Zawya

'Greater Paris' woos Qatari investors

Paris is wooing potential Qatari investors to be the part of a huge infrastructure development project, 'Greater Paris', to which the government of France has already committed €50bn. Chiara Corazzara, Managing Director of the Greater Paris Investment Agency said the state-sponsored investment in infrastructures is designed to trigger €80bn private investment and the response that they get from Qatari investors is really encouraging.

Islamic finance in Oman poised for solid growth: Bank Nizwa CEO

Dr Jamil El Jaroudi, chief executive officer of Bank Nizwa, expects Islamic finance to grow above 15-20 per cent of the total banking sector activities in Oman. Speaking about the bank's growth, he said, breakeven was reached in December after three years of operation. Over the next few months, a mobile branch will travel around the Sultanate offering a host of products, services and also make the people aware on the benefits of Islamic banking. According to bank officials mobile branch will help customers to open new accounts, activate debit cards, receive account balances and mini statements, deposit cash and cheques.

IIRA Assigns Fiduciary Ratings to AlBaraka Bank Lebanon S.A.L

Islamic International Rating Agency (IIRA) has assigned investment grade, national scale ratings of BBB-(lb)/A3(lb) (Triple B Minus / A Three) to AlBaraka Bank Lebanon S.A.L (ABBL). Outlook on the assigned ratings is 'Stable'. The fiduciary score has been assessed in the range of '71-75', reflecting adequate fiduciary standards wherein rights of various stakeholders are adequately protected. ABBL was incorporated in 1992 as the first Islamic bank operating in the Republic of Lebanon. ABBL has sought to diversify its financings outside Lebanon, thereby mitigating the effects of the slowdown in the Lebanese economy. Owing to the market dynamics and management caution, ABBL maintains a highly liquid asset profile.

A figure of prominence

Professor Datuk Rifaat Ahmed Abdel Karim, PhD, PJN is an authority in the Islamic financial services industry (IFSI) both at the professional and academic levels. He has played a pioneering role in the development of Islamic finance, while his leadership in setting accounting, auditing, governance, Shariíah and regulatory standards has been instrumental in establishing the position of the IFSI in the mainstream of global financial services. He believes that some of the major internal barriers have emanated from a lack of a proper understanding of the specificities of Islamic finance. Many tend to interpret Islamic finance transactions either from their conventional knowledge or their perspective of understanding Islamic Fiqh.

Japan sees Malaysia as launching pad for halal and sukuk

The relations between Malaysia and Japan is characterized by a special nature, not seen in any other countries in this region. The relations are underpinned by a strong bond, forged for a long time by a policy called the Look East policy. This Look East policy has worked as a lynch-pin between the two nations. Under this Look East policy, young people in Malaysia have been studying in Japan and this policy has brought back benefits through the brains and hands of those young people to help the Malaysian economy to invigorate. As Malaysia in an Islamic nation, Malaysia can open a gateway for Japanese investors to the markets of the Islamic nations. Some of the Japanese financial institutions have already started to issue Sukuk bonds.

Interview: No rise in GCC credit card debt, despite rise in spending-Amex

American Express said it had not witnessed a rise in credit card debt in the Gulf region, despite over a third of households reporting they had spent more than they planned last year and one in four in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) saying they had contributed less to their savings and pension. Despite the economic headwinds across the region, Amex's research titled 'Spending Habits in the GCC: A Research Report' shows little slowdown in the volume of spending, CEO Mazin Khoury said. Khoury told Zawya he had not seen any increase in levels of credit card debt and that he was not concerned about changes in repayment trends, despite rising consumer spending levels and a more challenging financial environment as a result of lower oil prices and slower economic growth.

Saudi CMA approves Investment Accounts Instructions

The Saudi Capital Market Authority Board approved the Investment Accounts Instructions after publishing the Draft Instructions on the CMA's official website for 30 days, and reviewing the concerned and interested parties' comments and observations. The Investment Accounts Instructions comprise 17 articles regarding several aspects of investment accounts such as the mechanism on how to accept clients, availability of specific data to open an investment account and instructions of opening and operating the investment account. The Instructions also include the specifications to open investment accounts.

Gatehouse launches residential property finance offering

Gatehouse Bank plc has announced its entry into the residential property finance market. With a focus on greater London, Gatehouse will offer Shariah-compliant financing solutions for clients seeking to acquire or refinance residential properties. This new product was developed following strong client demand for residential property finance solutions. Gatehouse will offer clients bespoke property finance products, from simple single residential investment finance to more complex company structures including property portfolio and short lease finance. Abdulaziz AlDuweesh, Chief Investment Officer of Gatehouse sees significant opportunities to grow Gatehouse's presence in this market.

GFH signs £100 million deal for Northacre's 1 palace street

GFH Financial Group (GFH) has signed an agreement with Palace Revive Developments Limited worth £100 million to be a partner in the No. 1 Palace Street development in central London, a project being developed by Northacre. Under the agreement, GFH will become an anchor partner for more than 30% of the units in the development, which is located opposite Buckingham Palace. Located in Buckingham Gate, No. 1 Palace Street includes 271,051 square feet of space adjacent to Buckingham Palace in the area between St James's, Mayfair and Belgravia, the development of 72 luxury apartments, a restaurant and health centre. The development is expected to be completed in 2018.

QIIB expects Morocco JV approval by third quarter

Qatar's Islamic lender QIIB achieved increase and growth in its various banking activities over the past year. The AGM approved the Board of Directors' proposal to distribute 40% cash dividends of the nominal value per share which is equivalent to QR4 per share. Besides, the bank is expecting approval from authorities in Morocco for its joint venture by the end of third quarter this year. The lender had signed a joint venture agreement with CIH Bank (Credit Immobilier et Hotelier), a Moroccan bank, for the establishment of a bank in Morocco in December last year. Under the agreement, QIIB will have 40% stake in the proposed bank.

Kuwait Finance House gets Aref affiliate offer

Kuwait Finance House (KFH) has received an offer from investors to buy its stake in affiliate Aref Investment Group, the country's biggest Islamic lender said in a bourse statement on Monday. Aref is a diversified investment firm which is 53 percent owned by KFH and has share capital of $400 million, according to information on the companies' websites. This offer is currently under study and no decision has been taken as yet, the statement said. KFH will disclose this offer in the event that they have reached and signed a preliminary agreement, and cannot currently determine any financial impact on its statements in the absence of an agreement as yet.

IRTI Signs MoU with Al-Manhal to Boost Dissemination of Islamic Finance Literature

The Islamic Research and Training Institute (IRTI) of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) Group has signed an agreement with Al-Manhal, a provider of electronic scholarly publications, to host IRTI's Islamic finance publications in Al-Manhal electronic databases. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) provides for electronic versions of IRTI's publications--including books, reports, training manuals, and conference proceedings--to be made available to Al-Manhal subscribers that include universities, government agencies, corporations, and public libraries. IRTI Director General, Prof. Mohamed Azmi Omar, and Al-Manhal representative, Mr. Rany Al Baghdadi, jointly signed the MoU at the IDB Headquarters in Jeddah.

Global Islamic Wealth Management Industry Faces Trust Deficit

A global survey on the Knowledge, Attitude and Practices (KAP) of the Global Islamic Wealth Management Industry conducted by Edbiz Consulting revealed that the global Islamic wealth management industry is facing a trust deficit that is hampering the growth of the industry. 48% of the respondents said they have never used any Islamic wealth management products and services, citing lack of understanding, lack of trust and preference to manage own wealth as reasons for not subscribing. Dr Sofiza Azmi, Group CEO of HD-Edbiz Group of Companies highlighted that 40% of Islamic wealth is concentrated in non-Muslim countries.

Tokio Marine Egypt General Takaful plans 56% rise in investments this FY

Insurer Tokio Marine Egypt General Takaful plans to increase its investments in the country by 56 percent in the financial year 2015/16 to 46.8 million Egyptian pounds (5.3 million), its managing director said. Satoshi Furuya further said that the group's investments had surged to 30 million pounds by the end of the financial year 2014/15. Tokio Marine Egypt General Takaful's investments are Shariah-compliant, notably in governmental bonds, treasury bills, in addition to deposits in investment accounts with Islamic banks, Furuya added. The company is part of Japan-based Tokio Marine Group.

GCC to introduce VAT Jan. 1, 2018

GCC government officials confirmed that value-added tax (VAT) will be introduced as of January 1, 2018, a statement from EY said at the conclusion of the EY-hosted annual MENA Tax Conference in Dubai on March 16. The MENA tax conference featured a session on preparing for VAT in the GCC, providing status updates on the tax implementation and the actions that companies in the region need to take. The introduction of VAT will diversify government revenue sources and reduce reliance on oil revenues to finance government expenditures. The additional revenues collected are likely to fund programs for the development of job opportunities for nationals and improve education and healthcare in the GCC.

The IFSB and Banco De Espana to Organise Seminar on Islamic Finance: The Real Economy and the Financial Sector

The Islamic Financial Services Board (IFSB) is organising a Seminar on Islamic Finance with the theme, "The Real Economy and the Financial Sector" on 24 May 2016 in Madrid, Spain, supported by the Banco de Espana and in collaboration with the IE Business School, Spain. This Seminar is part of the IFSB European Forum series, held in prominent financial centres in Europe. The one-day 'Seminar on Islamic Finance' is designed to encourage broad interaction among the delegates to explore the potential re-alignment of economic policy frameworks in a manner that strengthens the linkages between the real economy and the financial sector.

SAR 3.6 Billion Financing for Jeddah Economic City Project

Alinma Jeddah Economic City Fund has secured shari'a compliant financing of up to SAR 3.6 Billion from Alinma Bank on December 10 2015. Formulating the financial model of the project with Alinma Bank was finalized based on a financing strategy that fulfills the project's needs in accordance with the first business plan covering the first phase of the project which is expected to take five years. The objective of the financing is to provide funding to build and develop the infrastructure for phase one of Jeddah Economic City project and to continue the construction of Jeddah Tower.

Ithmaar Bank's retail banking subsidiary in Pakistan, Faysal Bank Limited, reports record growth in 2015

Bahrain-based Ithmaar Bank has announced that its retail banking subsidiary in Pakistan, Faysal Bank Limited, has registered a record profit for 2015. Faysal Bank registered a profit, after tax, of US$ 41mn (PKR 4.2bn) during 2015, a 70 percent increase over the profit reported for 2014. During the year, the bank's operating income increased by 95 percent, growing from US$ 35mn (PKR 3.5bn) in 2014 to US$ 67mn (PKR 6.9bn) in 2015. Total assets increased by 11 percent to US$ 4bn (PKR 430bn) as of 31 December 2015, compared to US$ 3.7bn (PKR 388bn) as at 31 December 2014. Faysal Bank also announced a cash dividend of PKR 1 per share (10 percent of share par value) for 2015.

Madinah governor opens SR52m 'Charity City'

Madinah Gov. Prince Faisal bin Salman launched on Monday a 14-story complex costing SR52 million that would house all the region's charities. Speaking at the opening, Prince Faisal, who is also chairman of the Charitable Society for Social Services, said the complex would have state-of-the art facilities that would streamline services to the needy. Abdul Barie bin Awadh Al-Thibaiti, secretary general of the society, said the new building would generate much-needed funds for charitable activities. He said the 30-year-old organization helps more than 6,000 students a year on a five-year budget of SR33 million.

'Excellent future' for Mena Islamic bonds, says NBAD

The future of Islamic bonds in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) seems "excellent" in the medium-to-long term, but lack of supply and right price is "stifling" demand and liquidity in the market, according to NBAD. Finding that oil prices will be a key determinant of sukuk returns in 2016, NBAD said the uncertainty over the likely trajectory in the US interest rates, the bear market in oil, and increasing fiscal concerns across the region all contributed to a bearish tone in the market, causing many issuers to remain on the sidelines. Although GCC sukuk investors remain natural buyers, they have tightened their credit quality criteria, and become much more price sensitive.

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