Asia

Islamic finance has prominent role in financial #inclusion, says SC chairman

According to Securities Commission Malaysia chairman Datuk Syed Zaid Albar, Islamic finance has a prominent role in helping to address unmet needs of the world's Muslim population. He delivered a keynote speech at the SC-World Bank- IOSCO Asia Pacific Hub Conference 2019 and he underlined that Shariah-based financial contracts could be utilised for financial inclusion. World Bank Group representative to Malaysia and country manager, Dr Firas Raad, said Islamic finance could play a role in addressing the high levels of poverty in Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) countries. Meanwhile, touching on the Malaysian bond, ringgit and equity markets, he said the country's economy has strong fundamentals that could cope with any economic shock that might come its way.

Bank Islam continues to focus on affordable housing segment

Bank Islam Malaysia expects its home financing business model will continue to help the bank to grow and boost its assets. Malaysia’s oldest Islamic lender has been growing organically over the years, despite the crowded market. Bank Islam CEO Mohd Muazzam Mohamed said the bank is already adopting the right model to support this affordable segment. He added that the Islamic bank will continue with its current business model which is in line with the governments’ directive. Bank Islam has already allocated RM300 million to be utilised until 2021 as part of its digitalisation directive. Mohd Muazzam said the bank aims to increase its financing for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) by RM200 million in 2019. The bank also plans to increase its investment fund to RM800 million under its Al-Awfar product, which has been refreshed since its establishment in 2009.

PM: Islamic banking players must invest in technologies

Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said Islamic banking and finance players must be intensely invested in technologies. He said the application of smart technology has positively disrupted the industry, however, the potential disruptions to traditional Islamic finance should not be underestimated. The disruptions can swing both ways. Dr Mahathir delivered his speech at the 15th Kuala Lumpur Islamic Finance Forum 2019. He said that Malaysia had spearheaded a number of innovative developments in Islamic finance, such as the issuance of the first Sustainable and Responsible Investment Sukuk and Green Sukuk, as well as the launch of the Investment Account Platform. He believes that Islamic finance can be a catalyst for the growth of green developments globally.

#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.

BIMB sets aside RM300m for digital roadmap

BIMB Holdings, the parent company of Bank Islam Malaysia, has allocated RM300 million for investment under its three-year (2018-2020) digital roadmap. Bank Islam CEO Mohd Muazzam Mohamed said digital investment was the group's future focus and it already had a few products in the pipeline. He added that the bank's digital journey includes improving customer service touch points and business efficiency through upgrading back-end processes. Mohamed also said the bank currently had 500,000 Internet banking users, which had been doubling annually, supported by the bank's mobile application. BIMB Holdings was incorporated in Malaysia on March 20, 1997 and was listed on the Bursa Malaysia Securities Main Market on Sept 16 in the same year.

#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.

RBI’s efforts to stabilise rupee hit country’s forex reserves, experts say

A strong US dollar and subsequent interventions by the country’s central bank to stabilise the rupee drained over $1.80 billion (Dh6.61 billion) from India’s foreign exchange reserves. Reserves plunged by $1.82 billion during the week ended August 10 to $400.88 billion from $402.70 billion reported one week earlier. According to Anindya Banerjee, deputy vice-president of Kotak Securities, the decline in Forex reserves can be attributed to the RBI’s intervention to stem the decline in rupee’s fall. Foreign currency assets fell sharply, but the value of the country’s gold reserves increased by $145.6 million to $20.69 billion.

World’s first ESG #sukuk #fund another step forward for #Malaysia’s responsible finance

Malaysia’s Shariah-compliant BIMB Investment Management launched the world’s first environmental, social and governance (ESG) sukuk fund on August 1. BIMB’s ESG Sukuk Fund is the company’s fifth ESG-focused fund as a result of its partnership since 2015 with London-based Arabesque Asset Management. BIMB Investment CEO Najmuddin Mohd Lutfi said the company plans to launch more ESG that incorporates fintech like artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data, data analytics. The next investment focus could be in U.S. equity and multi-asset funds.

Which are the Sharia-compliant mutual #fund schemes in #India?

There are three Sharia-compliant mutual funds in India: Tata Ethical, Taurus Ethical and Reliance ETF Shariah BeES. The first two are actively-managed multi-cap schemes and Reliance ETF Sharia BeES is an exchange-traded fund (ETF) that invests in the Nifty50 Sharia Index.
There are also sectoral funds with investment in Reliance Pharma, ICICI Pru Pharma Healthcare & Diagnostics, SBI Technology Opportunities, ICICI Pru Technology or Franklin India Technology. However, these funds are vulnerable to cyclical fluctuations in their respective sector.

Waqfcoin: Crowdfunding Platform Uses Blockchain to Serve Humanity

Singapore-based fintech firm Finterra has developed a crowdfunding platform that uses blockchain to create smart contracts that would be linked to specific Waqf projects. Cash Waqf is a type of Waqf which is categorised as movable Waqf. It aims to promote service to mankind by establishing the endowment using money as opposed to using immovable assets. The idea of Waqfcoin lies on the principles of cash Waqf. Blockchain technology can be used to build trust in Waqf management and to ensure accountability. The technology could also provide a comprehensive global database on Waqf, which can be easily created and maintained in a transparent manner.

Creating footsteps in Kuwait’s Islamic banking sector

Kuwait Finance House (KFH) has embarked on a digital transformation journey. Kuwait and Bahrain have each launched their respective digital banking platforms and soon, Malaysia will have its own. By the end of 2018, a seamless digital customer experience is expected to be publicly available. In Malaysia the KFH is active in the infrastructure financing front, supporting the third light rail transport system (LRT 3) and the second Mass Rapid Transit (MRT 2) projects through the provision of Islamic financing facilities. The project is expected to benefit the local communities through the promotion of real estate developments around the proposed train stations. Furthermore, the project is expected to generate more than 2,000 jobs during the construction phase.

Cagamas issues RM825m 1-year bond and #sukuk

The National Mortgage Corp of Malaysia (Cagamas) has issued a RM825 million 1-year bond and sukuk comprising RM800 million Conventional Medium Term Notes (CMTN) and RM25 million Islamic Medium Term Notes (IMTN). Proceeds will be used to fund the purchase of mortgage and Islamic home loans. With this move the aggregate primary issuance by Cagamas has reached RM9.3 billion for 2018, marking a 24% increase in the company's primary supply as compared to 2017's year-to-date total of RM7.5 billion. Cagamas CEO Datuk Chung Chee Leong said the CMTN issue was concluded via reopening of an existing bond tranche which marked the company's second reopening exercise for the year.

Shariah investments continue growth spurt in SE Asia

According to the latest Cerulli Associates research, Shariah-compliant investments are gaining further ground in Asia. Growth continues to be concentrated in South-East Asia, with Malaysia remaining at the forefront with $28.4bn in Shariah mutual fund assets under management (AUM) in 2017. Last year, Malaysia’s Securities Commission launched a five-year blueprint to grow the sector. Indonesia grew its Shariah mutual fund market by 90% to nearly $2bn in AUM in 2017. Besides allowing Shariah funds to fully invest overseas, market regulator Otoritas Jasa Keuangan (OJK) recently introduced a framework requiring fund managers to carve out dedicated units to manage existing Shariah funds. The Cerulli survey shows that asset managers in the country expect demand for Shariah investments to come mostly from insurers and pensions over the next few years.

Dr M To Deliver Teleconference Address At Sarajevo Halal #Fair

Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has agreed to deliver a keynote address, via teleconferencing, at the three-day Sarajevo Halal Fair. Bosna Bank International's CEO Amer Bukvic announced that the fair would begin on the 27. of September and he invited more Malaysian companies to set up business in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Bukvic added that the country aims to become Europe’s halal hub and they need help from Malaysia. The Sarajevo Halal Fair is jointly organised by Bosna Bank International, Saudi-based Islamic Development Bank and Islamic Development Bank Group Business Forum and supported by Malaysia’s Halal Industry Development Corporation.

Shariah #Fintech – A Case Study of #Indonesia

Fintech has permeated the Islamic banking industry and this development is particularly evident in Indonesia. In July 2018, the country's deputy finance minister Mardiasmo plugged the term "Shariah fintech" in reference to financial technology that is compliant with Islamic laws and beliefs. The market share of Islamic finance remains at less than 5% of the total finance and banking market. There is tremendous potential, but there are some impediments blocking its growth. One is the presumption that certain fintech tools might not be compliant with Shariah law. Cryptocurrency was initially deemed as a violation of Shariah principles. However, in April 2018, Muslim scholar Muhammad Abu-Bakar, released a study exploring the functionalities of Bitcoin, concluding that it did indeed meet the requirements. Indonesia’s OJK (Financial Services Authority) is releasing a new set of regulations to govern the country’s fintech scene, set to come into effect in August 2018. These rules will extend to Shariah-compliant fintech tools as well.

BNM introduces Rahn policy document

Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) has issued the Rahn policy document which is aimed at strengthening the practice among Islamic financial institutions to offer services that are end-to-end Shariah-compliant. BNM stated that the subject matter of the Rahn contract shall be collateral that is recognised by Shariah and Shariah-compliant liability or obligation owing to the pledgee. It added that the collateral must be owned either by the obligor, a third party, or the obligor and a third party. BNM said the collateral shall be immediately possessed by the pledgee upon entering into the Rahn contract unless a pledgee approves a delay in possession. A Rahn contract is applicable with contracts including qard, murabahah, tawarruq, baiinah, istisna, ijarah, kafalah, mudarabah, musyarakah, wakalah bi al-istithmar, and wad as well as takaful coverage.

#Malaysia's use of Islamic bonds to fund deficit credit positive: Moody's

According to Moody's Investor Service, the Malaysian government is increasingly using longer-term Islamic instruments to fund its deficit to lower liquidity risk. The shift toward Islamic financial instruments is seen as credit positive for the sovereign. The Malaysian government has a sizable debt burden currently at 50.8% of the country's gross domestic product (GDP). The Malaysian Government Investment Issues (MGII), local currency, Shariah-compliant debt instruments, accounted for 50% of total federal government financing in 2017, up from a 26.4% share in 2008. The country's active participation in Islamic finance is part of Malaysia's broader vision to position itself as an international center for the instrument, and a recognized goal in the central bank's financial sector master plan.

BIMB Invest eyes RM100m for Shariah-ESG #fund within 1 year

BIMB Invest is expected to achieve a subscription of RM100 million of its BIMB-Arabesque ValueCAP Malaysia Shariah-ESG Equity Fund within a year. The fund was launched together with Arabesque Asset Management and ValueCAP and approved by the Securities Commission Malaysia. As the fund is mainly targeted at corporate and institutional investors, BIMB Invest is hoping to get the likes of pension funds, insurance and takaful firms on board. The fund will invest in about 100 local listed companies that are Shariah-compliant as well as in line with ESG practices. It will analyse the ESG factors of each company using Arabesque’s proprietary methodology, the Arabesque S-Ray, which daily assesses the performance of companies.

How Islamic finance can manage rupiah stability

According to the Jakarta Interbank Spot Dollar Rate, the rupiah dropped to a new low of 14,418 against the US dollar on July 3. In the last few weeks, all emerging markets showed an increase in foreign currency volatility. Since April 2018, there has been capital outflow from the Indonesian bond market amounting to almost US$1.9 billion. Solving this problem can be done in two steps. First, sensitivity to capital outflow must be reduced by reducing dependency toward it. Second, capital inflow is needed that is less sensitive to global externalities. Islamic finance may contribute to financial stability, as all transactions must be asset-backed. The principle of risk-sharing between counterparties will help prevent excessive risk-taking. Islamic finance can also help create rupiah stability through its various sharia-compliant instruments, which could attract global investors.

#Malaysia: BIMB Investment targets RM100m for Shariah equity fund

BIMB Investment is targeting RM100 million in subscription for its newly launched BIMB-Arabesque ValueCAP Malaysia Shariah-ESG Equity Fund. The fund will be invested in 100 local shariah compliant companies listed on Bursa Malaysia. BIMB Investment CEO Najmuddin Mohd Lutfi said the investments would be based on selected companies that have strong financial standing. He said companies who are interested to increase their social responsible investment (SRI) and Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) portfolios should also tap into this fund.

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