Americas

#Suriname's Trust Bank to convert to #Islamicbanking by year-end

Suriname's Trust Bank plans to complete a conversion of its operations to Islamic banking by the end of this year, becoming the first full-fledged Islamic bank in South America. CEO Maureen Badjoeri said the bank aims to expand financing to small businesses and build stronger commercial links with Muslim countries. The advisor of the coversion is the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD), which may also take a strategic stake in the bank after the transition is completed.

Canada: The next hub of Islamic finance?

Janet Ecker, president and CEO of the Toronto Financial Services Alliance said Canada’s stable financial market and risk management expertise, coupled with a large and growing Muslim population and an openness to the world, enables Canada to become the North American hub for Islamic finance. Just over one million people identified as Muslim on the most recent household survey in 2011, and that number is expected to grow to around three million by 2030. Muslims represented 3.2 percent of the Canadian population in 2011, up from 2 percent a decade earlier.

UNO professor wins Islamic finance prize

University of New Orleans finance professor M. Kabir Hassan has won the IDB Prize in Islamic Banking & Finance from the Islamic Development Bank.The prize is awarded for outstanding merit in the fields of Islamic economics, banking and finance. Hassan will receive an award of about $47,000. He will be presented with the prize at the IDB board of governors’ annual meeting May 15-19 in Jakarta, Indonesia, where he will also deliver a lecture on his research in Islamic finance.

United States Tops Philanthropic Giving According to the 2016 BNP Paribas Individual Philanthropy Index

According to the fourth annual BNP Paribas Individual Philanthropy Index by Forbes Insights, the United States remains the leader globally in personal philanthropy. Europe comes in as a close second, followed by Asia, with the Middle East achieving the sharpest increase in philanthropic giving. Almost all countries were focused on Health as the top area of philanthropic giving (United States at 60%), while Asia as a region chose Environment.

First Sukuk issued under United States law by University Bank

The U.S. dollar-denominated Shariah compliant perpetual sukuk issuance is believed to be the first sukuk to be included within the Additional Tier 1 capital resources of a bank in the United States. Linklaters LLP has advised University Bank on its sukuk issuance in the United States. This is believed to be the first sukuk to be governed by the laws of the United States, in this case, the laws of the State of New York. The sukuk is limited to an annual profit rate of 5.75% and has no maturity date. University Bank, a subsidiary of University Bancorp Inc., is a community bank which specialises in Islamic banking and mortgage subservicing for the credit union industry.

Too important to fail—addressing the humanitarian financing gap

UN study paper on the humanitarian financing gap.

Excerpt:
"The world today spends around US$ 25 billion to provide life-saving assistance to 125 million people devastated by wars and natural disasters. While this amount is twelve times greater than fifteen years ago, never before has generosity been so insufficient. Over the last years conflicts and natural disasters have led to fast-growing numbers of people in need and a funding gap for humanitarian action of an estimated US$ 15 billion. This is a lot of money, but not out of reach for a world producing US$ 78 trillion of annual GDP.

Islamic Bank and Malaysian investments to increase Suriname agriculture exports

The Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) and Mardi Holdings of Malaysia are interested in investing in the agriculture sector of Suriname, according to the CEO of Mardi, Anas Nasrudin, who met with farmers in Suriname this week. The Islamic Bank and Mardi Holdings are seeking joint ventures in agriculture and food production. Besides rice, they have shown an interest in herbal products, coconut, pineapple, and the palm oil industries of Suriname. Mardi Holdings and the Islamic Bank will assist Suriname to tap the Hallal market globally, assisting in standardisation, accreditation, certification and adoption of the Hallal industry.

Faith-Based Insurance Pools for Healthcare: A Better Alternative?

As healthcare insurance in the US has skyrocketed, despite passage of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act in 2010, many Americans are turning to a new/old solution: mutualized self-help. Many Christian groups in the US are forming their own unregulated insurance pools to pay the medical bills of their members. This trend raises some fascinating questions about state/corporate bureaucracies vs. social commons. Religious faith is a big part of these expense-sharing plans. The plans themselves often reflect religious moral judgments: no medical payments for injuries caused by driving drunk, for example, or for sexually transmitted diseases contracted via an extramarital affair. Such conditions make these expense-sharing plans unacceptable to most secular consumers.

Bahraini banks acquire key US real estate portfolio

A consortium of Bahrain-based lenders Venture Capital Bank (VC Bank) and Seera Investment Bank has acquired a major real estate portfolio consisting of two multifamily residential assets in Atlanta (US) comprising 866 units. This marks the consortium’s first investment in the US multifamily sector and has been in co-operation with a local partner that has experience in the management and operation of multifamily residential assets. Atlanta remains a hot favourite among global investors, thanks to the large number of Fortune 500 companies that are headquartered there. It is also the fourth biggest city with headquartered Fortune 500 companies after New York City, Houston, and Dallas.

Call for Papers: Global Donors Forum, Istanbul May 2016, 24-25

Resetting Priorities - Redefining Roles

Five years ago, the Global Donors Forum was convened in Dubai to take on a challenging task: to define the roadmap for Muslim giving into the next decade. As a growing network of philanthropists, grantmaking foundations and socially responsible corporations, the Forum lead a consultative dialogue among the thought leaders from which, it was hoped, a new social compact could emerge.

Half a decade on, with the world having changed dramatically as events in the Middle East would attest, the Global Donors Forum 2016, has a new set of issues to focus upon. Foremost among these is the need to rigorously analyse the past decade in order to ascertain how best to formulate strategies to counter emerging challenges. The GDF 2016 will, therefore, attempt to set new priorities as it looks to redefine the role of philanthropy, with a focus on the Muslim world in a radically changed global landscape.

Basic income: New life for an old idea

A combination of economic uncertainty and political possibility is giving new life to an old policy idea: basic income. In Ottawa, a federal MP is pushing for government research on the subject. Ontario's provincial budget announced a pilot program to try it out. In Quebec, a cabinet minister has been assigned to study the topic. Basic income is capturing political imaginations in Canada. Also known as guaranteed minimum income, universal income, guaranteed annual income, or a negative income tax, basic income is a social policy that would supplant various welfare programs by providing a baseline amount of money to all citizens, regardless of whether they work or meet a means test.

Islamic mutual fund increases social impact with trade finance investments

Azzad Asset Management today announced that it has further magnified the social impact of its flagship mutual fund by adding investments in ethical trade finance deals. These investments may provide returns for investors while helping underserved populations in Asia and Africa obtain reasonable financing to grow businesses and cooperatives. The Azzad Wise Capital Fund (WISEX) invests primarily in sukuk and community development banks. Through WISEX, the Virginia-based investment firm is participating in a group of syndicated ethical trade finance deals arranged by the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC). The ITFC is charged with advancing trade and improving the economic conditions of people around the world.

Guyana to join Islamic Bank by mid-year

Guyana, which joined the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in 1998, but not the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), an organ of that group, will finally join the bank by mid-year according to Finance Minister Winston Jordan. Since Guyana is now a low-middle-income country, it cannot easily access concessionary loans from traditional lenders, and this is one reason why Guyana will join 56 other countries that are members of the IsDB. The IsDB now wants to market its product in the Caribbean and, with Guyana now poised to join, the bank will open an office in a Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country.

US sends mixed message to Europe on Iran sanctions

Since reaching the nuclear agreement that lifted economic sanctions on Iran, President Barack Obama has pledged to continue to punish foreign companies that do business with the regime’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. In theory, this will chill European investment in Iran because the IRGC, along with its front businesses, controls major portions of Iran’s economy in vital sectors such as oil, construction and banking. But despite recent reports of billions of dollars worth of new European investment in Iran, the US Treasury Department has seen no evidence that European companies are conducting transactions with the IRGC. Many sanctions experts question whether this is really possible.

Islamic finance continues to grow in the British Virgin Islands

The British Virgin Islands remains the most popular international financial centre for incorporating companies due to its tax neutrality, political stability and flexible legal system based on English common law. It is a ready-made platform for the needs of the Islamic finance market. As the Islamic finance market grows and matures, international financial centres such as the British Virgin Islands are being used to facilitate the structuring of Islamic finance products and transactions such and the incorporation of investment funds and corporate structures. There is likely to be an increase in Islamic asset managers using the BVI. In addition, there will likely be a continual increase in Islamic financial institutions and investors using BVI companies in Islamic finance structures such as musharakah and murabaha.

Armour Group Invests in Cobalt, Shariah Compliant Re/Insurance Provider

London-based Cobalt Insurance Holdings Ltd. has announced a strategic investment by Armour Group Holdings Ltd., the Bermuda-based diversified insurance group. Financial considerations were not disclosed. The strategy of Armour focuses on niche operations in the re/insurance and asset management sectors. Armour’s operations include underwriting operations, re/insurance companies, asset management companies and specialist service companies. The investment coincides with additions to the board of Cobalt of former Lloyd’s Chairman Max Taylor as chairman, and Sean Dalton of Armour as a non-executive director. John Turner, chairman of Aon Risk Solutions (UK & Americas), and former Brit Insurance Group CFO Andrew Baddeley also join the board in non-executive capacities.

Arcapita acquires $85m real estate portfolio

Arcapita has partnered with Morningstar Senior Living for senior living communities based in Colorado worth $85 million. The current portfolio for Arcapita consists of three projects for assisted living and care communities and provides a total of 196 units and 243 licensed beds in the Denver and Colorado Springs, Colorado. The focus on the state is to attract customers who are in the company’s target age demographic. The target age group for senior living facilities in Colorado is projected to grow by almost twice the national average over the next five years, stated Martin Tan, Arcapita’s chief investment officer.

How Muslims in the U.S. Follow the Islamic Financial System

Thousands of Muslims in Chicago use the Islamic finance system while also using traditional banks and conventional financing structures. Cynthia Shawamareh, Islamic law and finance lecturer at the University of Chicago, described how Muslims in the U.S. find it more challenging to follow faith-based financing. Some Muslims in the U.S. obey the Shariah-based financial system with different workarounds to process their economic operations under the purview of Islamic finance while still operating in mainstream American financial systems. The Devon Bank initiated a Shariah-based financing alternative for its Chicago customers in 2003, creating a system of residential mortgage and commercial leasing options that are Shariah-compliant.

Warba Bank acquires equipment leasing portfolio in United States

Kuwait's Warba Bank has announced the acquisition of equipment leasing portfolio managed by ATEL Capital Group, an independent equipment lessor based in the United States of America. As part of the transaction, the Bank has initially invested US$8.2 million in a diversified portfolio of Operating leases comprising of high-quality low-tech low-obsolescence mission-critical equipment leased to investment grade corporations in United States. Established in San Francisco, California, in 1977, ATEL has originated and managed over $2 billion of equipment leased to primarily investment grade US corporations. Over the last three decades, ATEL has built a reputation as one of the largest independent equipment leasing enterprises in the United States.

Canada ready for Islamic banking: report

Islamic banking is being touted as the next big thing for Canada's financial services sector, but experts say it's up to the new federal government to demonstrate that it welcomes Shariah-compliant investments. The Canadian government must signal that, in fact, it is open to Islamic finance. They could do so either by issuing sukuk — Islamic bonds — or by making a public statement. A study released earlier this month by the Toronto Financial Services Alliance and Thomson Reuters says Canada has a number of advantages — including a growing Muslim population, a stable banking system and a favourable regulatory environment — that make it well positioned to become a North American hub for Islamic banking.

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