB, Emirates NBD Capital, HSBC and Standard Chartered acted as lead managers.
The Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD) plans to increase its activities in Africa, part of plans to widen the appeal of Islamic finance across the region. Under a new strategy, the ICD is helping develop what it terms "Islamic finance channels" to spread sharia-compliant financial products more widely, ICD chief executive Khaled Al-Aboodi said. Such channels include Islamic banks, investment and ijara companies, and takaful and retakaful firms. Some of the projects will be led by Senegal-based Tamweel Africa Holding which will establish an Islamic bank in Benin and is finalizing a feasibility study for one in Mali. In Chad, the ICD is supporting the establishment of an Islamic bank and a leasing company, depending on the approval from local authorities.
Egyptian company Ridge Islamic Capital has announced to have $100 million which it plans to use for raising its capital and investing in funds over the following two years. Thus, it shall take advantage of the growing Islamic financial market. After Dubai-based Ridge Solutions International Holdings, the company for regional investment which provided the money for Ridge Islamic Capital, acquired Egyptian investment banking and asset management firm El Rashad, Ridge Islamic Capital was launched on Wednesday. Even though El Rashad uses conventional financial operations, Ridge will convert its assets in sharia compliant ones over a period of about two years. Future investments are all to be subject to Islamic principles.