Asia

Asia ripe for Islamic finance as #fintech comes to the fore

According to Zahid ur Rehman Khokher, secretary-general of the Islamic Financial Services Board (IFSB), the growth potential of Islamic finance in the Asian market is much bigger than might be expected. He emphasized the developing role of fintech within the sector and the IFSB's role in setting standards. He noted the importance of Islamic microfinance in addressing issues of financial inclusion and improving participation in the financial sector. With the range of new services that are emerging, Zahid feels that capacity building is the biggest challenge at the moment. He feels there is a need for developing human resources and appropriate expertise within central banks, Shariah boards, as well as in commercial financial institutions.

Scope of #waqf in #Malaysia should be expanded

The scope of waqf funds need to be expanded in Malaysia beyond the traditional norms of building mosques and Muslim cemeteries. Bank Rakyat chairman Tan Sri Shukry Mohd Salleh said the waqf funds can be fully utilised in other programmes. Cash waqf, he added, had been identified as one of the major tools that could resolve poverty issues in Malaysia. In order to eradicate poverty, Shukry said waqf funds should be distributed within four key sectors, namely health, education, economic development and financial assistance for small enterprises. He also said that even though a lot of waqf efforts have been made, the waqf collection system needs to be streamlined and improved professionally.

Social Islami Bank faces ‘hostile’ takeover

After the top level management of Islami Bank Bangladesh Ltd (IBBL) was removed in January, a similar series of drastic changes takes place in Social Islami Bank Ltd (SIBL). SIBL Chairman Rezaul Haque and Executive Committee Chairman Md Anisul Hoque were replaced by Prof Anwarul Azim Arif and Belal Ahmed. The Managing Director of SIBL, Shahid Hossain, has also stepped down and been replaced by Quazi Osman Ali. The decision to remove the top three of the senior management and the announcement on their replacements was made at a closed door meeting of the bank’s board of directors. The changes are allegedly being backed by Chittagong-based S Alam Group that bought up shares of both banks prior to the takeover.

The ‘flexible’ Shariah practice of Islamic banking in #Bangladesh

Islamic banking in Bangladesh is taking shape rapidly with partial practice of Shariah. Islamic banking was first introduced in Bangladesh in 1983 by foreign investors from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Currently, eight full-fledged Islamic banks are operating with 1,068 branches in the country. Moreover, 19 Islamic banking branches of nine commercial banks and 25 Islamic banking windows of eight commercial banks are also providing Islamic financial services. According to Md Yasin Ali, professor of Bangladesh Institute of Bank Management (BIBM), most of the Islamic Banks in Bangladesh are not Shariah compliant. Currently, there is no proper regulatory framework for strict monitoring of Islamic banking. The Islamic banks in Bangladesh have been facing excess liquidity problem, which is depriving them of being financiers in public projects.

Issuance of P50-billion Marawi #bond proposed

The #Philippines House of Representatives has approved the government’s plan of tapping the bond market to finance the reconstruction of Marawi City. Ben P. Evardone said the Bureau of Treasury should pursue the issuance of a P50-billion 'Marawi Bond' considering the low interest rates prevailing in the market. By tapping the bond market to finance Marawi’s reconstruction, the lawmaker said this will free up a huge part of the regular budget for government’s other programs. According to Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno, the government would allocate P15 billion to Marawi City in the next two years. He also added the tax settlement paid by Mighty Corp. and Philippine Airlines would be used to finance the rehabilitation of the war-torn city.

#Malaysia's #Green Islamic #Sukuk funds green tech projects

Malaysia has the potential for green financing 130 potential projects comprising 111 renewable energy (RE) projects and 19 energy efficiency (EE) projects that are worth about RM1.9 billion and RM248 million. Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili said the country was on the right path to be the world leader in green investment. Maximus said Malaysia was leading the world in green investment through the introduction of Green Islamic SRI (Sustainable and Responsible Investment) Sukuk. This year Malaysia issued the Green Islamic SRI Sukuk amounting RM250 million for solar project to Tadau Energy and RM1 billion for Quantum Solar Park Malaysia. The recently launched Green Technology Master Plan 2017 (GTMP) is aimed to create a low carbon economy. Maximus also said Malaysia was committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emission intensity of its Gross Domestic Product by up to 45% by year 2030 in accordance with the Paris Agreement.

SIBL wants to invest $2mllion in overseas private equity fund

#Bangladesh-based Social Islami Bank Limited (SIBL) plans to invest $2 million in a real estate-based private equity fund managed by the Islamic Development Bank (IDB). The bank plans to buy 200 shares of Awqaf Properties Investment Fund (APIF) for $10,000 each. A 2% stake in the fund will be enough to give SIBL a seat on the APIF board. SIBL claimed that participating in the APIF equity would benefit it in various ways. It would optimise the facilities delivered to Awqaf customers and enhance the returns to investors. According to SIBL managing director Shahid Hossain, SIBL will get 90% of net income per certificate apart from yearly dividend. The secretary of Financial Institutions Division, Eunusur Rahman, said they would place a proposal before the Cabinet committee on Economic Affairs to allow local companies invest abroad after discussions with the Finance Minister.

#Bangladesh’s Islamic finance market in need for proper regulation

Bangladesh has a burgeoning Islamic finance industry focused on the retail market, but there is no comprehensive legal framework for the sector. Bangladesh has 8 Islamic banks and 15 non-Islamic banks that offer Islamic-banking services through Islamic windows. Currently, the Islamic finance sector in the country is led by Islami Bank Bangladesh which manages around 90% of Islamic-banking assets and deposits. Takaful is also growing in popularity. Bangladesh currently has 11 companies for both the life and non-life takaful market at a combined asset base of close to $1bn and a market share of 17%. The central bank has been working for considerable time on an industry-wide regulation to expand beyond retail banking. At present there are no regulations for sukuk issuances even though there would be huge market for both sovereign and corporate sukuk. Other challenges than the absence of comprehensive regulations are a lack of service diversification and a lack of a skilled workforce.

MITI approves RM1.6b under shariah-compliant #SME financing scheme

The #Malaysian Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) has approved funding totalling RM1.595 billion under the Shariah-compliant SME (Small and Medium Enterprises) Financing Scheme. Deputy Minister Datuk Ahmad Maslan said since the scheme was started in 2012, 1,181 applications had been received but only 971 applications had been approved. He added that the scheme would be administered by 13 participating Islamic banking institutions and the Federal government would bear 2.0% of the profit rate. The rebate is specifically to assist the SMEs which carry out business activities in all Shariah-compliant sectors. Ahmad said in Penang some RM112.6 million had been approved to-date to 76 SMEs which were Shariah-compliant.

IFSB #Engagement #Session with the #Indonesian Islamic Finance Stakeholders

The Islamic Financial Services Board (IFSB), Bank Indonesia and the Financial Services Authority of Indonesia (OJK) organised an Industry Engagement Session. The event was entitled "The Global Islamic Finance Industry and the IFSB" and took place on 2 October in Jakarta. Anwar Bashori, Head of Islamic Finance at Bank Indonesia, shared his optimism that there is strong potential for further growth of this sector in Indonesia. He also touched on the importance of Halal tourism and food industry, and the various challenges and opportunities related to Fintech. In the panel discussion Prof. Volker Nienhaus commented on the emerging trend which is expected to enhance financial inclusion through the greater use of fintech. Ahmad Buchori shared the current issues of Islamic finance in Indonesia. Dr. Rifki Ismal’s presentation focused on developing the Islamic social sector to enhance the Indonesian economy. The session ended with discussions between the participants, where the industry players reaffirmed the important role of regulators. There was a request for more platforms to address and discuss key issues and concerns of the Islamic finance players.

Al Rajhi Bank eyes Asean #expansion

Al Rajhi Bank #Malaysia outgoing chairman Datuk Seri Dr Nik Norzrul said his successor would continue with the plan to expand the bank’s operation, targeting neighbouring markets like Singapore and Indonesia. Nik Norzrul has been with Al Rajhi Bank since the bank established its wholly-owned subsidiary in Malaysia in 2006. He has been a board member of Al Rajhi Bank Malaysia since 2006 and its chairman since 2015. Today the bank has assets worth a total of RM9bil, compared with RM291mil in 2006. In the retail segment, the bank continues to see growth in the demand for current account/savings account services. In the corporate segment, Nik Norzrul said Al Rajhi Bank Malaysia was working on strengthening its presence targeting owner-led enterprises as well as SMEs.

PHL infrastructure program to benefit from #Islamic #bond market —HSBC

According to the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC), #Philippines infrastructure can benefit from the Islamic bond market. HSBC Philippines President Wick Veloso stated that Islamic finance can be a good infrastructure investment vehicle for developing economies such as the Philippines. Earlier this year, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said the government plans to venture into the panda bond market and Sukuk debt papers. The Philippines intends to spend over P8 trillion on infrastructure and the bulk will be financed through tax revenue. For its part, the cental bank is advocating for the Islamic Banking Act which will effectively allow Islamic Banks to function.

Danajamin an unsung hero of Islamic capital market

In #Malaysia Danajamin is of national importance because of its role to ensure continued flow of credit in the financial system. It contributes to the democratisation of the capital market by giving financial guarantee insurance to companies that are raising funds from the market through the issuance of bonds and sukuk. Danajamin has provided credit enhancement guarantees for RM9 billion bond/sukuk programmes issued by 31 Malaysian companies across various sectors. These include guaranteeing sukuk issuances to finance the West Coast Expressway Project, connecting the west coast of the peninsula from Banting, Selangor, to Taiping, Perak. Recently, Danajamin has become the first financial guarantee insurer in the world to issue its own sukuk. The agency issued its maiden Tier II Subordinated RM500 million Sukuk Murabahah, with a tenure of 10 years and priced at a yield of 4.8% per annum on Oct 6. The demand from investors was so encouraging that Danajamin decided to upsize the issuance from an initial RM300 million to RM500 million.

#Malaysia is Perfect ‘Test Bed’ for #FinTech Development: Central Bank

Malaysia’s central bank said that the country is the ideal test bed for developing financial technology (fintech) solutions. Marzunisham Omar, assistant governor at Bank Negara Malaysia, explained that the growth of the sector has provided innovative opportunities within the financial industry. While the country’s central bank is keen to push a fintech agenda, its position on digital currencies is not as clear. Bank Negara governor Muhammad bin Ibrahim said that a blanket ban on cryptocurrencies was not out of the question. The bank is currently developing guidelines for them. Either way, by the end of the year, the bank is expected to reveal its position on the cryptocurrency market.

#Malaysia to issue more #green #sukuk for infra projects

Malaysia will issue more green sukuk to finance environmental-friendly infrastructure projects. Energy and Green Technology Minister Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Johnity Ongkili said the government was confident it would achieve its renewable energy generation target of 7,200 megawatts (MW) by 2020. The solar energy will contribute 2,080MW to it. In July this year, Malaysia issued the world’s first green sukuk, RM250 million Sustainable Responsible Investment (SRI) sukuk, to finance the construction of an LSS project in Kudat, Sabah. Quantum Solar announced the world’s largest green SRI sukuk issuance of RM1 billion recently. The projects are expected to create up to 3,000 jobs, generate electricity for up to 93,000 households and reduce carbon emissions by 210,000 tonnes annually.

IBs want property lending rule scrapped

Investment banks (IBs) want Bank Negara Malaysia to withdraw the property lending guideline, which was introduced in 1997. It stipulates that a bank’s credit facilities should not exceed 20% of its total outstanding loan base. Compliance with this requirement is calculated on a quarterly basis. For IBs, the guideline mainly affects their underwriting business. They think the guideline is outdated, especially since there are already other macroprudential measures introduced by Bank Negara in recent years. The Malaysian Investment Banking Association (MIBA) had highlighted the issues affecting the industry to Bank Negara. It is understood that the central bank is currently reviewing the guideline.

Danajamin issues RM500m tier-2 subordinated #sukuk

#Malaysian Danajamin Nasional has issued its inaugural RM500 million, tier-2 subordinated sukuk. It is part of a RM2 billion of senior and subordinated Sukuk Murabahah facility. The subordinated sukuk has a tenure of 10 years and is rated AA1 by RAM Rating Services and AA+ by the Malaysian Rating Corporation. The inaugural issue was oversubscribed, receiving a response of about RM800 million from a diverse range of investors. Danajamin CEO Mohamed Nazri Omar said that a total of 16 investors participated in the inaugural issuance and the sukuk achieved a yield of 4.80%. The issuance also sees Danajamin strengthening its regulatory capital level, enabling it to continue meeting its developmental mandate to stimulate the sukuk market.

Responsible Investing: Shariah-compliant #microfinance investment fund eyeing Asean opportunities

Investing in microfinance institutions (MFIs) has become increasingly popular in the last decade. According to a 2016 report, microfinance investment vehicles (MIVs) have seen capital inflows of US$1.1 billion per year since 2006. The market size at end-2015 was US$11 billion, a fivefold increase from US$2.1 billion in 2006. While MIVs usually target countries in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, the report points out that Asia has witnessed the largest growth in this respect. Matthew Martin, founder of microfinance investment fund Blossom Finance, points out that microfinance can better serve the needs of communities than the top-down, one-size-fits-all model of retail banking. The fund is currently limited to US accredited investors due to legal issues, but Martin hopes to open it up to other investors too. Blossom Finance only invests in shariah-compliant MFIs specifically focused on Indonesia.

SC and ISRA publish textbook on "#Sukuk: Principles and Practices"

In #Malaysia the Securities Commission (SC) and The International Shari’ah Research Academy for Islamic Finance (ISRA) have released a joint publication on "Sukuk: Principles & Practices". The textbook was launched by His Royal Highness Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah. The new textbook focuses on the theories and practices governing sukuk across various jurisdictions while adopting a global perspective. Is serves as a source of reference to academicians, students and practitioners to gain greater understanding on sukuk. Recently, Malaysia witnessed the issuance of the world’s first green sukuk under SC’s Sustainable & Responsible Investment (SRI) Sukuk framework. This affirmed the country’s position as a leading Islamic finance marketplace and centre for sustainable finance.

Etiqa, ethics and #insurtech

Insurance technology or insurtech strives to innovate the insurance business of risk management. As a subset of fintech, insurtech uses big data to form a precise risk profile of the subject that is being covered. According to Maybank Ageas CEO Kamaludin Ahmad, one example is the telematics system in vehicle-monitoring. He said the intended market would include logistics companies, delivery companies and even small-medium enterprises with only three to five vehicles. Kamaludin believes insurtech can be sold and will be beneficial to people. However, it requires a change of mindset. Maybank Ageas and its household brand Etiqa Takaful are dominating the market share, capturing over half the total insurance and takaful market. Some argue that the size of the Maybank-Etiqa insurance is too big, to the extent of being deemed a monopoly. Kamaludin thinks Maybank is far from monopolising anything, the focus is not on pushing sales, but on being the best in the sector.

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