Asia

Noor Bank collaborates with Unionpay international to launch EMVCo QR-based mobile payment solution

Noor Bank has partnered with UnionPay International to inaugurate the bank’s EMVCo QR-based mobile payment service that allows consumers in the UAE to make instant and secure payments on the go. Customers and merchants across the country can now leverage UnionPay QR code scanning for all their payments. The launch ceremony was attended by Han Wang, General Manager-Middle East of UnionPay International, and John Iossifidis, CEO of Noor Bank. In the UAE, UnionPay is accepted nationwide both on POS terminals and ATM machines, acceptance rate is 100% and more than 60% on POS terminals for the UnionPay card and QuickPass. The new solution is expected to create wider acceptance and increase the number of current QR-code-enabled merchants in the country by end-2019.

Beijing’s Belt and Road plans could boost the Islamic banking sector

China’s Belt and Road Initiative is expected to spur further development in Islamic finance around the world. Many of the countries along the infrastructure belt are home to predominantly Muslim populations, including Central Asian countries such as Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. The China-headquartered Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank had already signed a memorandum of understanding with the Islamic Development Bank to collaborate on various areas including Islamic finance development. Sukuk issuance had grown strongly in 2017, but Chinese issuers have actually pulled away since then. That’s been attributed to the complexities involved, particularly as standards differ across regulatory regimes with varying interpretations of Sharia compliance. Still, financial links between China and the Middle East continue to grow. The relationships have increasingly moved from just trade partnerships to joint ventures.

#Indonesia raises 8 trln rupiah from Islamic bonds auction, matches target

Indonesia raised 8 trillion rupiah ($561.01 million) in a biweekly Islamic bond auction on Tuesday. According to the financing and risk management office at the finance ministry, the sukuk issuance matched the indicative target. The weighted average yields of project-based sukuk sold on Tuesday were lower compared with yields of comparable sukuk at the previous auction on Aug. 6. Total incoming bids were 21.4 trillion rupiah. ($1 = 14,260.0000 rupiah)

McKinsey Issues Warning Shot Over ‘Ominous’ Signs of an Asian Debt Crisis

Global consulting firm McKinsey is warning that signs of an Asian debt crisis are "ominous". Increased indebtedness, stresses in repaying borrowing, lender vulnerabilities and shadow banking practices are some of the concerns. McKinsey examined the balance sheets of more than 23,000 companies across eleven Asia-Pacific countries, and found firms in most of Asia face "significant stress" in servicing debt obligations. In countries such as China and India, those pressures have risen since 2007, while falling sharply in the U.S. and U.K. during the same period. Since 1997, financial regulators have put in place safeguards to prohibit a repeat of the crisis that engulfed Asian nations. Potential triggers of a crisis that need to be monitored include defaults in repayment of debt, liquidity mismatches, and large fluctuations in exchange rates, according to McKinsey.

Why is #Singapore so far behind #Malaysia on responsible investing?

On numerous fronts, Singapore outcompetes its regional rival Malaysia. But in terms of the sustainability of their capital markets, Malaysia trumps Singapore in responsible investing. Malaysian asset managers are more confident than their Singaporean counterparts that responsible investments will outperform regular investments. A recent Bloomberg study shows that 67% of Malaysia’s investment community believes that portfolios underpinned by environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors will perform as well as or better than regular investments. In Singapore it is 58%. The survey also found that a quarter of asset managers in Malaysia had developed their own internal ESG scoring models, compared with just 13% in Singapore. Large Malaysian asset owners are signatories to the UN Principles for Responsible Investment, whereas Singapore’s big investors are not.

#Takaful Ikhlas, CIMB Islamic target RM168m contribution from tie-up

Takaful Ikhlas and CIMB Islamic Bank are targeting to achieve RM168 million in gross contribution from their newly forged strategic bancatakaful partnership. The two groups expect the partnership to grow by 11% every year for the next five years. The partnership is aimed at providing general takaful solutions to the bank’s customers across retail, small and medium enterprises, as well as commercial segments. CIMB Islamic will leverage on Takaful Ikhlas' offerings, which, in turn, will leverage on CIMB Islamic’s distribution channels comprising the bank’s 250 branches nationwide, online platforms and call centres. Takaful Ikhlas CEO Eddy Azly Abidin said the demand for takaful products was growing and both organisations should work closer together to capitalise on this market’s potential.

#Indonesia plans to relax bank #merger rule in efficiency push

Indonesia is planning further steps to make it easier for foreign banks to invest in local lenders as well as encourage domestic mergers. The Financial Services Authority, known as OJK, expects to amend the so-called single presence policy. The revised rule would relax the requirement that the acquiring banks have to merge all their local operations into one entity. Removing the single presence rule could make it easier for Standard Chartered to hang on to its 45% stake in PT Bank Permata. A large bank acquiring a smaller rival would be allowed to retain it as a separate entity without specifying the threshold for a merger requirement. However, even as the single presence rule is relaxed, foreign banks looking to acquire Indonesian lenders should still appoint Indonesian residents as president director and president commissioner.

Islamic Finance Expert: ‘Halal Coin’ a Matter of Time and Awareness

According to Amanie Advisors CEO Suhaida Mahpot, the existing skepticism towards crypto in Islamic countries is not a pure rejection, but rather a consequence of uncertainty. Mahpot compared the existing situation of cryptocurrencies with Malaysia’s controversial types of investment known as Amanah Saham Bumiputera (ASB) and Amanah Saham Nasional (ASN). The perception of ASB has transformed over the years and it was decided to consider it as "harus" in 2012, which means that it is neither prohibited nor encouraged by the teachings of the faith. Both ASB and ASN investments were finally declared permissible for Muslims by the Selangor Fatwa Committee, the same regulatory authority that previously prohibited them. Mahpot argues that the same goes for digital currencies and financial institutions and scholars need more education about cryptocurrencies and their benefits.

Maldives Islamic Bank launches IPO

The Maldives Islamic Bank (MIB) has launched its Initial Public Offering on the Maldives Stock Exchange with the aim of raising MVR244 million (US$15.8 million), offering a 31% stake for public ownership. MIB is offering 6,975,000 shares at a price of MVR35 per share, including 4.5 million ordinary shares offered for subscription and 2.4 million offered for sale. According to the bank, buyers must subscribe to a minimum of 20 shares, which is equivalent to MVR700. Subscriptions exceeding the minimum amount must be in multiples of 10 shares. The expected date of listing of the shares or commencement of trading is November 12.

Ant Financial-backed startup Dana rides #Indonesian #fintech wave

Fintech startup Dana is looking for another strategic investor. Currently backed by Ant Financial, Dana offers services such as QR-code based transfers and online credit-card transactions for individuals as well as merchants. Dana is considering expanding its footprint in Indonesia by offering other financial services such as insurance. The startup is wary of becoming labelled a shadow bank operating outside of regulatory jurisdictions. Indonesia’s internet economy, the largest and the fastest growing in the region, reached $27 billion in 2018 and is poised to grow to $100 billion by 2025, according to a report by Google and Temasek Holdings Pte.

Bank Islam top domestic #sukuk #broker in 1H19

Bank Islam Malaysia is the top domestic sukuk broker for the first half of the year (1H), after helping issue US$5.15 billion (RM21.21 billion) worth of sukuk in the market. Bank Islam’s market share of the sukuk issued accounted for 29.03% of the total ringgit-denominated sukuk issued in the 1H. The bank advised on 10 issues for the period. The second-largest issuer in the 1H is Maybank Investment Bank, which was ranked first last year for the same period after having helped issue US$4.1 billion of sukuk. Analysts expect the local sukuk market to remain active driven by capital raising by government and corporates for major construction works such as the East Coast Rail Link, Light Rail Transit Line 3 and Mass Rapid Transit Line 3 projects.

#Malaysia Explains New Cap On Interest Expense Deductions

The Inland Revenue Board of Malaysia has released new guidance on restrictions to the deductibility of interest expenses. The rules are based on the recommendations of the OECD in Action 4 of its base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS) Action Plan. The rules are intended to prevent tax base erosion through the use of excessive interest expense deductions to reduce domestic tax. There are parts that have been customized based on domestic circumstances. The Malaysian rules cap allowable interest expense deductions at 20 percent of a taxpayer's income before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA). Disallowed deductions for one year can be carried forward to the subsequent year.

ZICO Shariah lays groundwork to transform #Indonesia into an Islamic economics hub

Indonesia's Shariah advisory services provider, ZICO Shariah is planning and drafting the Islamic Economic Masterplan for 2019-2024 for the world’s largest Muslim country. Led by a team of economics experts, the masterplan project included 50 Indonesian and Malaysian consultants. It focuses on 14 areas of interest including halal food, tourism, and fashion, Islamic banking and capital markets, small and medium enterprises, digital economy, and social finance. The formal launching of the final masterplan took place at a significant Islamic economy event in Bandung on 26 April 2019 and in Jakarta on 14 May 2019.

#Malaysia’s position in the #fintech race

According to the Fintech Malaysia Report 2018, Malaysia had 166 fintech companies operating in the country as at July last year. Payments and e-wallets made up the majority at 19% and 17% of the fintech players respectively, followed by cryptocurrency players (12%) and crowdfunding companies (6%). While Malaysia appears to be well ahead of Vietnam and the Philippines in the fintech race, it’s still nowhere near Indonesia. Mohammad Ridzuan Abdul Aziz, president of the Fintech Association of Malaysia (FAOM), believes that instead of viewing fintech as a race against other countries, the focus should be on collaboration between the key stakeholders. He added that the government also provides a variety of monetary incentives and support programmes for start-ups, and is now recalibrating various agencies to improve awareness and efficiency.

MIDF keeps mum on Al Rajhi #merger talks

Malaysian Industrial Development Finance (MIDF) remains tight-lipped about its negotiations with Al Rajhi Banking and Investment Corp (Al Rajhi Malaysia). Both banking groups announced on Jan 10 this year that Bank Negara Malaysia’s approval had been secured to commence talks on a potential merger. However, both parties failed to reach an agreement past the March deadline. The companies then requested for an extension and were given another three months, up to June 27 this year. A merger of the two banks would result in a combined banking group with RM13.17 billion in assets. The merger with Al Rajhi Malaysia will allow MIDF to become an Islamic financial institution as it currently does not have an Islamic banking licence. MIDF brought in RM76.86 million in revenue and RM12.11 million in net profit for 1Q19.

Banks' lending activity remains robust

According to CIMB Group Holdings group CEO Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Aziz, banks are doing as much as they can to balance lending to customers with responsible financing. He said commercial banks would want to grow their loans to maximise returns, but that must always be balanced against the banks’ risk metrics. To promote financial inclusivity, CIMB Bank Bhd and CIMB Islamic Bank Bhd have set aside at least RM12bil for the B40 group to access to facilities such as home, automotive, Amanah Saham Bumiputra and personal financing from 2019 to 2020. CIMB Bank and CIMB Islamic’s are assisting the B40 segment via the lowest-in-market financing rate of 2.9% per annum, under Bank Negara’s RM1bil Fund for Affordable Homes, to help those in the B40 group buy their first residential property. Based on data from Bank Negara, the industry’s loan growth rebounded slightly to 4.6% year-on-year in May from 4.5% in April, ending a five-month downtrend.

#Malaysia’s Islamic fund manager BIMB signs UNPRI to incorporate ESG into investments

Malaysian Islamic fund manager BIMB Investment has become an official signatory of the United Nations-supported Principles for Responsible Investment (UNPRI). BIMB Investment is the only bank-backed Islamic asset manager in Malaysia to be a UNPRI signatory. The UNPRI group works to understand the investment implications of environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors and supports its network in incorporating these factors into their decisions. BIMB Investment CEO Najmuddin Mohd Lutfi said that the company has integrated more than 250 ESG metrics in its investment process since 2015. The company currently manages over 1 billion Malaysian ringgit of ESG assets. At the moment there are around 2,300 signatories to the UNPRI. Other signatories from Malaysia include Xeraya Capital, Navis Capital Partners, the national retirement fund KWAP, sovereign wealth fund Khazanah, and Corston-Smith Asset Management.

#Philippines to fast-track Islamic finance regulations – media

Philippines’ central bank will fast-track the issuance of Islamic finance regulations in the country as soon as the Islamic banking law is approved by the president. Philippines has been accelerating the growth of its Islamic economy sectors in the last couple of years. The country’s interest in Islamic finance is two-fold: to attract Shariah-sensitive foreign investments and capital from Islamic countries, as well as to provide its approximately 10 million domestic Muslim population with an Islamic banking option. The country also hopes to increase its exports to Muslim-majority countries and has been developing its halal infrastructure to support this goal. Its national halal certification scheme was launched last year and in February the Department of Science and Technology opened the Philippine National Halal Laboratory and Science Centre.

Virtual banks can attract more millennials to Islamic banks

According to Professor Datuk Dr Azmi Omar, President of the International Centre for Education in Islamic Finance (INCEIF), it is necessary to address millennials, as they constitute a significant proportion of the Malaysian population. Therefore, Islamic banks must be smart enough, in either that they create another subsidiary, a virtual bank, or roll out more of their services in terms of virtual applications. He added that virtual Islamic banks will attract millennials, but not everyone will go for digital banking. It is an alternative. In March this year, BNM governor Datuk Nor Shamsiah Yunus said the central bank had had some preliminary discussions with a few banks, with virtual banks overseas. In its report on Islamic Banking Moody's noted that Malaysia planned to issue new virtual banking licenses by end-2019. This could increase competition for deposits, especially among Islamic banks with weaker deposit franchises.

#Malaysia’s MIDF, Al Rajhi Bank #merger hangs in balance

The planned merger of Malaysian Industrial Development Finance (MIDF) and Al Rajhi Banking and Investment Corp (Al Rajhi Malaysia) is now uncertain as the shareholders have missed the June 27 deadline. The shareholders of the two companies have sent a request to Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) seeking more time to further negotiate the merger plan. In March 2019, BNM had already granted three months’ additional time for the proposed merger. Al Rajhi Bank is likely to stay on as a shareholder in the proposed merged entity while PNB would remain its largest shareholder. After the completion of this merger process, MIDF is expected to become an Islamic bank. The merger plan, if it succeeds, would lead to a financial services entity with a combined asset value of MYR 14.09 billion.

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