Americas

US Senator refutes fake press release targeting Kuveyt-Turk bank

An unknown group of people have purposefully leaked new allegations surrounding the Turkey-based bank Kuveyt-Turk. A press release published on Nov. 19 claimed that US Senator Dick Durbin would hold hearings to investigate two key banking institutions in Kuwait and whether they helped fund terrorism. The press release read that Durbin would target Kuwait Finance House and its subsidiary in Turkey, the Kuveyt-Turk participation bank. A spokesman at Senator Durbin's office flatly denied the report and said it was completely false. The fake report has surfaced amidst an ongoing court case in California against the two banks on the terror funding charges. Kuveyt-Turk's lawyers dismissed the charges by saying the allegations have no merit because banks are not responsible for the allegations. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the allegations over Kuveyt-Turk and Kuwait Finance House were proof of Western double standards.

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Are Contract for Differences #CFD / #Binary Options halal? Well, no. Why?

Many Muslims contacted me in the last years with one single repeating question: Are CFD and/or Binary Options halal meaning permissible in Islam? There are indeed forex brokers offering so called Islamic accounts avoiding outright interest. But still: A contract of difference does not involve the ownership of any underlying (currency, stocks etc.) hence money against money is exchanged in different amounts - this is the most simple test for the prohibited Riba. Any Muslim receiving such offers should therefore insist of receiving the Fatwa and if not provided leave out.

The intention on those trading activities everyone can ask himself; mostly it will be akin to gambling and this on top of the fact that the trading activity itself is a zero sum game; meaning what one wins another looses, which rules out again to participate in such business. It does not do any better that aside from luck the outcome is influenced by know how - the same is true for classical money games as Poker or Backgammon. Still nobody would classify Poker therefore as halal.

Faith-Based Investor Group Calls for Drugmakers to Be Transparent on Pricing

Members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) are asking 17 American drug companies to be more transparent about when and why they raise prices. The investors say rising costs are putting prescription drugs out of reach for many patients. The ICCR hopes the proposals are listed in company proxy statements and put to shareholder votes at annual meetings in spring 2017. Some state legislatures have already introduced bills requiring companies to justify price increases. ICCR member Catherine Rowan hopes they get enough votes to prod companies to adopt pricing-transparency policies. She added that congressional committees have called some pharmaceutical chief executives to testify and the legislative pressures are going to persist.

#Bahrain's Ibdar Bank buys $78M prime #housing complex in Maryland, US

Bahrain-based Ibdar Bank has announced the acquisition of a $78-million multi-family housing property at Montgomery county in Maryland, USA. The area boasts the third-largest commercial downtown in the USA, being home to the headquarters of the White House, World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. Ahmed Al Rayes, acting chief executive of Ibdar Bank, said the acquisition was the Bank's first successful foray into the USA and was aligned with the Bank’s strategy to diversify its international real estate portfolio. Bassam Kameshki, the director of Real Estate at Ibdar, said the Bank has selected a straight forward asset class in a strategic location. The investment holding period will be up to 5 years. Besides real estate, Ibdar Bank is also engaged in private equity, capital markets and investment advisory activities.

Islamic Development Bank may help fund #Guyana’s #housing drive

A visiting team from the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) met Guyana's officials from the Ministry of Communities and the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CHPA) on Friday. Minister of Communities, Ronald Bulkan said the government recognises housing as a major public policy issue. He disclosed that the initial focus is the construction of 5,000 apartment units as part of medium terms plans to deliver 10,000 units to eligible Guyanese. He expressed optimism that components of the housing program will be included in Guyana’s eventual submission to the IsDB. IsDB's Director of Country Programs Department, Mohammad Alsaati, said that the bank was seeking for specific projects that can be undertaken in the near future and will work with the local stakeholders to develop worthwhile business opportunities.

The World Bank-IFSB High-Level Seminar on Islamic Finance Attracts Large and Enthusiastic Audience

More than 100 participants participated in the World Bank-Islamic Financial Services Board (IFSB) High-Level Seminar on Islamic Finance and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on October 6. The Seminar was highlighted by a keynote address by his Royal Highness Muhammadu Sanusi II, the Emir of Kano and former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. The Emir stressed the potential of Islamic finance to mobilise much needed capital to achieve the SDGs. Ms. Arunma Oteh, the Vice President and Treasurer of the World Bank, similarly stressed the importance of Islamic finance as an agent for financial inclusion and for mobilising private investment in infrastructure. The panel discussion examined how countries are increasingly using Islamic finance to support developmental goals, and innovative sukuk structures supporting both physical and social infrastructure.

Religious investors lose faith in Wells Fargo after scandal

A group of nuns and other religiously-affiliated investors have lost faith in Wells Fargo and filed a shareholder resolution calling on the bank to report on a fake accounts scandal that led to a $190 million settlement. The bank employees opened as many as 2 million checking, savings and credit card accounts without the customers' permission in order to meet sales quotas. The San Francisco-based bank said it would provide more specifics on areas like its risk controls, but that did not happen. Wells Fargo's board has taken some steps since the settlement to address concerns, but the religious shareholders now say they need more changes. For instance another resolution filed by the Unitarian Universalist Association calls on Wells Fargo's board to study how to connect executive pay with ethical conduct.

#Suriname grants licence to first Islamic bank in Western Hemisphere

The Central Bank of Suriname has granted the Trust Bank a licence to commence Islamic banking. Trust Bank plans to be in operation by the first quarter of 2017. A year ago, Trust Bank signed an advisory services agreement with the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD), to support its conversion into Islamic compliant operations. CEO of Trust Bank, Maureen Badjoeri said that Trust Bank wants to facilitate SMEs in more ways than just financially. With this approach, SMEs will be able to start-up or expand production of goods and services with a spin-off in job creation, trade, export and adding to GDP growth. With the Trust Bank closer to reality, Suriname may emerge as a hub for Islamic banking and finance in the region.

Elizabeth Warren wants feds to answer for lack of Wall Street prosecutions

Elizabeth Warren wants the FBI and Justice Department to explain why no bankers were prosecuted for the 2008 financial crisis. She wants the agencies to explain why they didn't act on the recommendations from the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission to prosecute top Wall Street executives. The commission was charged with investigating the cause of the 2008 financial meltdown. Warren said the commission recommended actions against 14 Wall Street firms including Citi, Fannie, Merrill and AIG, as well as Freddie Mac, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Credit Suisse, UBS, Societe General, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Moody's, Washington Mutual and Lehman Brothers. Some of those firms reached civil settlements with authorities, but none faced criminal charges.

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Equity finance in form of Merchant Banking in the US under pressure

In the New York Times Deal Book, Professor Steven Davidoff Solomon writes about new steps to disapprove merchant banking by the FED to reduce risk but at high cost. From an Islamic point of view, it just looks like another door for equity investments by the banking sector is about to be shut down, while the contrary makes sense in times of an ongoing debt crisis.

Professor Solomon defines Merchant Banking as ""simply the practice of buying operating companies. The risk to a bank holding company is twofold. First, the bank could lose its money — as with any investment. Or second, it could be held liable for the debts of that company." Already he outlines that "banks are penalized for these investments by having a charge applied to their allowable capital. Second, the bank must sell the investment within 10 years, a period that can be extended by application to 15 years. These investments are monitored heavily these days to ensure they are not unduly risky."

Guidance Residential Hits $4 Billion Milestone in Delivering Islamic #HomeFinancing

Guidance Residential announced that it has reached the $4 Billion milestone in home financing. This $4 Billion threshold is more than the cumulative production of all other providers in the market. Guidance Residential has helped approximately eighteen thousand families to date, buy or refinance their homes. The company has grown into the largest Islamic finance employer in the United States. The workforce is diverse, 20% of the employees are Muslim Americans. Guidance Residential offers home financing products and services for Muslim Americans through their Shariah-compliant, Declining Balance Co-ownership Program.

Creativity Counts: New Approaches Help Religious Borrowers

As religious borrowers are not able to pay interest lenders have found alternatives to help them purchase and keep home. American Finance House LARIBA has worked to finance and refinance non-interest or riba free (RF) faith-based mortgages since 1987. These RF programs consist of the bank first determining whether the value of the property accurately reflects the value of other home prices in the area. LARIBA's finance model is based on renting properties, not money, then it invests in the property by lowering the market monthly rent to make the monthly payment competitive with other banks. LARIBA creates a lien with the customer that will progressively apply rent payments to ownership of the property.

MASIC partners on #Islamic #financing of $219 million New York Condo

Baker & McKenzie advised Mohammed I. Alsubeaei & Sons Investment Company a leading private equity investment company based in Saudi Arabia in a $219 mn dollar Murabaha facility to develop a luxury condominium development. MASIC provided the mezzanine financing for the development project, 45 Park Place, located in New York's TriBeCa neighborhood. The deal highlights the expansion of Islamic financing into the US real estate market.
MASIC partnered with other financial institutions and Soho Properties on the downtown condo project, which is scheduled for completion in 2018. Financiers for the project include Malayan Banking Berhad, London Branch; Intesa Sanpaolo S.p.A.; Warba Bank K.S.C.P.; and MASIC.
Baker & McKenzie partner Mona Dajani said, “This successful financing by MASIC is a milestone transaction in the United States using tiered Shari’ah-compliant facilities for commercial transactions. This transaction aptly demonstrates the increased activity in Islamic financings in the United States which has emerged over the past year.”
The Baker & McKenzie team, led by Ms. Dajani, included partner, Pat McDonald and associates Michael Reed, and Maher Haddad.

World’s leading financial institutions in Hall of Shame for #investments in #cluster munitions producers

From Canada, CI Financial, Manulife Financial, Royal Bank of Canada and Sun Life Financial are also included in the Hall of Shame. Jointly, these Canadian financial institutions invested US$565 million in cluster munitions producers between June 2012 and April 2016.

The report by Dutch peace organisation PAX was released today in Ottawa, together with the Cluster Munition Coalition and Mines Action Canada, to put pressure on Canada and other governments to put an end to these investments.

“It is an absolute outrage that financial institutions are investing billions into companies that produce weapons which are banned under international law”, says Suzanne Oosterwijk, author of the PAX report. “Canada has also banned these weapons. It is time for financial institutions to stop disregarding the international norm with these explosive investments into producers of illegal weapons that maim and kill civilians.”

Islamic finance becomes popular for affordable #housing schemes

Home financing resembling Islamic finance structures is becoming popular to solve the housing affordability crisis in Western countries. Housing cooperatives began using profit-and-risk-sharing schemes modelled after ijara or musharaka to help home buyers purchase properties. In the UK the idea based on the Islamic contract of ijara came up in 2015. The rent-to-own scheme was proposed by the Liberal Democrats party and involves an Islamic bank or another intermediary, who purchases the property for a customer. In Canada various cooperative frameworks are providing home financing loans to members of their cooperatives in a Shariah-compliant manner. In the US the Ijara Community Development provides Shariah-compliant home financing for both US clients and customers in Canada.

Ignorance and fear are big obstacles for Muslim startup founders

The U.S. startup scene has been marked in recent years by an influx of money from venture capitalists. Despite the free-flowing cash, some Muslim entrepreneurs feel they have been excluded, particularly those whose startups focus on the Muslim market. There are fashion startups, food startups, and finance startups. There’s a career website known as Executive Muslim in the works. The Muslim community is diverse, so startups in the market can’t approach consumers with a one-size-fits-all mentality. Many of these companies rely on their networks to promote products, advertising in mosques and online communities. Affinis Labs founder Shahed Amanullah argues that focusing solely on the Muslim consumer isn’t scaleable. If companies appeal to a wider base, everyone wins.

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#Education #Crowdfunding - A direct and effective way of #Giving with #Givology

Dear Reader,

For some time I did private research on crowdfunding and fintech for the social good. Only recently I found the long existing platform givology.org - it allows to donate specifically for education to individual pupils in poorer countries and getting in touch with them! Personally this one of the causes important to me, because it ensures that the funds are being spent on education, and therewith building a future.

My questions to you are the following:

1. Would you donate for education via an internet platform, then you can conveniently check a profile from Somaliland just here:

https://www.givology.org/~tfscholarship/

2. If you are *not* interested to donate now, could you share what exactly, if anything, would make you donate? This would be exetremely helpful and I will share the information with givology.org to find a way to do just that.

3. If you any other ideas please feel free to share them. You can also directly suggest to volunteer: http://www.givology.org/get-involved/

In case you wish to receive further updates on Givology please register your email here: https://www.givology.org/register/

Manhattan tower secures $219m in sharia-compliant financing

Real estate developer Sharif El-Gamal has secured $219 mn in sharia-compliant financing for a luxury condominium tower in New York City. The financing is led by Maybank and Warba Bank, other participants include Intesa Sanpaolo and MASIC, the investment arm of Saudi Arabia’s Al Subeaei family. The financing comes seven years after El-Gamal purchased the property for $4.85 mn with the goal to build a centre for reconciliation between Islam and the west.

Global Consortium of Lenders Led by Maybank and Warba Bank Delivers $219 Million in Construction Financing For Soho Properties' Trophy Condominium Tower at 45 Park Place

New Yorker real estate investor Soho Properties announced it has secured $219 mn in financing for the construction of its Tribeca condominium tower. The announcement was made by Soho Properties' Chairman and CEO, Sharif El-Gamal. The financing is provided by an international syndicate of lenders, with Maybank and Warba Bank serving as joint Lead Arrangers and Intesa Sanpaolo as Documentation Agent. The construction of the 665-foot tall glass and steel tower will commence this summer and will be completed in 2018.

#Guyana officially joins Islamic Development Bank

Guyana officially became the 57th member of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) during the opening ceremony of the bank’s annual meeting in Jakarta. According to the finance ministry press release, this membership allows Guyana access to concessionary resources, grants and interest free loans. Finance minister of Guyana, Winston Jordan, is making his debut appearance in Jakarta personally to witness Guyana’s initiation into the group. Suriname, which is also a member of the Islamic Bank, is represented by its Finance Minister Gilmore Hoefdraad and Deputy Governor, Dr Anwar Lall Mohamed. The private sector is expanding economic ties between Indonesia and Suriname and, with the support of the Islamic Bank, rhetoric is becoming reality.

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