Asia

Windfall for startups? #Saudi Arabia backs new $100 billion tech #fund

Saudi Arabia is joining forces with Japanese telecom firm Softbank (SFTBF) to form a tech investment fund worth as much as $100 billion, making it one of the largest on the planet. Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son said that over the next decade the fund would be the biggest investor in the technology sector. Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund will put up as much as $45 billion of the money, with Softbank throwing in at least $25 billion. Neither partner appears to be deterred by warnings of potential bubbles in the valuations of big startups and established tech companies in the US. Funding for startups has also plunged recently in India. Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia announced an ambitious plan to create a huge sovereign wealth fund that would be worth 7 trillion riyals ($1.9 trillion) by 2030, which would make it by far the biggest in the world.

Regulating #Indonesia’s Buzzing #Fintech Space

The Indonesian Financial Services Authority (OJK) notes that there are currently 71 active fintech startups in the country. These startups provide diverse products and services, including payment gateways, lending, banking services, insurance services, pawn shops, or online financial advisory. This has also led the OJK to pay more attention to the sector, with hopes of developing appropriate regulation. The regulations that will be issued by OJK should not be too rigid, so as to provide a balanced climate. Some regulatory concerns include business licensing, business operation, governance, supervision and inspection, reporting obligations, and equities. All in all, the seriousness of OJK and other relevant parties to provide supportive regulations will hopefully bring strategic action.

Maybank Islamic, CIMB Islamic partake in IILM’s US$1.11bil #sukuk

The International Islamic Liquidity Management Corporation (IILM) has conducted an auction of US$1.11bil (RM4.63bil) three-month tenor sukuk priced at 1.35389% profit rate. The IILM said the 11 primary dealers that participated in the Sukuk offering were Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, Al Baraka Turk, Barwa Bank, Boubyan Bank, CIMB Islamic Bank, Kuwait Finance House, Maybank Islamic, National Bank of Abu Dhabi, Qatar Islamic Bank, Qatar National Bank and Standard Chartered Bank. The IILM Sukuk is rated A-1 by Standard & Poor's Rating Services and the 29th series brings the total cumulative amount of the IILM Sukuk that were issued and reissued to US$21.14bil (RM88.14bil).

Source: 

http://www.thestar.com.my/business/business-news/2016/10/12/maybank-islamic-and-cimb-islamic-partake-in-iilms-us$1pt11bil-sukuk/

SMI to create sharia unit to attract Middle Eastern investors

#Indonesia's state-owned infrastructure financing company Sarana Multi Infrastruktur (SMI) will establish a sharia business unit to meet demand for Islamic infrastructure financing. SMI president Emma Sri Martini said the documentation and legal matters had been completed, but the company had to wait for the appointment of a sharia supervisory board by the government. SMI will inject Rp 500 billion (US$38.42 million) into the business unit. All of the money will come from internal funds. Currently, SMI's assets total Rp 35 trillion. Before year-end, the business unit will structure some sharia products from direct placement to sukuk.

OJK Seeks Islamic Financial Products Growth

In #Indonesia the Financial Service Authority (OJK) is seeking to boost Islamic financial products growth through better access to the financial service industry. According to OJK Commissioner Council member Firdaus Djaelani, better access to financial products will ease service delivery, lead to the affordable price, as well as to other benefits. The market share of Islamic finance in Indonesia is still low at 5.3%. However, Firdaus is optimistic that Islamic finance industry has a huge potential. He believes that people need to participate in enhancing market share of Islamic finance industry, including through engagement in the Islamic Economic Society (MES). The better understanding of Islamic financial products will open up access to financial institutions. Better access for the people and SMEs will also provide a sense of security in financial investment.

APM to establish #sukuk programmes

In #Malaysia APM Automotive Holdings has proposed to establish an Islamic commercial papers (ICP) programme and Islamic medium term notes (IMTN), with a combined nominal value of up to RM1.5 billion. In a bourse filing APM said the ICP and IMTN programmes will have a tenure of seven years and 20 years respectively, from the date of first issue. The proceeds from the issuance of the sukuk murabahah shall be utilised by the company for general corporate purposes and to refinance future financing of APM and its subsidiaries. APM assured that the utilisation of the proceeds of the sukuk murabahah programmes would be at all times for syariah-compliant purposes.

NB: Figure was amended from RM 3 bn to RM 1.5 bn following correction in original source.

MICROFINANCE EVENT: Executive #Forum: Financial Inclusion and Islamic Finance, November 11-16, 2016, Kuala Lumpur, #Malaysia

The Financial Inclusion and Islamic Finance Forum is scheduled to take place in Kuala Lumpur between the 11th and 16th of November. The event is hosted by the IFSB, a Malaysia-based standard-setting organization that issues guiding principles for banking, capital markets and the insurance sectors. The other host is the International Centre for Education in Islamic Finance, a university also based in Malaysia and centered around the Islamic finance industry. The standard fees to attend are USD 1,200 if registering by November 2, 2016, and USD 1,500 if registering after.

2 firms become Shariah compliant

In the #Philippines Golden Haven Memorial Park and Cemex Philippines are now among the Shariah-compliant securities listed locally. Golden Haven and Cemex were among the 56 listed securities that made it to the Shariah list. Chief Operating Officer of the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE), Roel A. Refran, said the PSE continues to provide a list of Shariah-compliant securities to cater to the needs of Islamic investors. He noted that by highlighting listed firms that adhere to the standards of Shariah law, PSE hopes to open investment opportunities in the country to Islamic funds.

This REIT Has An 11% Dividend Yield: Here’s What Investors Should Know About It

Sabana Shariah Compliant REIT is the world’s first real estate investment trust that has adopted the standard of Shari’ah compliance. Sabana REIT currently has a portfolio of 21 industrial buildings that are all found in Singapore. Most of the properties are also located in close proximity to the principal industrial zones in the island, such as Penjuru and Tai Seng. For perspective, the SPDR STI ETF, an exchange-traded fund that mimics the fundamentals of the Straits Times Index, has a yield of 3.2%. In its latest quarterly earnings report Sabana REIT reported a 10.9% year-on-year decline in gross revenue and a 31.1% decline in income available for distribution.

Singapore Based EthisCrowd Recognized as Best Islamic #Crowdfunding Platform

EthisCrowd has been recognized as the Best Islamic Crowdfunding Platform for its social impact real estate campaigns in Indonesia. The Singapore-based platform received the award at the 6th Global Islamic Finance Awards (GIFA) 2016 in Jakarta. EthisCrowd said the inclusion of the crowdfunding category symbolized the growth and adoption of Islamic Crowdfunding. The platform’s community now claims 17,000 registered members who have invested in projects to build 5,000 houses for the needy in Indonesia. Ronald Yusuf Wijaya, EthisCrowd’s head of Indonesian operations, stated that affordable housing projects are commercially viable and can provide excellent returns for the crowd. EthisCrowd uses Mudarabah contracts to formalize rights to profit or revenue sharing for investors, directly with real estate developers and contractors. There is no capital guarantee or fixed interest rates for investors.

Financial inclusion: Collaborative efforts to address poverty

Underprivileged citizens today live in an economy that exposes them to certain risks, like unpredictable incomes and high daily expenses. With around 70% of the population still excluded, Indonesia has taken major leaps to improve the situation. Since the preceding high-level talks in 2010, Bank Indonesia (BI) and the Financial Services Authority (OJK) have focused on how to provide better access to financial services. The disproportional knowledge between the banking industry and the population in general is quite severe, and a product to address the specific needs of the economically active poor and micro entrepreneurs is essential. Moreover, the challenges of financial inclusion do not stop when formal financial services are provided. It goes beyond service provision to educating and empowering the community to understand finance. Financial inclusion cannot be achieved through isolated efforts. Collaboration between private companies, the government and civil society is necessary.

Islamic Finance as a Tool of Chinese Financial Diplomacy

With only roughly 20 million Muslims in #China, it is not surprising that Islamic finance has not taken off in China. However, some Chinese companies have expressed interest in tapping into offshore pools of Islamic funds. For example, HNA Group, the owner of Hainan airlines, is considering Islamic financing options for its proposed US$ 150 million acquisition of ships as well as a large offering of offshore Sukuk. Another example is that of Country Garden, which issued a Malaysian Ringgit 1.5 billion sukuk through its Malaysian subsidiary in December 2015. Chinese interest in Islamic finance can be motivated by the diversification of funding sources as much as financial diplomacy purposes. China’s growing geo-political clout via the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the 'One Belt, One Road' initiative affords new incentives to facilitate the use of Islamic finance.

Why commodity-linked #sukuks should be introduced

A sukuk is a sharia-based hybrid instrument that can have the features of both a conventional debt instrument and of equity. Sharia requires all financial contracts to be rooted in real sector activities. Sukuk has coupons paid at prefixed times in the future. However, the quantum of the coupon is not prefixed, but depends on the performance of the sukuk-issuing enterprise. This ensures that the sukuk holders partake in the risk of the enterprise. A sukuk can be issued for any commodity. The commodity-linked sukuk would not only be a win-win instrument for both investors and issuers, it would also be beneficial to society.

Crowdfunding Islamic Banks

As some areas of banking face competition from peer-to-peer lenders, #Malaysia’s Islamic Financial Services Act 2013 included provisions that can build some of the same types of disruptive innovation into the Islamic banking marketplace. One of the most important was the launch of the Investment Account Platform (IAP) in February 2016 which is a crowdfunding platform owned by Malaysian Islamic banks. The IAP serves as a way to measure customer interest in crowdfunding as an alternative to traditional bank deposits. The investment account growth in Malaysia demonstrates an opportunity for IAP and other innovative FinTech platforms. Islamic banks should realize that they have within their guiding principles a call to embrace risk sharing rather than risk shifting.

RAM Ratings reaffirms Litrak’s RM1.45b #Sukuk

RAM Ratings has reaffirmed the AA2/Stable ratings of Lingkaran Trans Kota’s (Litrak) Sukuk Musharakah IMTN I and II Programmes (2008/2023) with a combined value of up to RM1.45bil. The ratings reflect Lebuhraya Damansara-Puchong’s (LDP) robust traffic profile, underscored by its strategic alignment through major townships, which supports its strong debt-servicing capability. According to RAM Ratings, Litrak will preserve its strong cashflow-generating ability, with an average projected annual pre-financing cashflow of about RM215mil throughout the Sukuk’s tenure. This translates into solid debt coverage, enabling the company to maintain a strong finance service coverage ratio of at least two times over the same period.

Kuwait Finance House strengthens its #Malaysia operations and supports local Halal industry

Kuwait Finance House-Malaysia (KFH-Malaysia) is taking steps towards expanding its operations in Sarawak on top of the two existing branches at present. CEO David Power reinstated KFH's commitment to grow and expand after paying a courtesy call on Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem. He added that there were 15 branches throughout Malaysia since its establishment in 2006, two of them in Sarawak. He noted they were evaluating the performance of the two existing branches first and consider to set up another branch. KFH Malaysia is looking forward to stronger business ties in the state in the long term to provide Islamic financial services and products to the people of Sarawak.

#Malaysia’s leadership in Islamic finance a catalyst for ESG-driven investment

RAM Ratings sees Malaysia’s leadership in Islamic finance as a catalyst for environmental, social and governance (ESG)-driven investment. RAM Ratings CEO Foo Su Yin said for ESG growth the government needs to follow a similar path to that which has led to Malaysia’s leadership position in Islamic finance. PRI managing director Fiona Reynolds said that fiduciary duty remains the biggest barrier to ESG integration. She added that investors and policymakers need to work together to ensure sustainability issues continue to gain traction. There are compelling national-interest reasons for policy makers to promote the incorporation of ESG factors into investment practices in China, Hong Kong, India, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea.

#Malaysia’s transport binge to spur #sukuk sales

Malaysian corporate sukuk sales are rebounding from a four-year low. RHB Investment Bank sees issuance rising 7% to RM60.2bil in 2016, encouraged by Bank Negara’s monetary easing in July. AmInvestment Bank forecasts as much as RM70bil. Sukuk sales have picked up after Najib kicked off US$16bil of road and subway projects this year in partnership with the private sector. This month the Public Sector Home Financing Board sold RM3.4bil of Government-guaranteed Islamic notes, while Lebuhraya Duke Fasa 3 Sdn. offered RM3.64bil of syariah debt to finance a highway in Kuala Lumpur. Fundraising is needed for construction of 1,800km of roads being built in Sabah and Sarawak. Other potential issuers include Prasarana Malaysia, which is financing a RM10bil extension of Kuala Lumpur’s light-rail network.

#Tax waiver needed to boost Islamic finance: Expert

A tax waiver is needed, especially on asset transfers, to make Islamic financing in Indonesia more competitive with conventional financing. According to Qudeer Latif, a partner at law firm Clifford Chance, in the UK and Malaysia, the asset transfer tax is annulled, they categorize the asset transfer in the Islamic financing structure as a financial transaction, rather than a sales and purchase transaction. Another problem, he continued, stemmed from the high building transfer fee, which varied from 5% to 7%. The central government had tried to reduce it to 2.5%, but some regional governments still objected to it. According to the expert, changing the taxation rule will create a level playing field between Islamic and conventional financing.

Gulf sukuk issuance forecast to remain stagnant for months

Corporate and infrastructure sukuk issuance in the Gulf region and Malaysia has continued to stagnate so far this year and this may carry over to the coming quarters, according to S&P Global Ratings. Despite the slump, essential infrastructure funding requirements, low interest rates, and investors' appetite for Islamic assets in their portfolios continue to be supportive for the world's core corporate sukuk markets.

In the GCC, corporate and infrastructure sukuk issuance totalled $2.5 billion in the first eight months of 2016, compared with $2.3 billion for the preceding eight months. Versus the same periods in 2013 and 2014, issues are down sharply from $5 and $6.5 billion, respectively, S&P said.
"Further out, we see possible brighter prospects for issuing corporate and infrastructure sukuk over the medium to long term. We estimate that Gulf government spending on projects alone - including infrastructure contracts awarded over 2016-2019 - could be about $330 billion," said S&P Global Ratings analyst Karim Nassif.

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