Towards the end of this month Bank Muscat is expected to raise OMR23-30 million, which is the first tranche of Meethaq’s OMR100 million-sukuk programme. Meethaq is Bank Muscat’s pioneer Islamic banking window in Oman. The bank has already received an initial approval from stock market regulator Capital Market Authority (CMA). Bank Muscat's Deputy CEO Sulaiman Al Harthy said the sukuk programme starts with a small amount, maybe OMR25-30 million to test the market and see the market appetite. Al Harthy also noted that this year, Islamic financial institutions are expected to grow at a similar rate as seen last year. Meethaq Islamic financing receivables rose to OMR855 million by end-December 2016, compared to OMR635 million in the same period in 2015.
Oman’s Capital Market Authority (CMA) has given provisional approval for two new sukuk issuances of an aggregate size of RO 300 million (around $780 million). CMA President Abdullah bin Salim al Salmi said the proposed issuances underscore the potential and appetite for sharia-compliant finance and investment in the Sultanate. He noted that as of end-June 2016, the value of the sharia-compliant capital market jumped to RO 3.91 billion ($10.16 billion), comprising sharia-compliant shares, investments and sukuk, versus RO 3.24 billion ($8.42 billion) a year earlier, representing an increase of 21.14%. Significant growth has also been witnessed in the Takaful market with premiums reaching RO 41.99 million as of end-2016, up from RO 38.77 million a year earlier, representing an increase of 9.2%.
Bank Nizwa in partnership with Islamic Finance News (IFN) successfully concluded the second ‘Islamic Finance News Forum’. Sharing his expertise in the IFN Debate was Bank Nizwa’s new CEO, Khalid Al Kayed, who discussed the challenges of standardization and increased regulation. The CEO also took part in the closed-door IFN Oman Dialogue session to openly discuss the benefits and concerns facing the Islamic Finance market. Other sessions at the forum looked into the legal and regulatory framework of Islamic Finance, the development of sustainable and efficient Islamic capital markets, capital market activity and economic development, and innovation in Islamic Finance.
#Oman is preparing an international bond sale, as the country seeks to plug a budget deficit caused by low oil prices. The sultanate has sent invitations to banks to arrange the sale of a dollar or Islamic bond and responses are due this week. A fresh sale would be the latest in a series of issues by the oil-producing state. The sultanate sold US$2.5bn worth of bonds in June last year and tapped the bonds for an additional US$1.5bn in September. It was reported to have raised US$1bn from the international loan market last January and will get RO600mn from local debt in 2017. Oman is also seeking to reduce expenditure and from this month will impose new tariffs on its biggest electricity consumers. The state’s budget deficit is estimated by the International Monetary Fund to narrow to 10.3% of gross domestic product this year, from 13.5% in 2016.
Financing portfolio of Alizz Islamic Bank (AIB) reached OMR275.9 million in the third quarter of 2016, registering a growth of 62.4%, compared to the same period last year. Deposits grew by OMR123.4 million from the same period last year representing a growth of 84.7% and net operating income grew by 57.2% from the same period last year to reach OMR6.7million. Due to the increase in income, cost controls and monitoring of financing quality, the net loss of the bank reduced by 19.1% to reach OMR3.4 million. According to CEO Salaam Al Shaksy, the bank achieved stable growth, while maintaining a strong asset quality. Alizz Islamic Bank is one of the first specialised Islamic banks in Oman, that has consolidated its presence within a short period of time.
According to Moody’s Investors Service, Oman and Indonesia have made the most progress this year in terms of taking initiatives to advance Islamic finance. According to Khalid Howladar, global head of Islamic finance at Moody’s, Oman’s strategy has already yielded substantive results and new sukuk regulations have been published. Over three years Oman’s Islamic banking sector has gone from zero to an agregate of around 10% of the banking system’s financing assets as of June 2016. Indonesia has several inititives to accelerate growth. Also, the country launched a 10-year Islamic finance master plan that consists of action plans and interventions covering key aspects. Meanwhile, markets that seem to have stalled this year are the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia.
Amid challenging economic conditions, the Islamic banking sector in Oman achieved significant growth since its start in 2012. The total assets of Islamic banks and windows combined, amounted to RO 2.7 billion as at the end of July 2016 which constituted about 8.5% of the total banking system assets. According to Khalid Howladar, Global Head of Islamic Finance at Moody’s, the growth has been a result of the Omani government’s strategy that has allowed conventional banks to offer Islamic services. Howladar addted that the growth is driven by strong retail demand and proactive government legislation. Across the GCC the Islamic banking sectors have been experiencing growth in their respective market shares with the lone exception of Kuwait.
Qatari Islamic banks’ short-term high quality liquidity assets to cover monthly net cash outflow is comparable to those of their conventional peers and their funding pressures are to some extent mitigated by frequent bonds and sukuks issuance by the government, according to Moody’s, a global credit rating agency.
“In Qatar, the LCRs (liquidity coverage ratios) of Islamic banks are comparable to those of their conventional peers. This situation reflects the absence of sizable retail deposit franchises among the Qatari banks, coupled with heightened systemic liquidity pressures that had led to banks relying more heavily on market funding,” Moody’s said in a report. The funding pressures are mitigated somewhat by the frequent issuance of bonds and sukuk by the Qatari sovereign, a situation, which provides local Islamic banks with the same good access to HQLAs (high quality liquid assets) as their conventional peers, it said.
The rating agency found that five of the six GCC countries are Basel III compliant and have introduced LCRs, namely Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman; only the UAE has yet to adopt a LCR framework for its banks.
Recent regulations on sukuk are helping growth in Oman's Islamic banking sector, with sharia-compliant lenders gaining ground. Growth of Islamic banking is far outstripping that of the conventional banking segment with Islamic banking assets up more than 62% year-on-year (y-o-y) at the end of March. In contrast with the performance of the Islamic segment of the market, assets of conventional commercial banks rose by 9.1% y-o-y to the end of March to OR28.6bn ($74.3bn). The new regulations released by the Capital Market Authority (CMA) in April clarify requirements for issuing sukuk and provide a legal framework. According to Sheikh Abdullah bin Al Salmi, executive president of the CMA, the new regulations are expected to expand the range of investment instruments available in the sector.
The government of Oman sold a $500 million six-year sukuk in a private placement. The profit rate is set at 3.5%, the amount will have to be repaid in three equal instalments after four, five and six years. Oman's first Ijara format five-year sukuk worth RO 200 million ($520 million) was issued in October last year and received strong orders. The government which is facing a widening fiscal deficit has been adopting several measures tide over the falling revenue from lower oil prices. Recently, the government raised a $2.5 billion two-part bond and a $1 billion loan from banks. This was the first international bond issue in two decades by the Sultanate.
After the publication of Oman's new Sukuk Regulations on 5 April 2016 new listing categories have been introduced on the Muscat Securities Market (MSM). The Capital Market Authority (CMA) introduces a new "Bond and Sukuk Market" on the MSM. The CMA intends to have existing and future bonds and Sukuks listed on the MSM to be placed into this new category. A number of other new categories also being introduced, such as "Under Monitoring Market" and a "Rights Issue Market".
Several Omani private firms are keen to raise funds by way of sukuk after Mohammed Al Barwani Holding received approval for a OMR58 million-issue. The companies interested in issuing sukuk can avail tax concession if the special purpose vehicle for sukuk issue is registered in Oman and the issue is floated in the local market. Mohammed Al Barwani Holding's sukuk issue opened subscription on Monday either in Omani rial or dollar. So far, Oman witnessed only two sukuk issues that raised a total of OMR300 million, OMR50 million from real estate development firm Tilal Development Company and the other one a OMR250 million sovereign sukuk issue.
Capital Market Authority of Oman (CMA Oman) recently issued new sukuk regulations that aim to provide clarity and transparency to market players, while providing protection to investors in sukuk transactions. At the forefront of the historical initiative is Kemal Rizadi Arbi, a Malaysian who is an adviser at CMA Oman as well as a member of the Oman government’s sukuk committee. “It is to be noted that not all jurisdictions have specific and separate sukuk regulations, particularly in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, with many just having a conventional bond regulatory framework with some additions made on the syariah requirements. “In addition, it has been drafted to provide flexibilities and spur innovation in the market, among others introducing a new trust regulation and structure and allowing the issuance of a sukuk programme,” said Kemal in an email to Business Times recently.
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.
Islamic financial institutions in Oman are expected to achieve a healthy growth in the banking sector in the near future, said Dr Jamil El Jaroudi, chief executive officer of Bank Nizwa. He also said that Bank Nizwa will open new branches in the Sultanate by the end of the year. The bank was able to reach breakeven in December after three years of operations. In order to reach more potential clients, a mobile branch will travel all-around the Sultanate offering a host of products, services and also make the people aware on the benefits of Islamic banking. The truck’s journey will start from the governorate of Muscat, moving on to Dakhiliyah, Al Sharqiya, Dhofar, Al Batinah and Al Buraimi.
Oman’s market watchdog Capital Market Authority (CMA) has announced its new sukuk regulation, which includes stipulation on establishing a trustee structure and an LLC company as a special purpose vehicle for issuing sukuk. The regulation, which is effective from Wednesday, also allows structure of the sukuk subject to the approval of respective Sharia Supervisory Board issuer and the choice of the board is left to the issuer. The regulation made rating optional for the issuer and there is no restriction on the sukuk amount to be raised based on the company’s capital. The regulation will complement the existing bond regulatory framework.
Delhi-based Transworld Consultants, a company specialising in laws in the Gulf states, has come out with an English version of the New Islamic Insurance Law of Oman. According to the Chief Executive Officer of Transworld Consultants, Syed Saami Mahmood, the new 58-article Law provides that the companies conducting the Takaful insurance business have to be listed on the Muscat Securities Market with a capital of RO 10 million and above. Mahmood said that the Law does not permit traditional underwriters to open Takaful insurance windows, making it mandatory for a company interested in doing the Takaful insurance in Oman to devote itself exclusively to the Islamic insurance business.
Meethaq organised a series of meetings to highlight the role of Islamic finance in the economic development of Oman. The Shua’a initiative by Meethaq to raise awareness on Islamic economics was attended by members of the Majlis Ash’shura Economic Committee. A similar meeting held in the Higher Judicial Institute in Nizwa was attended by scholars, researchers, entrepreneurs and students. The meetings addressed by senior Meethaq officials covered a wide gamut of areas, including savings account, asset management and project finance. Meethaq is focused on developing as a benchmark Islamic financial institution in Oman and the region.
Oman’s Islamic financial institutions are showing robust growth with the value of gross assets touching OMR2.25 billion by the end of 2015, accounting for a 7.45 per cent market share of the total banking industry, said Hamoud Sangour Al Zadjali, executive president of the Central Bank of Oman (CBO). Islamic banks and window operations are expected to ramp up this market share to 10 per cent of the entire banking industry by 2018. The CBO chief said gross finance had also grown to touch OMR1.78 billion by 2015-end, indicating a market share of 8.86 per cent. All these achievements were reported within a short span of about three years, despite teething problems faced by these institutions.
Several companies in Oman, including a real estate developer, are planning to issue sukuk or Islamic debt instrument. A real estate company has already approached the market regulator Capital Market Authority for floating a sukuk issue for its second phase development, said Abdullah Salim Al Salmi, executive president of the Capital Market Authority (CMA). However, he declined to name the real estate company that is trying to raise funds by way of a sukuk issue. Al Salmi said that the banks may face liquidity problem and the financial institutions have to issue either sukuk or bond for raising funds to avoid an asset-liability mismatch.