Europe

A pioneering spirit

Euris Group wants to develop Islamic Finance in Europe. The firm designed a banking concept and is now promoting its project, a Shari'ah compliant private bank in Luxembourg. The European market remains fragmented and far from comprehensive. To fill the gap, it's necessary to build a pure player, i.e. a fully fledged Islamic bank in the Eurozone. From there, a lot will remain to be done: entering the retail and commercial banking space, providing Takaful solutions to European customers and exploring the relevant investment banking opportunities, especially when it comes to European Sukuk. Euris Group chose Luxembourg because it occupies a central position at the heart of the Eurozone.

BoE to set up Shari'a-compliant facilities for Islamic banks

A new Bank of England consultation, which closes on 29 April, builds on a feasibility study carried out last year and sets out two possible deposit facilities, and two possible liquidity insurance models. The idea behind the proposals is to help firms that are prevented by Shari’a law from undertaking activities involving interest to manage fluctuating liquidity demands and ride out periods of particular stress. Although the consultation sets out options for both Shari’a compliant deposit facilities and liquidity insurance, the Bank of England said that it was prioritising the former as the area of greatest demand. Following the consultation and further analysis, it will decide whether any of the proposals are feasible, it said.

QInvest/Crescent Capital complete first mezzanine financing for Turkish alternative energy

There are a growing number of transactions in the Turkish market that are financed by GCC institutions; and the Gulf States are steadily rising investors in Turkey. Among the lastest crop of deals, Qatar’s QInvest has provided a five year $30m murabaha mezzanine finance facility for Turkish private equity firm Crescent Capital to fund its acquisition of a 100% stake in Akocak HPP, an operational 81 MW hydro-electric power plant in Turkey. QInvest has structured and invested in the transaction. The deal also shows that traditional project finance structures are giving way to alternative financing structures, with Islamic finance showing potential for further growth in the funding of capital goods projects.

US sends mixed message to Europe on Iran sanctions

Since reaching the nuclear agreement that lifted economic sanctions on Iran, President Barack Obama has pledged to continue to punish foreign companies that do business with the regime’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. In theory, this will chill European investment in Iran because the IRGC, along with its front businesses, controls major portions of Iran’s economy in vital sectors such as oil, construction and banking. But despite recent reports of billions of dollars worth of new European investment in Iran, the US Treasury Department has seen no evidence that European companies are conducting transactions with the IRGC. Many sanctions experts question whether this is really possible.

The Nottingham's finance director wins top accolade at British Muslim Awards

Ashraf Piranie, deputy chief executive and finance director at The Nottingham, has received an accolade for his contribution to finance and banking at the British Muslim Awards. Mr Piranie joined the board of The Nottingham in 2007 and was previously the finance director and joint managing director at the Islamic Bank of Britain and director of finance at Alliance & Leicester Plc. One of his most notable achievements was the proactive part he played in introducing Islamic finance legislation to the UK's Finance Acts. He continues to play an important role on UK banking regulation and since 2013 has been a member of the PRA's Practitioner Panel representing the building society sector.

La CENF de l'Université Paris 1 en partenariat avec LabEx RéFi organisent une table ronde sur "La religion dans la finance : risques, marketing et réalités" le 10 février 2016 à 18h à Paris.

La chaire éthique et normes et de la finance (CENF) de l'Université Paris 1 en partenariat avec le laboratoire d'excellence sur la régulation financière (LabEx RéFi) organisent une table ronde sur "La religion dans la finance : risques, marketing et réalités" le 10 février 2016 à 18h. Cet évènement aura lieu dans la salle 1 du Centre Panthéon (12 place du Panthéon) et accueillera Frédéric Baule (consultant indépendant), Nicolas Hardy (Analyste financier, Standard & Poor´s Ratings Services) ainsi que Edouard Fernandez-Bollo (autorité de contrôle prudentiel et de résolution) et sera modérée par Pierre-Charles Pradier (Paris 1).

KFH-Turkey issues capital boosting $350m sukuk

Kuwait Finance House Turkey (KFH-Turkey) issued Tier 2 capital-boosting sukuk worth $350 million to support its capital situation. The bank has set the yield at 7.9 percent for 10-year tenure. The sukuk will be listed on the Irish Stock Exchange for trading. The credit rating agency "Fitch" assigned an expected rating of BBB- to this tier 2 Basel III-complaint issue. The bank targets boosting its capital adequacy ratio so it can grow and enhance its presence in the international markets, said CEO- KFH -Capital Abdulaziz Nasser Al-Marzouq. KFH -Turkey mandated international banks and financial institutions led by KFH -Capital as a global coordinator, manager and syndicator, in addition to other lead managers and syndicators which are HSBC, Dubai Islamic Bank (DIB), Nour Bank, QInvest Investment Bank, Emirates NBD, and KAMCO Investment Company.

The rise and rise of Islamic finance law

Contrary to popular opinion, Sharia law is not taking over Britain. It is seen as a rule of law that contributes to the way Muslims live. Most importantly, the principles of Islamic finance encourage fairness. The presence of the likes of Allen & Overy, Hogan Lovells and Norton Rose Fulbright shows how far Islamic finance has come. The unwavering investment that has occurred over the Middle East, with offices springing up in Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Kuwait is a testament to firms taking the Islamic practice seriously. Trainees can develop leadership skills by undertaking research and ascertaining what works for clients.

The Sharia-run Government buildings where alcohol is BANNED thanks to Islamic finance deal

The central London offices must be run in line with Islamic principles because of a deal with rich Middle Eastern investors. They demanded the buildings be audited by Muslim scholars and subject to special rules in exchange for lending the Government £200million. The deal currently only covers three buildings - Richmond House, Wellington House and a property on Whitehall - and is almost unheard of outside of the Middle East. But Treasury officials hope hundreds of Western companies will follow their lead and turn over buildings to Islamic financiers in similar deals. The exact restrictions under which the buildings must be run which were not spelled out in the text of the deal struck with overseas investors.

Kuwait Finance House says to set up Islamic Turkish funds firm

Kuwait Finance House (KFH) will set up a sharia-compliant asset management unit under its Turkish bank branch, the lender said on Monday. Kuwait Finance House Turk will establish five sharia-compliant investment funds and offer other investment services under KT Portfoy, the new unit, KFH said in a bourse statement. The establishment of the new firm is conditional on approval from Turkey's capital market authority. KFH's chief executive in January said it would issue Islamic bonds to boost capital reserves at its subsidiary bank in Turkey, even as it looks to restructure its global assets.

Italy's Islamic Bond: Nctm seeks to open a window of opportunities for Italian SME's

As Italy's demand for mini-bonds grows, Nctm Studio Legale (Nctm), a law firm, has hired Shariyah Review Bureau (SRB) to help it structure an Islamic Bond. Under the agreement, SRB will collaborate with Nctm to help structure and certify the mini-bonds in light of Sharia guidelines. Shariyah Review Bureau team has many years of experience in a range of industries, specializing in Investment Funds, banking, insurance, agriculture, and Asset Management. The demand for their services has quadrupled over the years with 2015 being the most eventful year. SRB expects this Islamic bond to open new venues of connecting capital with businesses in Italy and also help provide new opportunities to the SME sector.

Malta Stock Exchange to launch Islamic equity index, eyes sukuk

The Malta Stock Exchange (MSE) will launch on Monday an Islamic equity index aiming to attract business from Middle East firms, a move it hopes will also prompt the government to issue Islamic bonds. The launch of an Islamic index, developed alongside Dubai-based sharia advisory firm Dar al Sharia, and a debut sovereign sukuk would mirror steps taken by Britain and Luxembourg to develop their own credentials in the sector. In 2011, Malta's financial regulator issued a guidance note on Islamic investment funds, the first EU member country to do so, although no such funds have been listed yet. The exchange is also launching this month a new capital market for small and medium-sized firms.

Ratings agencies could still be better supervised says EU auditor

Ratings agencies in the European Union, which came under fire during the financial crisis for the verdicts they gave on sub-prime debt, still need to be better supervised, the bloc's auditor said on Monday. The European Court of Auditors said that the European Securities and Markets Authority's supervision of the agencies since 2011 was well established, but not fully effective. Cumbersome registration rules and central bank hurdles are making it harder for smaller credit ratings agencies to compete with the "Big Three" in the EU, the report concluded. Ratings agencies came under the gun during the 2007-09 financial crisis.

Ibdar makes £8 million investment in prime new Manchester city centre development

Bahrain-based Ibdar Bank has announced that it has made a £8 million investment in a prime new residential project. Angel Gardens, consisting of residential 458-apartments and a total development value of £124 million, forms part of the wider NOMA re-development project aimed at transforming Manchester city centre. The development is being funded through a combination of equity invested by Ibdar and other co-investors and senior debt to be obtained from one of the Banks. Forecasts indicate an expected income return through operations starting at 9.1% on stabilized income, rising to 10.8% per annum after three years of stabilised operations and a targeted IRR of +15% over a five year investment period.

Bahrain's Al Baraka Islamic Bank eyes France, Indonesia for expansion

Bahrain's Al Baraka Islamic Bank plans to open a sharia-compliant bank in France next year as the lender seeks to expand into Europe, Chief Executive Adnan Ahmed Yousif said on Sunday. France has one of the largest Muslim populations in Europe but cultural and legal obstacles have impeded the development of its Islamic finance industry. Some Gulf-based Islamic banks that have expanded in Europe have gone elsewhere. Qatar's Masraf Al Rayan owns Al Rayan Bank in the United Kingdom, while Kuwait Finance House's Turkish arm opened its first branch in Germany last year. Al Baraka also plans to acquire a bank in Indonesia either this year or in 2017 and was in talks with the Indonesian central bank governor, Yousif said.

Will my Sharia-compliant savings be tax-free from April?

Fixed term deposit accounts, which pay an “expected profit rate” instead of interest, beat the best fixed rate bonds when it comes to earnings. HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) confirmed that profits from Sharia accounts would count towards the personal savings allowance. Where returns are the economic equivalent of interest (and meet certain other criteria) they are taxed as if they are interest - and will be included within the definition of savings income, according to HMRC. This means Sharia compliant savers will be able to take advantage of the new £1,000 tax free interest earnings allowance if they are a basic rate taxpayer (£500 for higher rate taxpayers).

Iranian bank Pasargad willing to invest in Europe

Many Iranian banks have created a roadmap to open up to the world. Bank Pasargad, the second-largest finance company of Iran with billions of dollars of blocked assets in many countries worldwide, is one of them. According to Mostafa Beheshtirooy, a member of the executive board at Bank Pasargad, the bank has started conducting research into Turkey, Germany, Spain and China, adding that business could be done via a local partner or a take-over of a bank. Beheshtirooy said that, despite the negative impacts of the rising dollar and falling oil prices, the bank's total assets will reach $70 billion; in stark contrast to the current $19 billion it holds.

Fitch: Turkish Islamic Banking Targeted For Growth

Fitch Ratings says it expects Turkish Islamic banks' loan growth to remain above the sector average, supported by new entrants to the market and increasing penetration, despite intense competition from conventional banks. Excluding the troubled Bank Asya, Islamic banks (participation banks) expanded their loan books 34% YoY in1H15, compared with sector's average of 25%. For 2016 Fitch forecasts 15%-20% loan growth for the sector. In a report published today, Fitch says return on equity could increase in 2016, underpinned by loan growth, but will be sensitive to non-performing loan (NPL) growth due to the banks' fairly high credit risk profiles and a volatile operating environment.

Armour Group Invests in Cobalt, Shariah Compliant Re/Insurance Provider

London-based Cobalt Insurance Holdings Ltd. has announced a strategic investment by Armour Group Holdings Ltd., the Bermuda-based diversified insurance group. Financial considerations were not disclosed. The strategy of Armour focuses on niche operations in the re/insurance and asset management sectors. Armour’s operations include underwriting operations, re/insurance companies, asset management companies and specialist service companies. The investment coincides with additions to the board of Cobalt of former Lloyd’s Chairman Max Taylor as chairman, and Sean Dalton of Armour as a non-executive director. John Turner, chairman of Aon Risk Solutions (UK & Americas), and former Brit Insurance Group CFO Andrew Baddeley also join the board in non-executive capacities.

City of London launches new Green Finance Initiative as it bids to cement position as climate finance capital

The City of London yesterday launched a new initiative which aims to cement London's position as a world leader in green finance. The Green Finance Initiative (GFI) will focus on how to mobilize the capital required to implement both the UN's Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris climate change agreement. The unveiling of the new project came as a separate report released by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) at the GFI launch event highlighted how the UK is currently a global hub in the emerging green finance market. The report, which profiles the actions that have been taken over the past 15 years to incorporate environmental and social factors into the financial sector, argues the UK has evolved a distinctive model of innovation in sustainable finance.

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