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Government decides to issue fresh #Sukuk worth Rs 200 billion

Pakistan's Federal Government has decided to issue fresh Sukuk worth Rs 200 billion, in addition to earlier Sukuk of Rs 200 billion through the same consortium of Islamic banks aimed at reducing circular debt. The consortium comprising Meezan Bank Limited, Faysal Bank Limited, Bank Islami Pakistan Limited, Dubai Islamic Bank Pakistan, MCD Islamic Bank Limited and Al Baraka Bank Pakistan Limited have already submitted their term sheets to the Finance Division. The syndicate of Islamic Banks had also forwarded a tentative term sheet for Rs 100-200 billion which specifies that the facility is subject to availability of suitable assets. The energy sector's circular debt is around Rs 1.5 trillion. According to Minister for Power, Omer Ayub, the government would bring down circular debt to Rs 250 billion by December this year.

Financial inclusion of low-income groups a must for economic growth

Jameel Ahmad, Deputy Governor of State Bank of Pakistan believes that the newly adopted National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS) will contribute significantly to the economic growth. He said the central bank and Pakistan's government have a firm resolve to reach the under-served groups. The NFIS would focus on the enhanced targets including Small-Medium Enterprises (SMEs), agriculture, housing and Islamic finance on an extended time-line to 2023. By 2023 the NFIS aims to enhance the usage of Digital Payments to 65 million active digital transaction accounts, to increase deposit to 55% of the GDP, to promote SME Finance to 700,000 enterprises, to increase Agricultural Finance disbursements to Rs.1.8 trillion, and serve 6 million farmers through digitalized solutions and to enhance share of Islamic Banking to 25% of the banking industry.

Bank Alfalah & Ghandhara Industries signed a MoU for Promoting Isuzu D Max Variants

Pakistan’s Bank Alfalah Islamic has recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Ghandhara Industries Limited (GIL). Under this MoU, Bank Alfalah Islamic and Ghandhara Industries Limited have agreed on a joint campaign to promote “Isuzu D-Max Pickup variants” through Bank Alfalah Islamic’s Auto Finance product. The signing ceremony took place at Bank Alfalah Head Office, Islamic Banking Division in Karachi. The memorandum has been signed by Dr. Muhammad Imran, Group Head Bank Alfalah Islamic Banking Division and Mr. Muhammad Kuli Khan Khattak, DCEO Ghandhara Industries Limited.

Patterns of light and colour that bear endless repeating

The Monir Museum in Tehran is displaying the work of Monir Sahroudy Farmanfarmaian, first for a female artist in the country. She saw many of her works confiscated and destroyed following the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979, so she emigrated to New York. In 2004 she returned and felt able to reopen her studio and workshop in Tehran. Geometric patterning is part and parcel of Monir’s visual language. Her work synthesises traditional Islamic art and design and Western geometric abstraction.

Noor exits $6mln stake in #Pakistan’s Meezan Bank

Noor Financial Investment announced selling 9 million shares or 0.85% of its equity ownership in Meezan Bank, Pakistan's first and largest Islamic bank. The equity transaction is valued at $5.57 million or KWD 1.68 million. Following this exit transaction, Noor currently owns 39.53% equity in Meezan Bank. The financial impact of this transaction will be a profit of KWD 293,000 that will be registered in Noor's income statements of the third quarter of 2018, in addition to an increase of KWD 648,000 in the shareholders' equity rights. In mid-July, Noor announced selling 27.23 million shares or 2.56% of its equity in Meezan Bank at a value of $15.76 million or KWD 4.77 million.

#Pakistan likely to borrow $4bn loan from Islamic Development Bank: report

Pakistan plans to borrow over $4 billion from the Islamic Development Bank to bolster the country's low level of foreign currency reserves. A senior advisor in Islamabad said the paperwork is all in place. Finance minister-in-waiting Asad Umar has previously said that Pakistan must decide by the end of September if it would go to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to bail out its economy. He reiterated his stance that Pakistan was examining other options as well as the IMF, including loans from friendly countries or remittances from overseas Pakistanis.

Looming economic crisis: #Sukuk, dollar-denominated bonds to be launched, says Asad

Pakistan is considering to launch dollar-denominated bond and Sukuk bond to tap a favorable response from expatriates in order to tackle the looming economic crisis. Finance minister Asad Umar said the coming government will have to take tough decisions in the first six weeks after coming into power. Asad promised to grant independence to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics in order to get reliable official data on various sectors of the economy. He pledged to take action on it in the first 100 days of government. The situation has touched such an alarming position as the current account deficit used to be in the range of $2 billion on per annum basis, which now peaked to $2 billion on monthly basis.

#Kazakhstan: Will Astana’s financial gamble pay off?

With the official opening of the Astana International Financial Center (AIFC), Kazakhstan aims to become the region’s main financial hub. The aspiration is for the center to draw $40 billion in finance by 2025 and in the process rebrand oil-rich Kazakhstan as a financial hotspot. However, at the moment it is very much a work in progress. The stock exchange is not yet trading. According to AIFC chief executive Kairat Kelimbetov, the center will operate according to English common law. A court staffed with English barristers and an arbitration center will be available for dispute resolution. But the sobering reality is that of the 49 companies registered at the AIFC, most are no-names. The mightiest player registered at the AIFC is the China Development Bank, a fact that signals a welcome vote of confidence from Beijing.

Bank Pasargad of #Iran to Open Branch in #India: Report

India has reportedly approved a proposal from Bank Pasargad of Iran to open a branch in Mumbai. The Federation of Indian Export Organizations had earlier objected the entry of Iranian banks into India. In the wake of new US sanctions, India may explore the possibility of reviving the rupee-rial arrangement to import oil from Iran that it has used in the past. The presence of an Iranian bank in India will ensure the smooth flow of funds between the two countries. US President Donald Trump announced on May 8 that Washington was walking away from the nuclear agreement between Iran and the UN Security Council. Trump also said he would reinstate US nuclear sanctions on Iran and impose economic bans on the Islamic Republic.

#China’s support is critically instrumental in developing Islamic finance

While China and Arab countries discuss ways to develop their bilateral ties, #Kazakhstan aims to become a new global financial hub. At the newly established Astana International Financial Center (AIFC) an economic event was carried out between July 3rd and 5th to talk about the main issues of global finance. Experts have emphasized China has a priority role in the global economy and that China’s support can be very instrumental in the development of Islamic Finance. Kazakhstan has also positioned itself to take advantage of China’s Belt and Road initiative as it strived to draw investors from Central Asian countries as well as from the Arab world. Lawyers have also stressed that because the newly formed Astana International Exchange will be operating under the principles of English common law, it will create even more opportunities for collaboration between Central Asian countries and the Arab world.

The evolving landscape of Islamic finance: regulatory developments

The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) has taken a number of measures for the effective regulation of Islamic finance in the country. The SECP has constituted a Shariah Advisory Board, consisting of renowned scholars and has established a dedicated Islamic Finance Department (IFD) to embed Islamic finance in the corporate sector and capital markets. New regulations have been issued under the provisions of the Companies Act. The SECP issued Draft Shariah Governance Regulations, 2018, a comprehensive set of regulations for governance of Shariah-compliant companies, Shariah-compliant securities and Islamic financial institutions. In order to encourage Sukuk issuances, the Sukuk Regulations, 2017, have been notified, and tax neutrality has been provided through an amendment to the Income Tax Ordinance. In February 2018, the SECP adopted three AAOIFI Shariah standards while in April 2018, the SECP issued draft notification for adoption of seven more AAOIFI Shariah Standards.

ABL asset management launches ABL Islamic asset allocation #fund

ABL Asset Management has launched the ABL Islamic Asset Allocation Fund (ABLIAAF), an open-end Shariah Compliant Asset Allocation Scheme. The fund is now open for subscription. ABL Islamic Asset Allocation Fund will operate under the guidelines of Al-Hilal Shariah Advisors Private Limited. The Shariah Supervisory Counsel is headed by Mufti Irshad Ahmad Aijaz, who is a renowned Shariah Scholar. ABLIAAF will invest in Shariah Compliant Equity, Fixed Income, Money Market Instruments and other permitted instruments. ABL Asset Management CEO Alee Khalid Ghaznavi said with this launch the company further expanded its offerings including Income Funds, Money Market Funds, Stock Funds, Fund of Funds, Asset allocation schemes and Pension Funds in both Islamic and Conventional manner.

Noor Financial sells $16 million stake in Meezan Bank

Kuwait-based Noor Financial Investment Company (NFIC) has sold its stake in the Pakistani Meezan Bank Limited (MEBL), which is worth $16.014 million. A total of 2.49% of the total issued and paid up capital of the bank was sold and shares have been acquired by various foreign institutional investors at purchase price of Rs70 per share. Meezan Bank is planning to raise up to Rs7 billion by issuing Tier 1 Sukuk in the coming few months to shore up its capital adequacy ratio. According to the bank’s annual report for 2017 the capital adequacy ratio of Meezan Bank was at 12.89% last year, whereas its total assets grew 19% to reach Rs781 billion in December 2017, compared to Rs658 billion in 2016.

#Uzbekistan set to develop Islamic banking system

Uzbekistan is joining the rising number of Central Asian nations to develop a Shariah-compliant banking system given its large Muslim population. This month, the Uzbek government issued a draft resolution to create infrastructure for Islamic banking and finance in the country. The aim is to create alternative financing opportunities in the former Soviet republic and open the doors for Islamic investors from the Middle East and Southeast Asia. To that end, the central bank has been tasked with developing a legal and regulatory framework not just for Islamic banking, but also for Takaful and securities trading, as well as financing for small and medium enterprises and Halal microfinance. The framework will include the launch of the Islamic Development Bank of Uzbekistan (IDBU), which will provide standard retail banking services, trade financing, property and commercial real estate financing, as well as leasing, Takaful and securities services.

#Kuwait's Noor Financial to divest stake in #Pakistan's largest Islamic bank

Noor Financial Investment Company will divest a portion of its 49% stake in Pakistan's Meezan Bank. The company is in preliminary discussions with foreign institutional investors for a proposed divestment of 9.59% of the total issued and paid up capital of Meezan. Noor has been mulling a sale since at least 2013. Meezan Bank is Pakistan’s fastest growing bank, it posted a profit in each year of operation and its net profits grew 13.5% in 2017 to $93 million. Noor’s stake in the bank was valued at $375 million in 2017.

#Kazakhstan's financial hub adds Islamic arbitration capabilities

Kazakhstan's financial hub, the International Arbitration Centre (IAC) is adding specialists in Islamic law to its dispute resolution services. The IAC provides mediation and arbitration services as an alternative to traditional court litigation. The IAC is an independent body launched to complement the Astana International Financial Center (AIFC), an economic zone aimed at developing the republic's financial sector. IAC Chairman Barbara Dohmann said that Islamic finance is now part of everyday business dealings across the region, so the ability to handle civil and commercial disputes in Islamic finance has become very important.

#Afghanistan enlists faith-based banks to aid financial inclusion

Afghanistan hopes its first Islamic bank will attract more customers and improve access to financial services in the country. The central bank granted its first Islamic license last month and is now developing wealth management products and new digital banking services. There are currently six banks that offer sharia compliant products through so-called Islamic windows and their conversion would require setting up an internal sharia board and having a clean bill of health. The latter may be a challenge for some because of difficulties in converting impaired loans into Islamic equivalents. The government is also working on legislation that would allow for the issuance of sukuk, although such plans are still at a preliminary stage.

Banking #Merger Imminent

The planned merger of three Iranian lenders will take place in the coming days. The three banks are: Mehr Eqtesad Bank, Samen Credit Institution, and Ansar Bank. Samen and Mehr Eqtesad are currently branded by the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) as "awaiting license". Farshad Heydari, CBI’s deputy for supervision, had already announced in March that Mehr Eqtesad and Samen would be acquired by Ansar Bank. The planned consolidation would be a watershed event in reducing the influence of shadow banks and making the Iranian banking system more efficient.

Munich Re reinsures life portfolio for Iranian insurer Mellat

German reinsurer Munich Re has entered into an agreement with Iranian insurer Mellat Insurance and will cover Mellat's entire life insurance portfolio. For smaller insurers operating in emerging economies it is vital to have access to reinsurance capacity, in order to offset the risks they are assuming and maintain solvency strength. Iran’s Saman Insurance became the first insurer in the country to purchase life reinsurance from a foreign player after the removal of international sanctions in 2016, signing a deal with Munich Re in 2017.

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