MENA

Global finance structures must be revamped, says UN expert panel

International finance structures must be drastically overhauled in the face of the current global economic crisis, a panel of experts convened by the United Nations General Assembly chaired by Joseph Stiglitz, winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize for Economics said.

The expert panel made a number of suggestions to support developing nations and creating an international infrastruture for the global markets led by the United Nations.

The panel included Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz, Governor of the Central Bank of Malaysia.

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Sustainability, Islamic Finance and Managing Risk While Seizing Opportunities

I just published an article with the Dow Jones Islamic Market Indexes Newsletter, giving an overview about the lines of arguments regarding performance and ethical screens, be it Islamic or Sustainability and what empiricial findings have been published.

It is claimed by critics that the reduction of the universe through ethical screens shall reduce the performance, likewise corporate social responsiblity comes against a cost. Similar counterarguments have been raised regarding Islamic screening criteria.

Bank Sarasin published a study doing own research with partners and reviewing published empirical analyses in the literature. It shows that there is no negative impact on performance. My review of empirical analyses in regard to Islamic finance concluded the same and all publications let conclude that ethical screens add value by way of risk management. An example is the debt limitation of the Sharia tolerance criteria.

Ethical screens may therefore improve the investment decision process and more research shall determine, which factors add value to the portfolio and therefore form part of a professional process.

Standard & Poor’s Ratings Address The Growing Takaful Market

Press Release

LONDON, March 30, 2009 -- In a report published today, Standard & Poor's Ratings Services explains the way that its rating approach has been adapted to meet the growth of takaful insurance.

The article, "Standard & Poor's Approach To Rating Takaful And Retakaful (Islamic Re/Insurance) Companies," says that the last five years have seen takaful (Islamic insurance) grow from a niche product servicing relatively limited demand to become a mainstream risk management offering.

"In particular, we have seen rapid growth in the Arab world and an expansion across Europe. A further market development has been the growth of retakaful as a Sharia-compliant version of reinsurance," said Standard & Poor's credit analyst Kevin Willis.

Standard & Poor's has rated a number of Islamic insurers and reinsurers and so is able to comment on the way that the rating criteria have been adapted to address the specifics of this product.

No stand alone Islamic banks in Morocco to be licensed

In spite of several applications Bank Al Maghrib, the central bank of Morocco, did not issue a stand alone Islamic banking license. The reasons: too much stress for the Moroccan market and the problem of taxation on certain Islamic products. However, since their permission on the market, the total value of Islamic finance products is around DH 200 mn.

Amanie Business Solutions LLC. launches its Shariah compliant stocks screening service

Amanie Business Solutions LLC. officially launched its web integrated Shariah stock screening service, the service will target new entrants into the Islamic fund management industry.

The web delivery platform of Amanie Screening can be accessed through http://www.amaniescreening.com . Investors and fund managers will be able to view the details and features of the Shariah Stock Screening service.

Amanie is a Shariah advisory and education company seeking to serve the global Islamic finance community.

2nd World Congress of Muslim Philanthropists: Fostering Partnerships

PRESS RELEASE

Conventional to Strategic: A New Paradigm in Giving

March 22-23, 2009 • Abu Dhabi, UAE

Abu Dhabi, UAE: The 2nd World Congress of Muslim Philanthropists (WCMP) concluded today after several key developments had been achieved that indicate an evolution in Muslim giving. The WCMP is a high-level network of donors and foundations established to promote informed and effective giving. The annual Congress itself is a unique event which brings together a diverse set of participants, with the hope that enhanced cooperation between different philanthropies through strategic partnerships will add profound value to address global challenges that affect both humanity and the environment.

Dr. Tariq Cheema, the founder of the WCMP, affirms that the World Congress of Muslim Philanthropists (WCMP)' brings together leaders who understand the risks and opportunities they have are common as global citizens, and therefore realize that collaboration across the lines of faith and race is a necessity and not merely a choice'.

Developments

Global sukuk sales to fall again in 2009

Experts are expecting further drop in Sukuk isssuance in 2009. Local currencies help to support the markets, K. Salman Younis, head of Kuwait Finance House's Asian operations was cited.

UNEP FI Insurance Working Group conducts first-of-a-kind global survey on ESG factors and insurance

The UNEP FI Insurance Working Group, supported by leading academic institutions from the United States and Europe, is conducting a landmark global survey on the understanding and integration of environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors in insurance underwriting and product development. The nature and scope of this survey makes it the first of its kind.

The core objectives are to:

- Assess the understanding and integration of ESG factors in insurance underwriting and product development globally
- Assess the financial materiality of ESG factors in insurance underwriting and product development
- Provide recommendations for sustainable insurance underwriting
- Provide research input for potential projects on other core insurance processes (e.g. investment, claims management, and sales & marketing)
- Establish a solid business case for the development of "Principles for Sustainable Insurance"

Visit http://www.unepfi.org/events/2009/survey to find out more and participate.

KFAED, KFH intend to invest USD 100 mln in Morocco

Kuwait News Agency citing that the Moroccan newspaper "Al-Jareeda Al-Oula" reported that three Gulf investment groups have revealed their intention to invest USD 250 mn this year in Morocco, including the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED and the Kuwait Finance House Group (KFH).
In the same context, the newspaper quoted an official from the "ENOCENOC" group of the United Arab Emirates as saying that the group decided to invest USD 150 million to set up an investment project in the northern city of Tangier.

The Executive Director of the ENOCENOC Group Saeed Khoury said the investment will be to build the first phase of the plant in Tangier which is scheduled to enter service in the first quarter of next year.

Tunisia: New Islamic bank ahead: Banque Islamique Zitouna

Les Afriques reported on 7 March that Mohamed Sakhr El Materi, President of Princesse El Materi Holding has received end of January the regulatory agreement to create the commercial bank Zitouna.

Existing Islamic banks in Tunisia are Best Bank (Bank Ettamwil Tounsi Saoudi) and Noor Islamic Bank, the latter with its regional office.

More Sharia compliant Infrastructure Funds expected

Shashank Shekhar reported in Emirates Business 24/7 on 11 March that regional fund managers expect the emergence of several new Shariah-compliant funds focused on infrastructure projects, which offer returns in the range of 15 to 18 per cent. Infrastructure projects in sectors like health, agriculture and green energy are expected to attract the bulk of investments.

President of IDB addresses the 5th World Islamic Economic Forum

Press Release

Jakarta, 3rd March, 2009

The Islamic Development Bank Group (IDB Group) provided “Gold Sponsorship” to the 5th World Islamic Forum WIEF being held in Jakarta, Republic of Indonesia. In his speech in the Leadership Panel on “Innovative Solutions to Global Challenges”, HE Dr. Ahmad Mohamed Ali, President of the IDB Group praised WIEF for addressing these critical topics, and emphasized three avenues to new innovative solutions to meet global challenges, namely, ethics-based rather than rule-based financial governance structure, investment partnership with the poor and the vulnerable, and unleashing the God-given potential and innate strength of the full human resources. In his speech, he briefed the participants on IDB Group activities in meeting global challenges.

The first day of the Forum included two panel sessions titled “Leadership Panel” and “Global CEO Panel” followed by four plenary sessions namely; Beyond Scarcity: Overcoming the Global Food Crisis, Paving Greener World: Creating a Future for Alternative Energy, Stemming the Tide of the Global Financial Crisis, and Global SMEs: Business Beyond Boundaries.

Floatation of Bank Mellat faces difficult market environment

Fredrik Dahl and Parisa Hafezi reported on 18 February in Forbes about the floatation of a 5 % stake in Bank Mellat, Iran. Market environment was not supportive with a fall of 30 % of share prices since last August.

A Tehran Stock Exchange (TSE) official said investors bought 340 million, or around 52 percent, of the 655 million Bank Mellat shares on offer, and suggested the price had been set too high in view of the difficult market conditions.

Iran's economy is dominated by the state but the government has been seeking to speed up privatisations after the constitution was changed to encourage the sale of assets.

Iran is privatizing banks

Iran plans to offer 5 % of Bank Mellat to private investors to study the demand and interest from buyers. Bank Mellat, Iran's second-largest bank after state-owned Bank Melli, is estimated to have a share of around 15 % of the country's banking industry.

It is said two other state banks - Tejarat and Saderat - were next in line to be partly sold off.

Industrial Development Bank becomes Jordan Dubai Islamic Bank

Dubai Islamic Bank (DIB) announced the official re-launch of Jordan-based Industrial Development Bank (IDB) following the completion of a private placement of 26 million shares of IDB, valued at USD 100 mn. As part of the re-launch, IDB has been transformed into an Islamic financing institution to be known as Jordan Dubai Islamic Bank (JDIB).

The parties involved in the private placement transaction include Jordan Dubai Financial (JD Financial), the investment arm of Jordan Dubai Capital, DIB and Dubai International Capital. The private placement was valued at JOD 2.750 per share, based on the pricing equation adopted by the bank's Shareholders General Assembly, wherein the strategic partner, Mesc Investment, covered the entire placement.

Islamic Securitization - The Right Way Forward?

Heiko Hesse, Andreas Jobst and Juan A. Sole published on RGEmonitor on 13 February an analysis regarding Islamic Securitization and the grown interest for Islamic finance during the financial crisis.

Islamic finance is driven by the general precept of extending religious doctrine in the shari’ah to financial agreements and transactions. Predatory lending, deteriorating underwriting standards, and a series of incentive problems between originators, arrangers, and sponsors, of which all have infested the conventional securitization process, belie fundamental Islamic principles.

The article linked in the source relates the characteristics of this form of securitization to calls for enhanced disclosure and standardization, ratings agency reforms, and better transparency of origination and underwriting practices in conventional structured finance. In particular, it assesses the potential of conflicts of interest (which became apparent in the U.S. subprime mortgage crisis) to contaminate the integrity of the securitization process if it were conducted in compliance with shari’ah principles.

Global Investment House: Dispute with Housing Bank, Jordan

Rania El Gamal reported on 12 February on Arabianbusiness that the operations of Global Jordan unit were halted by court due to a dispute over a financing by Housing Bank by a Jordanian court. An agreement reached allowed the court to revert its ruling. Housing Bank was no longer willing to a accept a guarantee of Global Kuwait in favour of Global Jordan unit.

The size of Global's portfolio in Jordan in September was about USD 900 mn and included investments in real estate, financial services and industry. Global also opened a brokerage business for Amman's financial markets.

Amlak Finance Jordan reducing its capital

The board of Amlak Finance Jordan decided to reduce its capital to 1 mn Jordinian Dinar in order to preserve the rights of the shareholders, and in consideration of the global financial crisis, which hit specifically the mortgage markets.

The main investors in the company are cited, that the decision on this specific sector does not preclude high confidence in the Jordanian investment environment and the strength of the Jordanian economy, which is less affected by the crisis than other region and stressing that their investments in other crucial sectors in the Kingdom are still ongoing according to plans.

Iran: Cooperative Development Bank planned

Iran Daily reported on 1 February that the director of Iran Privatization Organization (IPO) has said the organization plans to establish the first-ever cooperative development bank.

Dow Jones Islamic Market Index Monthly Performance Report

Press Release - full text attached:

New York (January 27, 2009) — Based on the close of trading on January 26, the global Dow Jones Islamic Market Titans 100 Index, which measures the performance of 100 of the leading Shari’ah compliant stocks globally, lost -5.55% month-to-date, closing at 1646.71. In comparison, the Dow Jones Global Titans 50 Index, which measures the 50 biggest companies worldwide, posted a loss of -9.00%, closing at 131.03.

- The Dow Jones Islamic Market Asia/Pacific Titans 25 Index, which measures the performance of 25 of the leading Shari’ah compliant stocks in the Asia/Pacific region, decreased -9.90%, closing at 1252.00. The Dow Jones Asian Titans 50 Index, in comparison, posted a loss of -11.40%, closing at 90.89.

- Measuring Europe, the Dow Jones Islamic Market Europe Titans 25 Index, which measures the performance of the 25 of the leading Shari’ah compliant stocks in Europe, closed at 1596.39, a loss of -7.60%, while the pan-European blue chip Dow Jones STOXX 50 Index lost -10.97%, closing at 1926.07.

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