Arabian Business

#UAE Central Bank warns against #Bitcoin

The UAE Central Bank has warned against Bitcoin, terming it as unofficial and lacking sufficient supervision. According to Governor Mubarak Rashed Al Mansouri, it can be easily used in money laundering and in funding terror activities. Al Mansouri also said the central bank has completed the formation of a committee for developing Islamic Sharia-compliant products in order to support the Islamic finance sector. On the level of the UAE financial exposure to global capital markets, the governor said local markets have a slight exposure as the existing liquid assets now account for 17% of the banking sector's total assets. He added that UAE banks are robust enough to deal with risks as they have sufficient capital on account of the rising level of individual deposits.

#Saudi #insurers soar after decision to allow women to drive

Investors in Saudi Arabia are betting insurance stocks will be key beneficiaries from allowing women to drive. An index composed of 33 insurance stocks rose the most in three months. The Company for Cooperative Insurance, or Tawuniya, increased the most in seven months, other beneficiaries include Al Rajhi Takaful and Walla. The announcement to allow women to drive is one of the most dramatic moves in the government’s bid to open up society. Accroding to Jaap Meijer, head of research at Arqaam Capital, the number of cars in Saudi Arabia is likely to increase at least 20% in the next ten years as a result of the decision. He added that the increase is expected to be gradual. Net loss ratios on female drivers is likely to be lower than for men, as empirical evidence suggests that women are in fact safer drivers than men.

Why #green #Sukuk could be a key growth driver for Islamic finance

Islamic finance is exploring green bonds in order to develop Sharia-compliant financial products to invest in climate change solutions. Green Sukuk are Sharia-compliant investments in renewable energy and other environmental assets. Over $30bn worth of green bonds were issued in the second quarter of 2017. Issuance from emerging markets has jumped from $2.3bn to $9.2bn year-on-year versus 16% a year ago. Malaysia has the opportunity and ambition to be a leader in this space on the premise that Malaysia is already a leader in Islamic finance. Another active player on this front is the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which launched the Green Finance and Investment Support Scheme to promote green projects. Green Sukuk is a good model to finance sustainable infrastructure as well as help bridge the gap between conventional and Islamic finance. The most important challenge for Sukuk is gaining acceptance by international investors due to lack of standardisation and legal enforceability risk. Other challenges of green Sukuk include investor’s awareness, demand for energy supply, government support and demand for energy financing.

Dana Gas bid to void #debt stuns analysts who question motive

The gas producer's decision to declare its own Shariah-compliant bonds unlawful has baffled investors all over the world. Sharjah-based Dana Gas said it no longer considered its two Islamic bonds totalling $700 million issued four years ago as Shariah compliant under UAE law. The move comes after Dana Gas announced plans in May to restructure the debt. The company is owed about $1 billion from Egypt and the self-governed Kurdish region in northern Iraq. Dana Gas plans to replace the current sukuk with four-year bonds paying less than half of the current profit rates and without a conversion feature. The Sharjah Federal Court of First Instance has issued an injunction while it considers Dana Gas’s application. Dana Gas said it won’t pay its next two profit distributions on July 31 and Oct. 31, and that they will be accounted for as part of the new instrument.

#Bahrain’s sovereign wealth fund is back on track

Mahmood Hashim Al Kooheji, the head of Bahrain’s sovereign wealth fund, Mumtalakat, is intent on brokering safe, considered deals that yield long-term growth. The wealth fund is taking an increased interest in the comparatively stable sectors of healthcare, education and industry. As evidence of this strategy, Mumtalakat last year took an undisclosed equity stake in Italian healthcare firm KOS Group. In October 2015, Mumtalakat took a majority stake in UAE-based GEMS Education as part of an investment group that included US private equity firm Blackstone. Al Kooheji expects another deal to be reached next year to launch GEMS schools in Bahrain. He also points out that Mumtalakat announced six new deals in 2016, a significant number for a small fund. According to Al Kooheji, Mumtalakat is now truly diversifed in the GCC, US, UK and Europe and this will continue in the future.

No #mergers likely in #UAE’s Islamic banking industry, says Noor Bank CEO

Noor Bank CEO Hussain Al Qemzi has ruled out possibilities of any possible mergers in the UAE’s Islamic banks. The last merger is between First Gulf Bank and National Bank of Abu Dhabi, expected to complete by end of first quarter 2017. The merged entity is likely to create one of the largest banks in the Middle East and Africa, with assets of $175 billion (AED642bn). Al Qemzi said Islamic banks need innovation to integrate and position themselves to offer value and a better choice for Muslim and non-Muslim customers in order to grow. The CEO said a shortage of Sharia scholars was also impeding growth of the Islamic finance industry with many institutions in the country sharing advisors.

Dubai's Emirates Islamic Bank prices $250m #sukuk tap

Dubai-based Emirates Islamic Bank has priced a $250 million tap of an existing Islamic bond issued in May. The tap was priced at 170 basis points over midswaps, the order book was worth $706 million. The 'new' deal is a copy of an existing bond with the same terms and conditions. Emirates Islamic's tap came off a $750 million five-year sukuk issued on May 23. That deal was priced at 220 bps over midswaps and carried a coupon of 3.542 percent. Chief Executive Jamal bin Ghalaita said the cash would support the bank's long-term growth and development plans. The new offering was arranged by Bank ABC, Dubai Islamic Bank, EMCAP and Standard Chartered.

QNB hackers behind data breach at Sharjah bank

Hackers have leaked files online containing data on thousands of customers of Sharjah-based Investbank UAE. The files were stolen last December when an individual tried to blackmail the bank for $3 million. When the bank refused to pay, the hacker threatened to dump the stolen files online, yet they never appeared. Security expert Mohammad Amin Hasbini warned that the hackers are going to release data from a second attack. According to Softpedia, the hacker group is Bozkurtlar, the same group that claimed responsibility for the Qatar National Bank data breach two weeks ago.

Can Abu Dhabi's new financial free zone compete?

Abu Dhabi’s new financial centre has been running for six months but the corridors still feel quiet. Almost 200 people have been hired to work for Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) since its inception in 2013 but they are nowhere to be seen. Commentators have warned that ADGM’s established neighbour the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) could prevent it from flourishing, and argued it is unwise to locate two financial centres in such close proximity.

Creditor sale brings Dubai's Limitless to brink of debt plan deal

Dubai-based property developer Limitless is set to complete a drawn-out debt restructuring after the final dissenting creditor sold its share of the company's 4.45 billion dirhams ($1.2 billion) debt. New York-based Stonehill Capital Management sold its debt in the state-controlled company, worth around $15 million at face value, to Dubai Islamic Bank, an existing creditor and one of the members of the creditor committee. They declined to say at what price the debt was bought.

Bahrain's Arcapita acquires $100m logistics park in Dubai

Global investment management firm Arcapita has acquired a logistics park in Dubai for a total transaction value of approximately $100 million.The investment comprises nine freehold plots of land in the Al Quoz Industrial area covering an area of approximately 630,000 square feet, located next to Al Khail Road. The site will consist of 10 completed warehousing facilities that will be under a long term master lease with a UAE conglomerate. Martin Tan, Arcapita’s chief investment officer, expects Dubai’s logistics market to experience growth, driven by its geographical location and legislation.

Dubai Islamic Bank lists $500m sukuk on Nasdaq Dubai

Dubai Islamic Bank (DIB) has listed its latest sukuk worth $500 million on Nasdaq Dubai, bringing the bank’s total sukuk listings on the region’s international exchange to $3.25 billion. Following a total of seven sukuk listings this year by regional and international issuers, the total value of sukuk currently listed in Dubai has reached $42.61 billion, the largest amount of any listing centre in the world, underlining the rapid expansion of Dubai as a global capital of the Islamic Economy. Given the challenging market conditions, it was critical to have a strong credit come in and successfully close a deal, said Dr Adnan Chilwan, group CEO, DIB.

Bahrain's Nogaholding secures $570 million Islamic loan

Nogaholding, the holding company for oil and gas assets owned by the government of Bahrain, signed to obtain a five-year, $570 million murabaha financing facility. The Islamic funding will support investment in a number of large oil and gas projects in the kingdom, including the BAPCO Modernisation Programme, a liquefied natural gas import terminal, and the Bahrain Gas Plant Project. The facility is provided by 10 international, regional and local institutions: Arab Banking Corp, Ahli United Bank, Arab Petroleum Investments Corp, Gulf International Bank, National Bank of Bahrain, Qatar Islamic Bank, Kuwait Finance House, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, BNP Paribas and HSBC.

Chairman, board member said to leave Bahrain's First Energy Bank

The chairman of Bahrain-based First Energy Bank, Khadem al-Qubaisi, and board member Mohamed al-Husseiny have reportedly left the bank, with a new chairman to be appointed shortly, after approval by the central bank of Bahrain. Al Qubaisi was one of the most prominent executives in the United Arab Emirates until the UAE energy minister replaced him as managing director of state-owned International Petroleum Investment Co last April. Husseiny was replaced as chief executive of Aabar last year after holding that post since 2010. Unlisted First Energy Bank reported a net loss of $375.2 million for 2015.

Saudi national carrier seeks $1.3bn sukuk to expand fleet

National carrier Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia) is seeking to raise 5 billion riyals ($1.3 billion) via the first tranche of a sukuk isuance programme in the second or third quarter of this year, its director-general Saleh al-Jasser said. The funds will be used to finance fleet expansion, as the carrier aims to operate 200 aircraft by 2020. Details of the second tranche of the sukuk programme have not been determined, he added. The airline has been spinning off units in the last several years; it is now preparing documentation to hive off its cargo unit in an initial public offer of shares, Jasser said without giving details.

Kuwait's Investment Dar airs new $2.7bn debt plan with creditors

Kuwaiti financial firm Investment Dar has begun talks with creditors about a new 813 million dinar ($2.7 billion) debt restructuring plan after a court threw out an earlier attempt. Investment Dar, whose main assets are in finance and property, has made several efforts to pay off creditors after getting heavily indebted during the financial crisis. Its most recent plan, dubbed Dasman, failed last month when Kuwait's Court of Appeal rejected an application under the country's financial stability law to impose it on all creditors. This resulted in a company-organised creditor meeting on Tuesday, attended by around half of its roughly 80 creditors. It was reported that both sides agreed to discuss a fresh restructuring deal, which could be proposed to creditors in the coming weeks.

The world according to billionaire Mo Ibrahim

During a one-hour interview on the balcony of his suite at the Palazzo Versace hotel along Dubai Creek, Ibrahim calls for a change in the incommensurate philanthropic culture among wealthy Muslims in the Gulf, blames GCC government’s favourable policies for the “laziness” of Middle Eastern investors in Africa and argues there have been more commendable leaders in Africa than in the West in the past decade. Brazen or simply unwilling to rose-tint his opinions, the Sudanese businessman who founded African telecommunications company Celtel in 1998 is more than anyone else in the world holding African leaders to account. Since 2000, the annual Ibrahim Index of African Governance has provided the most comprehensive assessment of African governments’ performances.

Qatar's largest Islamic bank eyes 8-10% growth in 2016

Qatar's largest sharia-compliant bank Masraf Al Rayan is expected to post annual profit growth of between 8 and 10 percent in 2016, Chairman Hussain Ali al-Abdulla said at the bank's annual general meeting. Masraf Al Rayan reported last month a 3.6 percent rise in full-year net profit in 2015 to 2.07 billion riyals, although its fourth-quarter earnings dipped slightly. Abdulla said the bank had no plans to issue sukuk this year as there was no need for additional liquidity. Falling liquidity is expected to be one of the main issues facing banks in the Gulf region in 2016, as governments remove cash on deposit to help replace lost revenue from lower hydrocarbon prices.

Dr. Adnan Chilwan, Group CEO of Dubai Islamic Bank: Dubai is leading the revolution in Islamic banking

Looking to 2016 and beyond, innovation will continue to be critical for the ongoing development of the Islamic finance industry. For instance, efficiency can still be improved as Sharia-compliant institutions still lag behind their conventional counterparts, and are increasingly looking to embrace technological innovation in order to minimise operational costs as well as project a modern face of banking that would appeal to a younger generation of customers, which will be critical for ongoing growth. Another area of development is the Islamic asset management sector, as the range of services available remains quite limited and there is a general lack of quality products in this space.

UAE's Islamic banks to outperform conventional rivals in 2015

The UAE's Islamic finance sector has continued to outpace the UAE's conventional banking sector's growth in 2015, according to ratings agency Fitch. The agency said in a statement that it expects demand for UAE Islamic banks' lending to continue to grow, supported by wider acceptance and an expanding customer base. Fitch added that Islamic banks have managed to reduce exposure to the real estate sector, which was historically higher than for conventional banks. Moreover, UAE Islamic banks will benefit from the central bank's decision this year to include sharia-compliant securities in the range of instruments it accepts as collateral for accessing liquidity.

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