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GCC Islamic Banks' Financial Profiles to Stabilize in 2018

According to S&P Global Ratings, Islamic banks in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries should see their financial profiles stabilize through 2018. S&P's Global Head of Islamic Finance, Mohamed Damak expects that GCC Islamic banks' total asset growth will remain in the low single digits over the next 12-24 months, after stabilizing at about 4% for the GCC system in 2017. He also expects that cost of risk for Islamic banks will rise, due to the adoption of International Financial Reporting Standard 9 and Financial Accounting Standard 30. Combined with the introduction of value-added tax, the increase in risk costs will result in a dip in the profitability of Islamic banks in the next two years.

Green developments in Islamic finance

Increasing environmental awareness worldwide has seen a marked rise in the appetite for green bonds. Malaysia has been the market leader in the issuance of Green Sukuk, with guidelines issued in 2014 for socially responsible investment (SRI). These set out that the proceeds can be used to preserve the environment and natural resources, conserve the use of energy, promote the use of renewable energy and reduce greenhouse gas emission. Malaysia launched the world’s first Green Sukuk on 27 June 2017. The UAE's Green Growth Strategy was launched in 2012 to become a global hub and a successful model for the low carbon green economy. There will most certainly be challenges, like drafting of documentation acceptable to governments, investors and Shari’ah scholars. There is increasing appetite for environmentally friendly products and considerable potential in the UAE.

Bonds and #Sukuk: Structuring fixed income instruments in GCC

According to Fisch Asset Management CEO Philipp Good, the GCC bond and Sukuk market is generally sound. The GCC debt market has seen considerable development, in terms of issuance volume and spread, for both the conventional and Islamic space. The bond and Sukuk pipeline in the GCC for the last two to three years has been dominated by the senior unsecured USD format. At the same time, some project bond issuance has occurred in the GCC, which has utilised highly innovative structures. Recent hybrid issuances from corporates, and Additional Tier 1 bonds and Sukuk from banks such as First Abu Dhabi Bank, Dubai Islamic Bank and Noor Bank, all prove that there is plenty of scope for more sophisticated instruments to be offered. The investor base for GCC debt is now more diverse than ever before, and 2018 looks to be another strong year. It will probably be weighted towards corporates, with sovereigns having dominated the market in 2017.

RFI #Summit 2018 is partnering with the leading global environmental authority to increase links between faith-based finance & environmental impact

The UN Environment Programme is organizing a pre-Summit roundtable on "Faith-Consistent Financing Prospects to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)". The roundtable will explore opportunities for faith-based financial institutions and asset owners to promote common efforts that can increase their collective impact. Iyad Abumoghli, Principal Advisor at UN Environment said the UN was excited to partner with the RFI Summit, which has developed into a leading platform for encouraging dialogue between faith-based institutions and the financial sector.

For more information about the RFI Summit 2018 and to register, please visit www.rfisummit.org.

Ebdaa Bank backs #microfinance proposal for GCC charity projects

Ebdaa Bank has agreed to a proposal to microfinance charity projects to achieve their objectives to support low-income families. Ebdaa Bank CEO Dr Waleed Al Ghazawi welcomed officials from Almajdouie Group and stressed the need for the GCC to adopt microfinance due to its benefit for charity donations. The Almajdouie Group is visiting Bahrain to share ideas about their sustainable charity projects. The group’s new project is called "Basta", which has already launched six booths in Saudi Arabia, distributed in Dammam and Al Khobar. The project aims to support kiosks to develop their projects.

DFSA hosts accounting standard-setters for Islamic finance

The Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) recently hosted the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) as part of a consultancy meeting. The Authority's involvement reflects its commitment to developing an effective and supportive regulatory framework for Islamic finance. The DFSA is a member of the Islamic Finance Consultative Group (IFCG), which focuses on challenges that may arise in the application of International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). The meeting was attended by IFCG members from Bahrain, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the United Kingdom.

IDB Group and World Bank launch second edition of Global #Report on Islamic Finance

The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) Group and the World Bank Group launched the second edition of the Global Report on Islamic Finance. The report is entitled "The Role of Islamic Finance in Financing Long-Term Investments". It presents a global perspective on the need for long-term investments in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and proposes the use of Islamic finance. Despite the huge potential in Islamic finance, the report notes that the Islamic financial sector is a small player in the global financial markets and requires a concerted push for the regulatory and legal changes to take root. It therefore recommends strengthening the Islamic financial system by developing a supportive legal, administrative, and regulatory environment. The biennial Global Report on Islamic Finance is a joint initiative of the Islamic Research and Training Institute (IRTI) of the IDB Group and the World Bank.

CBK-IFSB #Conference on Islamic Finance themed "Islamic Finance: A Universal Value Proposition"

The Central Bank of Kuwait (CBK) and the Islamic Financial Services Board (IFSB) are organizing a conference on Islamic Finance on the 2nd of May 2018. The conference will be held in the State of Kuwait in conjunction with the IFSB Annual Meetings 2018, hosted by the CBK. The CBK-IFSB Islamic finance conference is expected to attract senior-level participation from among the global and financial industry stakeholders and thought leaders. Discussions will revolve around the role Islamic finance can play in government strategies to build a diversified and sustainable economy. The IFSB Annual Meetings 2018 will be held in Kuwait from 1–3 May 2018. Alongside the conference, CBK is also hosting the IFSB Public Lecture, Members and Industry Engagement Session, the IFSB’s General Assembly and Council Meetings during the 3 days.

Corrected: Arkan Bank could tap investors for $200mln through Nasdaq Dubai listing

Dubai Investments announced the establishment of a new Islamic bank called Arkan Bank. It will be the first home-grown, wholesale Islamic Bank operating from Dubai International Financal Centre. It will have an initial paid-up capital of $100 million and another $200 million will be raised after 12 months of its establishment through listing on Nasdaq. CEO Khalid Bin Kalban said Dubai Investments will initially hold a 25% in the bank and would aim to retain a stake of that size. He added that Arkan Bank's core business lines would be corporate banking, asset management and awqaf, investment banking and treasury. Arkan Bank initially plans to focus on the GCC region and subsequently build scale to become the top-tier Islamic wholesale bank in the region.

Arkan Bank could tap investors for $100mln through Nasdaq listing

Dubai Investments announced the establishment of a new Islamic bank called Arkan Bank. It will be the first home-grown, wholesale Islamic Bank operating from Dubai International Financal Centre. It will have an initial paid-up capital of $100 million and another $100 million will be raised after 12 months of its establishment through listing on Nasdaq. CEO Khalid Bin Kalban said Dubai Investments will initially hold a 25% in the bank and would aim to retain a stake of that size. He added that Arkan Bank's core business lines would be corporate banking, asset management and awqaf, investment banking and treasury. Arkan Bank initially plans to focus on the GCC region and subsequently build scale to become the top-tier Islamic wholesale bank in the region.

Emirates Islamic Bank supports Rental Disputes Center initiatives

The Rental Disputes Center (RDC) has received a generous donation of AED 500,000 from Emirates Islamic Bank to support insolvent tenants in rental claims disputes. The RDC has already set up the "Yad Al Khair Committee" to study the cases that require support from the donation. Awatif Al Harmoodi, General Manager of Operational Quality & Processes at Emirates Islamic Bank, said Emirates Islamic Bank is keen to expand its corporate social responsibility strategy to cover all segments of the UAE and will continue to cooperate with the RDC.

Al Hilal Global #Sukuk Fund delivers 3.93% dividend

Al Hilal Bank has announced the dividend payout of the Al Hilal Global Sukuk Fund. The Fund, which was launched in March 2012, distributed a 3.93% dividend to all registered unit holders. Al Hilal Bank CEO Alex Coelho said the Fund had registered excellent cumulative total returns since its inception in 2012. Al Hilal Bank currently offers 3 open-ended mutual funds inclusive of the Global Sukuk Fund. In 2017, Al Hilal Global Sukuk Fund was awarded the title "Best Fund over 3 years", while the GCC Equity Fund received the "Best Islamic Fund" award in 2013 and 2014. The bank plans to continue launching investment products as part of its ongoing efforts to create value and increase diversification for its clients.

London court again finds for creditors in Dana Gas #sukuk dispute

A London High Court judge again ruled in favour of creditors in a dispute over whether Dana Gas must repay $700mln sukuk. Judge George Leggatt rejected an attempt by the company to overturn his decision last November that the purchase undertaking behind the sukuk was valid and enforceable. There was no immediate comment from Dana.

#Saudi SEDCO Capital launches #REIT Fund

Saudi SEDCO Capital announced the offering of its first Shariah-compliant real estate investment traded fund SEDCO Capital REIT. The fund will be offered to the general public through an initial public offer during the period of Jan. 24 to Feb. 6. With an occupancy rate of over 92%, SEDCO Capital’s real estate portfolio has grown to include seven assets across various geographical regions. According to CEO Hasan Al-Jabri, SEDCO Capital Real Estate Income Fund targets to generate an initial net yield of 7% through the acquisition of additional assets and by utilizing capital. To facilitate the offering period, three receiving entities were appointed for investors to subscribe, these include NCB, Al Rajhi Bank and Samba Financial Group.

INTERVIEW-#Bahrain's Salam Bank to launch Islamic #insurance products in #Algeria in 2018-CEO

Bahrain's Salam Bank will launch Islamic insurance products and Visa credit card services in Algeria this year. Salam Bank CEO Hideur Nasser said the lender would open 10 more branches in the country as the market for Islamic products was growing. He added that Islamic banking made up only 15.5% of the private sector in Algeria. The government wants to develop the sector, as the country looks for more ways to offset the sharp fall in oil prices and its energy revenues. For this, technical expertise and new legislation is needed in a country where powerful elites have resisted changes. Nasser said the legal framework had to be amended and sukuk could not be sold under current laws despite great appetite for them.

Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre enrols as observer member of Responsible Finance & Investment Foundation

The Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre (DIEDC) has enrolled as an observer member of the Responsible Finance & Investment (RFI) Foundation. DIEDC and the RFI Foundation will collaborate towards the common goal of shifting the focus of the financial sector from accumulating wealth to supporting equitable, inclusive, and sustainable growth. As a member, DIEDC gains access to the RFI Foundation’s research and its diverse network. Abdulla Mohammed Al Awar, CEO of DIEDC, said by joining the RFI Foundation, the efforts of the two entities integrate to identify universal principles that guide responsible finance. Blake Goud, CEO of the RFI Foundation, welcomed DIEDC as an observer member. He added that DIEDC was a valuable addition to the RFI Foundation’s member community that includes multilaterals organisations, commercial banks and asset managers.

Islamic finance assets will grow 72% to $3.78trn

The total size of the global Islamic finance assets is projected to grow by nearly 72% to $3.78 trillion (Dh13.87 trillion) by 2022 from $2.2 trillion (Dh8 trillion) last year. According to the Islamic Finance Development Report, Malaysia topped followed by Bahrain, the UAE, Oman, Pakistan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Brunei in terms of industry growth. The report studied key trends across five indicators: quantitative development, knowledge, governance, corporate social responsibility and awareness. Khaled Al Aboodi, CEO of the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector, said Islamic finance was still tiny in comparison with the global financial industry, but the industry's rapid development suggested it would continue to grow.

What is holding back #corporate #sukuk issuers in the GCC

In the GCC there are only a few corporate entities that currently issue sukuk. GCC governments have so far prioritised external capital market funding for plugging fiscal deficits rather than for corporations. Prevailing subdued oil prices continue to lead to fiscal deficits for GCC nations. According to S&P analysts, governments are yet to be fully convinced of the merits of the private finance model for infrastructure. The GCC corporate and infrastructure sukuk market has yet to exceed double-digit growth in issuance or to attract a wider variety of entities. The Dana Gas restructuring announced in May also influenced sukuk activity in the third quarter of 2017. At the moment, it remains unclear what ramifications the Dana case would have for the sukuk market.

How loyal are Islamic banking customers?

Islamic banking is a growing industry, however still much smaller than conventional finance, even in Muslim majority nations. In the UAE, 76% of residents are Muslim, yet Islamic banks only hold 19% of banking assets. The question is: why would Muslims choose conventional banks when Halal options are available? Research has found that the chief reason was a better rate of return. A recent study shows that 25% of Islamic banking customers preferred conventional banks and products when interest rates were the same. When conventional banks offer 1% better interest rates, the share that would switch to conventional banks rose from 25% to 44%. About 25% of Islamic banking customers came to it because of their employers, while 35% use both Islamic and conventional banks. A group of about 40% of Islamic banking customers are truly loyal to Islamic banking, most likely for religious reasons.

King Abdullah Financial District set for Phase I launch

The first phase of the King Abdullah Financial District project is due to be launched next year. The business hub in Riyadh has been under construction since 2006 and will soon get a fresh lease of life under the management of the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund. The Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) will take over the management of the King Abdullah Financial District from the Public Pension Agency. As outlined in the Saudi Vision 2030 plan, the new hub is to be an economic free zone with visa exemptions and a direct connection to the airport. The government is now exploring new incentive options to attract financial institutions to occupy space in the district. The 73-building development has been restructured to reduce office space and increase the number of residential units.

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