Malaysia’s Employees Provident Fund is allocating an initial fund size of 100 bn ringgit (US$24.64 bn) – equivalent to 14.67% of 681.71 bn ringgit in total AUM as at March 31, 2016 – to shariah investments, making the Shariah-compliant allocation the largest in the world thus far.
The move is in accordance with the EPF’s plan to roll out its shariah-compliant fund – also known as EPF-i – in January 2017. What sets the fund apart from its conventional counterpart is that the former is not exposed to banking and insurance stocks. Meanwhile, contributors are free to choose from among the two schemes.
Shahril Ridza Ridzuan, chief executive officer of EPF, says the fund has been investing in shariah-compliant assets for more than five years and about 45% of its existing total assets – worth 295 bn ringgit – already conform to Islamic principles.
In fact, prior to the launch of EPF-i, the EPF had assured investors that its investment considerations are in line with ESG practices, as it does not invest in businesses related to gambling, adult entertainment and alcohol.
From Canada, CI Financial, Manulife Financial, Royal Bank of Canada and Sun Life Financial are also included in the Hall of Shame. Jointly, these Canadian financial institutions invested US$565 million in cluster munitions producers between June 2012 and April 2016.
The report by Dutch peace organisation PAX was released today in Ottawa, together with the Cluster Munition Coalition and Mines Action Canada, to put pressure on Canada and other governments to put an end to these investments.
“It is an absolute outrage that financial institutions are investing billions into companies that produce weapons which are banned under international law”, says Suzanne Oosterwijk, author of the PAX report. “Canada has also banned these weapons. It is time for financial institutions to stop disregarding the international norm with these explosive investments into producers of illegal weapons that maim and kill civilians.”
Plans by the Philippines to sell Islamic bonds could open a new source of financing for the incoming government of Rodrigo Duterte. Governments across Asia are increasingly viewing sukuk as a viable funding option, with Hong Kong open to tap the market for a third time while Sri Lanka and the Maldives consider debuts. A sukuk from these debutante countries could widen the Asian market that is dominated by sovereign deals from Malaysia and Indonesia. The Duterte government would have to work on a legal framework to facilitate sukuk, which could prove difficult in a busy agenda. Ashraf Mohammed, Assistant General Counsel of Asian Development Bank, said despite the concerns, interest is growing in the region to use Sukuk for infrastructure financing.
The worst time for global markets may be the best time for Hong Kong’s government to carry out its planned third Islamic bond sale. Aberdeen Islamic Asset Management says the time is ripe for a sukuk. The yield on the city’s five-year Shariah-compliant bonds sold in September 2014 has fallen 32 basis points to 1.56% since February. Sales of dollar sukuk are at an all-time high for this time of year, suggesting there’s appetite for an issue by Hong Kong, rated AAA by S&P Global Ratings.
In #Malaysia estate planning is an often forgotten element in a Muslim’s financial plan. According to Abdul Aziz Peru Mohamed, CEO of as-Salihin Trustee, estate planning is how we protect the assets we have spent a lifetime accumulating. He says 85% of the local Muslim population have not done any estate planning. There had been an estimated RM60 billion worth of unclaimed assets since the country’s independence in 1957. This is a substantial increase from RM42 billion worth of frozen assets in 2011. By having a will or trust, the issue of unclaimed assets will not arise as the settlor will appoint an executor or trustee to manage the deceased’s assets.
The Silk Road Economic Belt and Maritime Silk Road initiative, now known as One Belt One Road (OBOR), was designed in 2013 to develop economic cooperation between China and Eurasia. The Chinese government has now decided to speed up the operation of the Silk Road fund. Proposals to strengthen the cooperation of China-ASEAN Interbank Association have also been completed. Also a High Speed Rail project in China is considering using Islamic securities to raise a fund for almost 30 billion Chinese yuan (US$4.7billion). In addition, Hainan Airlines Group is planning to raise US$150 million for ship purchasing and to raise offshore Islamic securities.
The #Philippines’ incoming finance minister is looking at raising debt via sukuk bonds and yuan borrowings in a bid to diversify its debt profile. The Philippines last went to the debt market in February selling $2bn of 25-year bonds. Minister Carlos Dominguez is also planning to impose new taxes on more unhealthy products to compensate for a planned cut in income taxes. He also said he would put casinos under an anti-money laundering legislation to avoid a repeat of the Bangladesh Bank heist. Dominguez is returning to the Cabinet after 27 years and will assume office on June 30.
At a conference on Islamic finance in Singapore many experts warned that the industry depends too heavily on oil and gas for revenue. According to expert Rushdi Siddiqui the industry saw a 43% drop in sukuk issuance and he argued for the need to 'delink' Islamic finance from oil and gas. Other participants noted that the industry's growth is slowed by the 'perception price' that comes with political volatility in the Middle East and Malaysia.
Mohammad Abdul Mannan has been reappointed as the chief executive officer of Islami Bank Bangladesh for a third term. Mannan recently received 'The Asian Banker CEO Leadership Achievement Award-2016' and the bank was judged as 'The Best Managed Bank in Bangladesh' for the same year.
In the USD sukuk pipeline, DP World and Noor Bank have selected banks for a possible benchmark issuance. Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek mentioned plans of an issuance within 1H16. Bloomberg Malaysia Sukuk Ex-MYR Total Return (BMSXMTR) and Dow Jones Sukuk Total Return (DJSUKTXR) indices closed lower at 103.55 (-0.26%) and 159.18 (-0.44%) respectively. Malaysia’s revenue fell slightly to MYR1.54bn (-0.7%) in 2015 while income tax revenue increased by 7.8%. Turkey's unemployment rate declined to 10.9% and its government budget balance improved to TRY5.36bn in April. Indonesia’s trade balance rose to USD667m in April mainly due to the larger than expected decline in imports.
#Malaysia’s state investment company 1MDB paid the coupon on its Islamic debt after missing two payments on other securities earlier. The company undertook the scheduled payment of 143.8 million ringgit ($34.9 million) on its 5 billion ringgit 5.75% notes due 2039. President Arul Kanda said 1MDB has ample liquidity to make interest payments and service its current debt obligations. 1MDB’s separate $1.75 billion of 5.99% notes due 2022, which are guaranteed by IPIC, rose 0.1 cent to 103.7.
Crowdfunding is a way to connect ordinary individuals with the innovative projects they support. It is possible for retail investors to become venture capitalists and probably own shares in the next giant tech company. In Indonesia, however, this method of raising money might face some challenges. Firstly, Indonesians have trust issues with money transactions carried out over the internet. Secondly, there is a lack of crowdfunding education among retail investors. The government needs to undertake supervisory and regulatory functions to respond to the problems.
Bank Islam #Malaysia has denied rumours that its managing director Zukri Samat would be replaced. Chairperson Zamani Abdul Ghani said the board had decided to renew Zukri’s service contract. His re-appointment has also been approved by Bank Negara Malaysia. Zamani expressed hope that Bank Islam’s staff would continue to give their full support to Zukri.
The Indonesian government is considering cutting the levy to zero for all local-currency sovereign bonds from 15% for domestic investors and 20% for international ones. According to Abas A. Jalil, CEO of Amanah Capital Group, the zero tax will definitely encourage more participation by government funds in the Indonesian sukuk market. The proposal aims to revive Islamic banking after the industry shrank to 3.5% of total financial assets in March, from 5% a year earlier. Only one Indonesian company has issued rupiah sukuk in 2016 for the equivalent of $7.3 mn compared with $5.9 bn worth of ringgit sales in Malaysia, the biggest Shariah-compliant debt market.
Malaysia’s central bank, Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM), announced it has closed its investigations into 1MDB after the investment firm paid a fine for non-compliance with local financial regulations. The Finance Ministry insisted that there was no misappropriation but only administrative weakness in the firm. However, 1MDB will be barred from borrowing public funds. Malaysia’s Deputy Finance Minister, Johari Abdul Ghani, said 1MDB will be dissolved once it pays off its debts. The firm currently has debts totalling RM50 billion ($16 billion) as of January, as opposed to assets of RM53 billion.
Bangladesh Bank did not allow Al-Arafah Islami Bank to sell 10% of its shares to the Islamic Development Bank (IDB). The deal was originally signed in March to invest about Tk 155 crore to acquire a 10% stake in Al-Arafah. Al-Arafah was supposed to issue around 11 crore fresh shares worth Tk 10 each with a premium of Tk 4, in a bid to raise its capital. The board of Al-Arafah is divided over the issue of selling a 10% stake, particularly on the issue of giving veto power to IDB. The aggrieved group had also taken the issue to court opposing the veto power.
The Financial Services Authority (OJK) is considering providing a legal basis for Islamic real estate investment trustees (REITs), hoping that it will attract more property investors, especially from the Middle East. OJK deputy director of sharia market Muhammad Touriq said Takaful companies are interested in investing in the REITs, but have failed to do so as the existing REITs are not sharia-compliant. The Indonesian government is working on an incentive for the Islamic REITs that allows investors to pay only 0.5% income tax. So far 11 developers have expressed their interest including Ciputra, Summarecon and Ciptadana Asset Management.
Authorities in #Switzerland and #Singapore took action against Swiss private bank BSI for failing to prevent money laundering and bribery related to its dealings with Malaysian development fund 1MDB. Switzerland's Attorney General opened criminal proceedings against the bank. The country's Financial Market Supervisory Authority ordered BSI to pay back 95 mn Swiss franks Swiss Bank Is Charged Over ($96 mn). Singapore’s central bank revoked BSI’s banking license there and fined it 13.3 mn Singapore dollars ($9.7 mn). The cross-border investigation related to 1MDB involves at least seven countries.
#Malaysia could find fame for triggering a new, more effective level of regulatory cooperation between the financial centres of the world. This can be the positive result from landing at the centre of the world’s biggest money-laundering investigation. Investigators are working closely to trace the US$7 bn gone missing from the 1MDB fund into a network of off-shore companies before emerging once again in the bank accounts of politically connected Malaysians. Meanwhile, the Government of Malaysia is continuing to act as if nothing has happened. Prime Minister Najib has been impeding investigations at home, but worldwide he is a smaller player. His political connections cannot save him from the independent justice departments of the various financial centres involved.
In Indonesia communities are embracing 'trash banking' as a way of allowing their poorest citizens access to savings and credit. In Makassar on the island of Sulawesi the city of 2.5 million people produces 800 tons of rubbish each day. It ends up at the five-story high landfill, where scavengers work alongside cows foraging for food. Here residents bring recyclable trash such as plastic bottles, paper and packaging to the collection points, known as banks, where the rubbish is weighed and given a monetary value. Like a regular bank, customers are able to open accounts, make deposits and periodically withdraw funds. At other trash banks in the country, account holders can exchange their rubbish directly for rice, phone cards or paying their electricity bills. The local authorities in Makassar are supported by a local non-governmental organization that receives funding from PT Unilever Indonesia.