Gulf News

#Venezuela to issue oil-backed #cryptocurrency in ‘coming days’

President Nicolas Maduro announced that Venezuela would issue 100 million units of an oil-backed cryptocurrency known as the petro. Maduro said that the petro would be backed by 5 billion barrels in the Ayacucho block of the Orinoco Oil Belt. Based on the latest price of the country’s oil basket, the total issue would be worth about $5.9 billion. Maduro believes the cryptocurrency will help the South American country challenge the tyranny of the dollar, economic war and US-led financial persecution. Over the past year, the US Treasury Department has blacklisted numerous top-ranking officials, including Maduro and many of his ministers. Home to the world’s largest crude reserves, Venezuelan oil output fell to a 14-year low last July. Maduro didn’t comment on whether Venezuela bondholders would be paid with petros. At the start, the petro will be obtained through auctions or direct allocation by the country’s Cryptocurrency Superintendent.

Islamic #insurers to #refocus on profitable segments

Improving insurance profitability is expected to result in Islamic insurance players refocusing their sectors. According to Moody’s analyst Mohammad Ali Londe, the motor and medical insurance sector have benefited most from the recent premium rate increases in Saudi Arabia and UAE. Therefore, Moody's expects Takaful operators to refocus their underwriting and servicing operations on these lines. Previously, weak underwriting results in the core medical and motor lines forced Takaful insurers to widen their product offerings. GCC Takaful insurers’ results for the first nine months of 2017 reveal that underwriting profitability has improved in most countries. In UAE, motor premium rates rose in 2017 as a result of the country’s new unified motor policy which provides standardised coverages. The improvement in Takaful insurers’ underwriting profitability has started to reverse the previous deterioration in their capital adequacy.

Digitisation, it’s all in the family

Emirates Islamic is targeting balance sheet growth and improved profitability along with digitisation. According to Deputy CEO Wasim Saifi, these objectives are complementary. The speedier technology adoption comes naturally due to the bank's close links with Emirates NBD, a technology leader in consumer banking in the UAE. As a subsidiary of Emirates NBD, it has access to all the innovations the parent company adopts. Emirates Islamic has upgraded its core banking platform and introduced an improved mobile banking app with 25 new services. Emirates Islamic is the first and only Islamic Bank in the UAE to support both Apple Pay and Samsung Pay. As part of the new product roll out, the bank has launched QuickRemit to India and will launch the service to Pakistan and other remittance corridors soon.

Dana Gas shares fall 4.17% on London #sukuk ruling

Dana Gas share prices fell 4.17% following Friday’s English High Court ruling against Dana Gas and in favour of bondholders. Danas said it plans to appeal the decision by the London court that declared the company’s $700 million sukuk valid and enforceable. Friday’s ruling was made in Dana Gas’s absence from the court. Dana Gas had earlier refused to repay debt owed to investors for two mudaraba sukuk worth $350 million each. The latest ruling does not mean that Dana Gas has to pay bondholders just yet, with another hearing in a UAE court scheduled for December 25.

Dana Gas profit boosted by financial settlement with Kurdistan Regional Government

Dana Gas reported a steep rise in third-quarter profit, benefiting from a $1 billion payment as part of a settlement agreement with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). The agreement boosted Dana’s third-quarter earnings and net profit for the nine-month period ending on September 30, which amounted to $125 million against $26 million during the same period one year earlier. The settlement led to a reversal of the provision for payments to the KRG, with the balance of unpaid receivables booked to new petroleum costs. The company is at the centre of a legal dispute after having refused to redeem $700 million in outstanding Islamic bonds claiming they are no longer sharia compliant. It has started legal actions in UK and UAE courts to avoid redeeming the sukuk. Dana claimed being confident pursuant to independent legal advice of prevailing in its interpretation of the outcome.

#UAE’s Dana Gas leaves maturing #sukuk unpaid but no default declared

Dana Gas will not redeem $700 million (Dh2.57 billion) of its sukuk, as the dispute on the validity of the sukuk drags on in British and UAE courts. Dana claims changes in the interpretation of Islamic finance over recent years means the securities are no longer Sharia-compliant and have become unlawful in the UAE. The case is closely watched by the global Islamic finance industry because some investors think it could set a precedent for other sukuk issuers. Dana asked the Sharjah court for an early hearing date for an appeal which would allow it to participate in the London court case. Proceedings in London are expected to resume by Nov. 13, a ruling on the case could be issued on that date or shortly afterwards.

Dubai Economy launches Sharia-compliant #smart #programme

Dubai Economy in partnership with Dar Al Tawreeq has launched a Sharia-compliant smart programme to offer receivables finance to suppliers dealing with government entities in Dubai. Dubai Economy is the first government entity to offer such a financing option to suppliers. Faster payment will support businesses in growing sustainably and maintaining cash flows. Businesses working with government entities can use the smart software developed by Dar Al Tawreeq to ensure liquidity by obtaining financing on their invoices. The programme also provides easy access to on-demand working capital for businesses at no additional cost. The programme was launched by Khalid Al Kassim, Assistant Director General in Dubai Economy and Haitham Al Refaie, CEO of Tawreeq Holdings. The programme emphasises the principle of public-private partnership adopted by Dubai in its evolution into an Islamic Economy Capital.

#Arab Petroleum Investments Corp hires banks for dollar #sukuk -lead

Arab Petroleum Investments Corporation (APICORP) has mandated banks to arrange a series of fixed income investor meetings ahead of a potential sukuk sale. The sale is that of a potential five-year benchmark US dollar-denominated sukuk. Meetings will start on October 19 in Riyadh and end on October 24 in London. Apicorp has hired Bank ABC, Crédit Agricole Corporate and Investment Bank, Emirates NBD Capital, First Abu Dhabi Bank, HSBC, KFH Capital and Standard Chartered Bank as joint lead managers and bookrunners for the planned deal.

#Islamic #banks and #Takaful sectors likely to witness more #mergers

The merger of National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD) and First Gulf Bank (FGB) in the UAE last year had triggered a number of unconfirmed reports of bank mergers across the GCC. However, most of these reports were denied by bank managements. While bankers and analysts say the time is ripe for more bank mergers, they expect more merger deals to happen in the Islamic banking and Takaful industry. A proposed merger of Kuwait Finance House and Ahli United Bank is expected to result in second biggest Islamic Bank in the GCC after Al Rajhi Bank. The merger of Qatari banks Masraf Al Rayan, Barwa Bank and International Bank of Qatar is progressing and is expected to complete by end of the year. Some countries have only a small number of local banks, which limits competition. This means that profitability has remained solid and is therefore less likely to be a driver for M&A. Another stumbling block is the ownership structure of GCC banks, well established local private shareholders often control sizeable stakes and foreign banks only hold minority stakes.

#Saudi Arabia nudges yields down in 13b riyal #sukuk sale

Saudi Arabia auctioned 13 billion riyals ($3.5 billion) of local currency sukuk, with the offer 295% subscribed. It sold 2.1 billion riyals of five-year, 7.7 billion riyals of seven-year and 3.2 billion riyals of 10-year sukuk. The size of the issue was down slightly from the government’s offer in July, when it sold 17 billion riyals and attracted 51 billion of bids. The ministry qualified 13 Saudi banks to buy its sukuk issues in the primary market but hopes other institutional investors will eventually buy in the secondary market. Also, yields on Riyadh’s internationally issued US dollar sukuk have come down by about 12 to 15 basis points since the last domestic sale. Investment expert Mohieddine Kronfol said the way in which domestic and international Saudi yields were linked was a positive sign for Riyadh’s effort to develop a healthy debt market.

#Saudi developer Jabal Omar to raise 4b riyals via #sukuk

Saudi Arabia’s Jabal Omar Development plans to raise 4 billion riyals (Dh3.91 billion or $1.06 billion) with local currency sukuk issues. Bank Al Bilad has been hired to arrange the fund-raising, but other banks are likely to have leading roles too. The developer’s flagship project, Jabal Omar, is within walking distance of the Holy Mosque in Makkah. It includes commercial malls, residential units and hotels over an area of 230,000 square metres. Saudi Arabia’s real estate sector was hit hard last year, with prices declining 8.7%, as a result of the government’s austerity measures after a slump in international oil prices. Jabal Omar missed in January last year the first repayment, worth 650 million riyals. It amended the terms of the loan in February 2016 to postpone the date, the first payment on the facility is now due in 2019 and the loan will mature in 2024. Jabal Omar has also borrowed 4 billion riyals in February 2015, then 8 billion riyals in September 2015. It is not clear whether the planned sukuk would be used as new funding or to refinance some of the company’s existing debt.

New #cryptocurrency launches in Dubai, backed by real economic activity

The Malaysian company Farad launched its Farad cryptoken at the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) on Monday. The CEO of Farad, Wan Hasni, said this was the first cryptocurrency backed by real-economy activity. The Farad cryptoken (FRD) is a digital currency, with each token representing the rights to the forward purchase contract of 80,000,000 ultra-capacitor cells produced by a Chinese company over a period of 36 months. According to company documents, at the time of initial coin offering (ICO), 1 FRD will be equivalent to $12.50. The pre-sale ICO will happen on August 25, and then on September 15 the full sale will begin. Around 1.2 billion FRD will be issued in the ICO, half during the pre-sale and half at the full sale, for a 10% premium. The ICO will be followed by roadshows in Asia and Europe to promote the business.

#Dana #Gas said to see creditors turn debtors as #showdown deepens

The standoff between Dana Gas PJSC and its bondholders carries on after the company that’s trying to void $700 million of its own debt was said to believe investors may even have to pay the company.
Dana Gas says a court battle with holders of the Islamic securities, or sukuk, may see it having to return less than 10 % of the amount it borrowed. In a second scenario, it believes creditors may have to pay it as much as $150 million, and that the case may last more than 10 years. The Gas company had announced plans to restructure the debt in May, this week retracted an offer to replace the bonds and is pursuing a resolution in court. It said in June the debt was no longer Sharia-compliant. Investors questioned the validity of the claim since neither sukuk regulations nor UAE laws governing the matter have changed since they were issued in 2013.

Dana Gas describes UK court decisions on #sukuk as favourable

Dana Gas described decisions by the High Court of Justice in London as favourable, as the company seeks to restructure $700 million of outstanding sukuk. On July 5 the High Court upheld an injunction blocking holders of the bonds from enforcing claims related to the securities against Dana. The court ordered Dana to cancel an injunction in a court in Sharjah and to seek a stay of proceedings there. The company remains keen to engage with sukuk holders and reach an agreement on a consensual basis, which is not prevented by the injunctions in place.

#Kuwait’s Islamic finance sector on strong growth trajectory, IMF says

According to a recent study by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Kuwait’s Islamic financial services sector is growing rapidly, with Islamic banking emerging as the most developed component of the industry. Islamic banks’ market share increased rapidly between 2005 and 2010 and has since then stabilised at around 38%. Kuwait’s Islamic banking sector includes systemically important banks. The largest Islamic bank in Kuwait accounts for 23% of total banking system assets, over 70% of the Islamic banking assets. The capital adequacy ratio and Tier-1 capital remain above 15%. The IMF report notes that the economic diversification effort could help drive further growth in Kuwait’s Islamic banking industry.

Financial sustainability imperative to supporting Awqafs

Waqf or the plural, Awqaf, provides funding towards initiatives that promote social and community welfare. Due to various reasons, Waqf had gradually become less popular, but it has now re-emerged as a beneficial force of good within society. In the UAE, a General Waqf Authority for Islamic Affairs and Endowments has been set up by government to coordinate Waqf institutions. The future growth of Awqafs require them to be managed in a sustainable way, that is to run them as modern financial institutions. A lot of Awqaf organisations in the UAE invest in properties and some have surplus liquidity. As a result, today Awqafs are also tapping the capital markets and there are various initiatives to issue Sukuks backed by Waqf land for mosques, schools and orphanages.

Dana Gas receives partial payment of $50m from #Egypt

Dana Gas has received an initial payment of $50 million (Dh184 million) from the Egyptian government as partial payment of its outstanding receivables. This payment represents 18% of Dana Gas Egypt’s total overdue receivables of $283 billion (Dh1.038 billion) as of the end of first quarter 2017. Dana Gas, which pumps most of its gas at fields in Egypt and Iraq, is seeking to recover payments from both countries for overdue bills. The company was owed $1 billion from Egypt and the self-governed Kurdish region in northern Iraq. CEO Patrick Allman-Ward had previously said that the company will not make any new investments in Egypt due to delay in receiving payments. In the first quarter 2017, Dana Gas reported gross revenues of $118 million and net profit of $11 million. Overall group production was 69,900 barrels of oil equivalent per day, 16% higher compared to first quarter of 2016.

Middle East WEF to focus on building jobs for young people

The World Economic Forum’s Middle East and North Africa meeting takes place this year at the Dead Sea in Jordan. The meeting’s formal programme has the theme: Enabling a Generational Transformation, and is based on three interrelated pillars: two long term and one urgent. The first long term pillar focuses on how to enable innovation and youth empowerment by using new technologies like bio-tech, nano-tech and artificial intelligence. These new technologies will continue to develop, so training people in these areas will be a long-term solution in creating new jobs for young people. The second pillar is about finding a framework for an inclusive economic transformation. The third and more urgent pillar is the search for how to best cope with the vast humanitarian crisis in the region. The common thread in all three strands is an optimism that anarchy and sectarian chaos can be defeated.

No big surge in bank #mergers expected in the #GCC

According to analysts, GCC’s banking sector is not expected to see a big surge in mergers and acquisitions. National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD) and First Gulf Bank (FGB) in the UAE recently merged to create the largest bank in the UAE. Masraf Al Rayan, International Bank of Qatar and Barwa Bank are in the due diligence phase of a planned three-way merger that would create the largest Islamic bank in Qatar. Saudi British Bank and Alawwal Bank are discussing a potential merger that would create the third-largest bank in Saudi Arabia. Despite market conditions and numerous rumours, a big surge in mergers is unlikely due to structural impediments. Some countries have only a small number of local banks, which limits competition. This means that profitability has remained solid despite the macroeconomic pressures. Thus, there is no compelling reason for a big number of regional banks to rush into merger deals.

#Takaful industry reports double-digit growth in the #GCC

According to the Global Takaful Report 2017, the Takaful industry has grown in double digits across the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in recent years. Between 2012 and 2015 the GCC markets grew by a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18%. While South East Asia reported a negative growth of 4% due to currency depreciation, Africa reported a CAGR of 19% during the same period. According to Safder Jaffer, Consulting Actuary at Milliman, Saudi Arabia is the largest Takaful market with a gross written contribution (GWC) of $9.7 billion (Dh35.62 billion) in 2015. The Saudi market is dominated by general insurance with limited life insurance business. GCC markets continue to dominate general takaful whereas South East Asia continues to dominate life takaful. In the GCC, family takaful achieved a record growth of 34% in 2015. Global takaful GWC is estimated at $14.9 billion as at the close of 2015. There is strong growth in overall global takaful market in the range of 13 to 14% each year. The split of the family and general takaful market in 2015 is approximately 17% and 83% respectively.

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