Gulf Times

Islamic finance a main pillar for the Islamic digital economy

Muslim countries are increasingly working on establishing an ecosystem called "inclusive Islamic digital economy."
Such a concept aims at combining the core sectors of what today constitutes the digital economy under Shariah compliance, besides Islamic finance and investment products, also e-commerce, food, transportation and logistics, the sharing economy, as well as lifestyle, travel and entertainment. Forecasts say that the global Islamic digital economy will reach an estimated value of $277bn as of 2020. This data suggests that the Islamic digital economy is going to be a huge opportunity for businesses in the future and cannot be ignored by any market player. In Islamic finance, micro-financing, co-investment platforms and online investment advisory are currently the most prevalent services. However, there is still accumulated demand for online incubation funds and start-up financing, including Islamic crowd funding.

HBKU’s College of Islamic Studies calls for research papers

The College of Islamic Studies at Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU) has announced a Call for Papers for its International Conference on Islamic Finance and Circular Economy. The conference is jointly organised with the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) Authority and will take place from December 3-5 in Doha. During the three-day conference, attendees will examine the emergence of a circular economic paradigm in recent years, exploring the means, processes and incentives to learn from nature and to minimise waste. Scholars are invited to submit their papers on topics such as: Circular Economy: An Islamic Perspective; Circular Economy: Concepts, Models - Challenges and Opportunities; Circular Economy and Islamic Finance; Circular Economy: Urban Innovative Actions and Design; and Transition to Circular Economy: Case Studies. Both Arabic and English manuscripts will be accepted.

Islamic Finance Centre opens in #Kazakhstan

Qatar's Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU), Al-Farabi Kazakh National University, and Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC) have opened an Islamic Finance Centre (IFC) in Kazakhstan. The opening ceremony was attended by HBKU president Dr Ahmad M Hasnah, along with the rector of Al-Farabi University, Dr Galym Mutanov, and AIFC board vice chairman Yernur Rysmagambetov. The IFC is equipped with the most advanced technological tools offering training programmes with the aim of becoming a research hub and educational cluster in Islamic finance. HBKU's College of Islamic Studies (CIS) will support this centre and the two institutions will be working on student exchange programmes, joint conferences, and mutual research projects.

#Sukuk remains a key vehicle for infrastructure financing in Asia

Sukuk remains an important segment in Islamic finance in Asia where they are preferentially used to fund large public or private infrastructure or combined public-private projects. Recent estimates by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) have put the infrastructure financing needs of developing Asian economies at $22.6tn from now up to 2030, which equates to $1.7tn per year. Looking back, more than ten Asian countries issued a total of $73.1bn in infrastructure sukuk between 2002 and the end of 2015. Malaysia’s ongoing Economic Transformation Programme is expected to accelerate the issuance of Infrastructure sukuk. In addition, China’s Asia-wide Belt and Road Initiative has created a business case for Islamic funding. The Philippines and Indonesia are both seeking to use sukuk for badly needed infrastructure improvements. Kazakhstan and more Central Asian countries are expected to follow.

#Qatari issuers raise $19.97bn, lead GCC bonds and #sukuk market in H1

According to a recent report by Kuwait Financial Centre, Qatari issuers led the GCC aggregate bonds and sukuk market in the first half of this year, raising a total of $19.97bn. The report stated that the aggregate primary issuance of bonds and sukuk by GCC entities, including central banks’ local issuances, GCC sovereign and corporate issuances, totalled $95.25bn in H1, 2018, which represents a 9.64% increase on H1, 2017. Qatar raised $12bn and Kuwait was the only GCC sovereign entity not tapping the international bond markets in H1, 2018. Conventional issuances raised $50.17bn, or 80.19%, of the total amount raised in GCC bonds and sukuk market during H1, 2018. Sukuk raised $12.39bn, 30.84% lower compared to $17.93bn raised in H1, 2017 and represented a share of 19.81% of the market in H1 2018.

#Indonesia’s Bank Mandiri is on track to list its Islamic finance unit in 2020

Indonesia’s Bank Mandiri plans to list its Islamic finance unit Mandiri Syariah in 2020. According to Mandiri’s president Kartika Wirjoatmodjo, the Islamic bank is seeing 16% to 17% growth in savings, triple the pace of conventional banks. Indonesian authorities are nudging commercial banks to widen the pool of Shariah-compliant products for the nation’s more than 260mn people and the government is aiding the efforts by selling sovereign sukuk. With assets of about 93tn rupiah ($6.4bn), Mandiri Syariah is Indonesia’s largest Islamic finance company. Wirjoatmodjo expects the pool to top 100tn rupiah by the end of this year. Total assets at Indonesian Shariah banks were 426tn rupiah at the end of May, compared with 7,673tn rupiah for conventional banks.

Common Shariah norms for Islamic finance still remain a tricky issue

Shariah governance and regulations in Islamic finance remain a diverse topic despite countless initiatives to set a common international framework. There are different approaches towards establishing unified standards. Another issue is that Islamic scholars are often of different opinion on a subject, owing to different interpretations of Islamic laws. In countries with more liberal interpretations of Shariah rules such as Malaysia or Turkey, economic factors will be given more weight at the cost of Shariah principles, which can lead to a conflict of interest. Countries with comprehensive guidelines on Shariah banking are Sudan, Indonesia and Malaysia. Oman, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nigeria also have regulatory bodies and common guidelines. The UAE, Kuwait and Qatar are practising self-regulation of Islamic financial institutions. All this makes a common regulatory structure on Shariah compliance an extremely tricky issue.

A new term is born: Shariah #fintech, and it has quite some potential

#Indonesia’s Deputy Finance Minister Mardiasmo said at the third Annual Islamic Finance Conference that fintech will play an important role in Islamic finance. Shariah fintech is a new buzzword to describe the venture of financial technology into Islamic finance. The status quo is that few Islamic banks have been open to adapt new technologies, but many scholars in Shariah boards are challenged in this particular case of progress meeting tradition. The result is that not Islamic banks are the drivers for Shariah fintech, but startups, entrepreneurs and inventive enterprises. In Indonesia online microfinance services are part of this new wave of Shariah fintech. Some Shariah fintech startups are focusing on agri-finance platforms, Islamic crowdfunding, peer-to-peer lending and mobile payment applications, while others are developing blockchain solutions for Islamic finance services, automated halal investment, trading platforms and robo-advisers.

East Africa rides the Islamic finance train; #Uganda next to join

Countries in East Africa are increasingly joining the Islamic finance industry as their Muslim population grows and demand for Shariah-compliant banking and finance rises. In Ethiopia the central bank is planning to develop Islamic finance in order to improve financial inclusion, while Somalia’s central bank has given licences to six Islamic Banks and two takaful companies. Both Tanzania and Kenya have recognised the potential of Islamic finance, in Rwanda Islamic finance made its debut in 2016 with an Islamic microfinance Institution. Only Burundi, South Sudan and Eritrea don’t have ambitions to set up Islamic banks. The latest regional entrant in the Islamic finance sector is Uganda. Finance minister Patrick Ocailap said that a framework for the implementation of Islamic banking in the country has been developed and will be operational by October 2018.

Islamic finance feels heat from $700mn Dana saga

Global standards are likely to become more explicit and a shift to centralised regulation may accelerate after Dana Gas reached a conditional deal with creditors on its contested $700mn sukuk issue. Dana shook the industry last June, saying it would not redeem its sukuk on maturity. It proposed swapping them for new sukuk with lower profit rates. The original sukuk used a mudaraba structure, which Dana said had fallen into disuse. Investors have been worried by the prospect of other issuers avoiding redeeming their sukuk by saying conditions have changed. According to Akram Laldin, deputy chairman of the Malaysian central bank, the Dana saga had strengthened the case for setting up centralised bodies that could approve Islamic contracts and rule on disputes. The Dana case appears to mean the end of the old mudaraba sukuk structure, criticised as un-Islamic by some scholars due to features such as guarantees on principal and fixed returns.

Asia’s Islamic finance industry growing stronger by the year

The Malaysia International Islamic Finance Center (MIFC) published in cooperation with the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD) the latest report entitled “Islamic finance in Asia: Reaching new heights”. According to the report, Asia’s Islamic finance assets registered an annual growth of 8.4% between 2011 and 2016 and stood at $528.7bn, or 26% of the world’s Shariah-compliant financial assets, at the end of 2017. Furthermore, Asia has grown to the largest market for sukuk. $52.3bn or 52.5% of all newly issued sukuk came from Asia in 2017, with most notable contributors being Hong Kong, Indonesia and Pakistan. The region also has a global market share of 60.7% of sukuk outstanding and is market leader in Islamic funds. The report states that Malaysia, Bangladesh, Brunei and Indonesia are currently among the most developed Islamic banking jurisdictions in Asia.

The rise of Muslim #Millennials and what it means for Islamic finance

Millennials are the generational demographic bracket following Generation X, which was a more consumerist, independent-minded age cohort. In the Muslim world, the Arab Spring, the Global Recession and other developments like dropping oil prices had major impact on this generation. A study by credit card firm Visa showed that Millennials make up the fastest-growing consumer segment in the GCC region. Visa estimates that Millennials in the UAE will receive an average income of $40,000 annually by 2019 which naturally makes them an important customer segment for banks. Millennials are generally savvy with digital technologies and the sharing economy. They have a more liberal approach to economics, which means that they are generally not brand-loyal but rather look for the best deal. Muslim Millennials are truly asserting their needs in Islamic finance, as they do in halal travel, food, media and fashion. For Islamic banks, this means that laggards will lose out on this very important customer segment, if they do not invest in their digital banking solutions.

World's largest single country Islamic ETF launched on QSE

#Qatar launched the world's largest single country Islamic exchange traded fund (ETF). Al Rayan Qatar ETF (QATR), sponsored by Masraf Al Rayan, is planning to create more units to meet the increasing demand. The QATR is listed on the Qatar Stock Exchange and seeks to track the performance of the QE Al Rayan Islamic Index to provide investors diversified exposure to Qatari equities. The open-ended fund, with initial assets of $120mn, is three times larger than any other ETF in Qatar and Gulf region and has pegged total expense ratio at 0.5% of net asset value, which is considered to be the lowest for any single country ETF in the region. According to Al Rayan's chief investment officer Haithem Katerji, QATR is perfect for investors seeking diversified exposure to Shariah-compliant Qatari stocks with the simplicity and efficiency of buying just one share.

Islamic trade finance has much more potential

The main precondition for Islamic trade finance to increase its presence in Islamic finance is a closer co-operation between banks and businesses. Experts say Islamic trade finance needs to be developed with instruments that allow better control of risks related to trade partners or countries. The Bahrain-based International Islamic Financial Market (IIFM) started a cooperation with the Washington-based Bankers Association for Finance and Trade to create an industry standard, a so-called master risk participation agreement. This standard is expected to create transparent market practices and contribute to an increase of the trade finance business on a Shariah-compliant basis. Bank Negara Malaysia is also pushing for Islamic trade financing to support 10% of the country’s total trade up to 2020. The bank is currently consulting initiatives which could include blockchain-based trade finance solutions, e-commerce and providing trade credit takaful to mitigate trade risks.

#Retakaful sector remains embattled playground for Islamic finance

According to insurance rating firm A.M. Best, retakaful is faced with a challenging environment in a highly competitive reinsurance market. The analysts took a close look at the global retakaful market and found that new companies entered the market, but their success has been limited. Mahesh Mistry, senior director of analytics at A.M. Best, says that companies have limited access to quality business, predominantly resulting from the underperformance of the primary takaful sector. Current leading players in the retakaful market are Malaysia’s ACR Retakaful and Malaysian Reinsurance, Emirates Retakaful, Saudi Reinsurance Company, Dubai’s Takaful Re Limited and Tunisia’s BEST Re, as well as Islamic windows of conventional insurers. It is estimated that the entire business volume does not exceed $1bn in gross written premiums, while the global reinsurance market was valued at close to $600bn at the end of last year. The standalone retakaful model may be under threat over the long term, unless it is repositioned to add additional value to the reinsurance market

#Qatar Islamic #Insurance posts gain in gross written premium to QR316.6mn in 2017

Qatar Islamic Insurance has reported more than 1% year-on-year rise in gross written contribution (premium) of QR316.6mn in 2017. The company’s earnings-per-share was QR4.13 compared to QR4.23 a year ago. The policyholders’ surplus registered more than 100% growth to QR16.2mn in 2017 compared to QR7.9mn in the previous year. Chairman Sheikh Abdulla bin Thani al-Thani said the company would distribute, for the eighth consecutive year, 20% surplus to all the eligible policyholders for 2017. The management of Qatar Islamic Insurance achieved these results despite a very challenging environment in 2017 due to negative impact of low oil prices on national economy.

Al Rayan Bank #UK’s £250mn #sukuk priced at 80 bps over 3-month Libor

Al Rayan Bank UK has priced its £250mn Islamic bond "Tolkien Funding Sukuk No 1" at 80 basis points over three-month Libor (London Inter-bank Offered Rate). The transaction is secured by a portfolio of prime UK, first-charge, owner-occupied, home purchase plans, originated by Al Rayan Bank. The sterling-denominated sukuk has an expected called weighted average life of three years. Proceeds raised from the sukuk issuance would be used by Al Rayan Bank to fund further growth in its asset book, which has increased by more than 23% over the last 12 months. Such residential mortgage backed securities (RMBS) are relatively rare in Islamic finance. The bank believes that there would be more opportunities to issue sukuk in the future and a higher potential for other Islamic banks to tap into the RMBS market.

Islamic finance assets seen at $3.8tn by 2022

The Islamic finance industry is climbing to new heights on the back of strong global demand for sustainable and socially responsible investments. According to the fifth edition of the Islamic Finance Development Report and Indicator, the growth of the industry is unabated despite an economic slowdown caused by the decrease in oil revenues. The report is the result of a joint research made by Thomson Reuters and the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD). Mustafa Adil, Head of Islamic Finance at Thomson Reuters, says that Islamic finance can serve as a strategic tool for policymakers to cope with the slowdown, especially in the Middle East. The report estimates that the Islamic finance industry will reach a global asset volume of $3.8tn by 2022, up from $2.2tn at the end of 2016, which translates into an expected compound annual growth rate of 9.5%. The leading country remains Malaysia and the leading region the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

Global #takaful market to gain traction as consolidation sets in

The global takaful industry is expected grow significantly thanks to consolidation and regulatory improvement in some countries. The December 2017 acquisition of Al Hilal Takaful by Takaful Emarat in the UAE has attracted international attention for the market potential of Islamic insurance, but also the obvious necessity for consolidation. In the UAE there are no less than 34 domestic and 27 foreign conventional and Islamic insurance companies touting for a customer pool of just 10.5mn people. Saudi Arabia’s insurance market is also largely fragmented, with 33 listed takaful operators competing against each other. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Oman and Qatar already introduced new regulations specific to the takaful industry, while Kuwait has a new insurance law draft. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is the largest market for takaful industry, the second-largest chunk is mainly spread over Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei. The future potential of takaful in the GCC is certainly driven by the reduction of state benefits which increases demand for products such as life and health insurance.

#Emirates said to seek $1bn #sukuk to diversify funding

Dubai's Emirates airline plans to raise as much as $1bn through sukuk before higher US interest rates push up borrowing costs. A spokeswoman said the company was constantly seeking diverse sources of funding, including bank finance, operating leases, Islamic financing, sukuk and bonds. Governments in the Gulf oil-exporting countries borrowed from international bond markets at a record pace in 2017 as they sought to cover budget deficits worsened by low oil prices. Saudi Arabia raised $21.5bn through sukuk and other bonds, followed by Abu Dhabi’s $10bn issue and Kuwait’s $8bn fundraising. Emirates raised $913mn through a sukuk issue with a 10-year lifespan in 2015. Proceeds funded the acquisition of four Airbus A380-800s, the world’s largest passenger aircraft. Airbus recently questioned the future of the A380, in case Emirates does not place a crucial order for new airplanes.

Syndicate content