As the referendum on whether to leave or remain in the European Union looms in the UK, voices are getting louder, particularly in the country’s financial industry that it would not necessarily be a good idea to vote for a Brexit. Since the weight of the UK in the global financial market is substantial – the financial sector of the City of London has a 20% share in the global market for trading foreign securities and a sizeable part of it depends on the UK’s access to the internal EU market – such a strong position would be certainly threatened.
This could have serious impact on the growing role of Islamic finance in Europe which is entrenched in the UK and from there makes its way into the continent. Since the 1990s, when the first mortgages in the UK were set up in line with Shariah law, the country has aggregated the most advanced experience in Shariah-compliant finance in the Western world. Corporate sukuk followed a decade later, and in 2014, the UK became the first country in the EU to issue some sovereign sukuk and listed them on the London stock exchange. From then on, Islamic finance steadily entered the rest of Europe.
A Riyal denominated Sukuk has been issued by the Saudi International Petrochemical Company. The company announced the successful completion of the issuance amounting to SAR 1.0 bn on June 16, 2016. The Sukuk was priced at 235 bps over six months SAIBOR for tenor of five years maturing on June 16, 2021. Riyadh Capital and NCB Capital helped to arrange the private issuance.
In the hard currency space, the Commercial Bank of Qatar issued a Eurobond which achieved the tightest spread for a MENA financial institution this year, conventional or Sukuk.
Whilst the issuance was not a Sukuk, demand for bond indicates strong investor appetite, a good sign of market demand which is likely to be tested with several large planned issuances post Ramadan. Most eagerly anticipated is a potential sovereign issuance by Saudi Arabia, as well as by Aramco, the Saudi national oil giant.
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.”
The Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF) decided to extend the deadline for the preliminary qualification to offer bids in the sale of Bank Asya. Al-Rajhi Bank, Bank Al-Jazeera (BAJ), Al-Bilad Bank and Alinma Bank are the possible banks that asked for the one-week extension of the deadline from June 10 to June 17 to prepare the documents. According to Moody's, in the case that Bank Asya is sold to a well-known bank and strengthens its financial strength, it will be in a better condition to pay its debts to its creditors.
Algeria is preparing to launch Islamic financial services as the OPEC member seeks new ways to raise money after a sharp fall in energy earnings. Algeria’s outdated financial system has been a barrier to investment as the government seeks to diversify its economy away from oil and gas, which account for 60 percent of the state budget. Boualem Djebbar, head of the state-run Banks and Financial Institutions Association, said a legal framework would need to be finalized before introducing Islamic financial services. Djebbar said developing the banking system had become inevitable, with a particular focus on electronic payment systems, which are still little used in Algeria.
The United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has revealed the urgent need to provide humanitarian aid to 8 million of Syria’s children, who are suffering from the ravaging civil war. The aid is estimated to be around $800 million and according to UNICEF there are more than 14 million children in war zones in the MENA region. Furthermore, there are around 10 million Yemeni children who are in need for urgent humanitarian aid. UNICEF spokesperson Juliette Touma pointed out that Saudi Arabia has donated $30 million to aid Yemeni children, but there is still a $60 million shortage of humanitarian funding.
Al Baraka Bank Egypt announced that the net income of the bank jumped by 101% for the first quarter of 2016 compared to the same period in 2015. Total assets also increased by 4%, financing and investments portfolio by 4%, deposits by 5% and equity by 6% at the end of March 2016. Chairman Adnan Ahmed Yousif said the bank has an ambitious branch expansion and geographical spread plans. It is on track to complete its new headquarters building in the New Cairo area. The bank's rolling expansion programme envisages a network of 42 branches by 2020.
A new Islamic bank will open in the Palestinian territories later this year. Al Safa Bank, founded locally, will be based in Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian government in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. It will be capitalised at $75 million. Co-founder Abdel-Rahim Al-Hassan said the bank has already bought some 37 million shares, valued at $37 million, with another 38 million shares now on sale to the public. Al Safa will be the third bank in the West Bank to operate under Islamic law. The bank's services will include project-funding, foreign currency trading and real estate investment.
Turkey is issuing $1 billion dollar-denominated sukuk after a 18-month absence from the Islamic finance market. The government is offering five-year notes at 290 basis points above the midswap rate, aiming to sell debt before the Federal Reserve acts on its stated intention to increase interest rates. Turkey has already raised $3 billion in capital markets this year, completing two-thirds of its planned borrowing program for 2016. Turkish government debt is rated Baa3 at Moody’s Investors Service, the lowest investment grade.
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.
The Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF) announced the sale of Bank Asya shares for June 24. The TMSF will sell 183.6 million of the total 360 million preference shares, pricing each share for TL 0.70 ($0.23). This represents 51% of the total preference shares, that is the controlling power of the bank. According to the Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BDDK) the troubles in Bank Asya's financial structure, administration and operations pose risks to depositors as well as the security and stability of the financial system.
The Swiss start-up Monetas claims a new mobile phone payment technology will transform people’s lives in Africa. The Tunisian National Post invited the Swiss firm to pilot its technology in October in conjunction with local firm DigitUs. Once all integrations with the existing e-dinar system are finalised, the Monetas system will first target retailers before reaching out to the general population. Monetas has big plans for expansion, having started exploratory talks with 12 other African nations with a combined population of 300 million. It is also developing savings accounts and is looking into other financial services, such as micro credits.
Turkish participation bank Kuveyt Turk has raised 300 million lira ($101.5 million) of Islamic bonds, and plans to regularly use public sales in the future. The 6-month deal is the largest local currency sukuk issued by Kuveyt Turk. The bank opted for a public sale to further widen its funding sources, in contrast to most other sukuk deals which are sold via private placements. Last week, the Turkish treasury mandated banks for a sovereign sukuk deal in the international markets. First, Turkiye Finans Katilim Bankasi applied to raise as much as 17 million euros via sukuk, followed by Aktif Bank who has also applied to raise up to 100 million lira via sukuk.
Kuwait Finance House Turkey has realized a sukuk issuance of 300 million TL with tenure of 179 days, exceeding its own previous record breaking sukuk issuance of TL 200 million on Nov 13, 2015. According to CEO Ufuk Uyan the bank will continue similar public offerings in the future. The first lease yield shall be made on Aug 11, 2016, while the second on Nov 8, 2016 at the end of the maturity, together with principal sums. So far, KFH-Turkey has issued lease certificates of a total of TL 7,2 billion in domestic and overseas markets.
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Deputy prime minister in charge of the economy, Mehmet Simsek, has said Turkey will hold meetings to increase sukuk exports in the first half of 2016. The country is preparing a draft law which would bring balance to the taxation of Islamic financial contracts and encourage long-term loans. Simsek said that the Ministry wants this system but implementation depends on investor interest. Regarding the establishment of a megabank in collaboration with the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), Simsek said the probable scenario includes two megabanks, one in Indonesia and the second in Turkey.
The volume of Islamic Development Bank (IDB)'s investments in Egypt currently amounts to US$3.7 billion. The statement was made by Nazih Al-Nasser, director of asset management and advisory activities of the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD). He made his remarks in Cairo on Tuesday during a conference organised by the Egyptian Banking Institute, designated to focus on the role of the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
On May 15 representatives of 56 muslim countries came together at the 41st IDB annual meeting in Jakarta. In 2015, the IDB Group recorded approvals worth $1.83 bn, representing 21% of the total since the bank’s inception. In Turkey Islamic banking comprises 5% of the total banking system, but the government aims to increase this figure to 15% by 2023. IDB's president, Ahmad Mohamed Ali, said the bank also fully supported Turkey’s plans to develop Istanbul as an international financial center.
Egyptian Takaful Property and Liability Insurance (EGTAK) will soon start talks to renew its reinsurance agreements with Hannover Re SE. Head of the Reinsurance Department Hamed Mahmoud said he expects the German reinsurer would renew its agreements without placing any additional conditions.
The head of the Savings and Deposits Insurance Fund said the deadline for the sale of Bank Asya is May 29. If a buyer cannot be found, the bank will be liquidated. The bank started reporting huge losses throughout 2015, while its shares were suspended from trading in Borsa Istanbul. Later it was taken over by the Savings Deposit Insurance Fund. According to the audit report on Bank Asya the bank's shareholders signed blank transfer contracts and a large number of dubious transactions were carried out.