Europe

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.

BAWAG Austria starts Islamic current account

The majority US owned Austrian Bawag PSK starts as first Austrian bank with Islamic Banking. Beginning February a pilot project for a current account starts. Other Austrian banks have so far no plans according to the newspaper Standard. Austria has around 600'000 Muslims.

Gülen linked Bank Asya fined $5.14 mln for unpaid tax

Bank Asya, which is known for its links to the Gülen Movement, has been fined TL 15 million ($5.14 million) for unpaid taxes. The Finance Ministry's tax authority imposed the fines after examining the bank's accounts for 2010, 2011 and 2012. In May, the BDDK's audit report on Bank Asya revealed that the bank's privileged shareholders signed blank transfer contracts and a large number of shady transactions were carried out. After 63 percent of stakes belonging to the bank's A group shareholders were transferred to the TMSF in February, the BDDK launched an investigation into the bank, finding a number of dubious transactions in investigations. In addition, the international credit rating agency Fitch said in June that Turkey's banking sector would not be significantly affected by the takeover of Bank Asya.

Turkey sets up Islamic finance coordination committee

On December 15, 2015, the Prime Ministry of the Republic of Turkey issued a circular on the formation of an Islamic Finance Coordination Committee (Faizsiz Finans Koordinasyon Kurulu) to accelerate the development of Turkey's Islamic finance markets. The Islamic Finance Coordination Committee will be chaired by the minister responsible for the Undersecretariat of Treasury and will include top financial markets regulators from the Ministry of Development, the Ministry of Finance, the Central Bank, the Banking Regulation and Supervision Authority, the Capital Markets Board, Borsa Istanbul, and the Islamic Banks Association of Turkey. The Islamic Finance Coordination Committee will also consult with non-governmental organizations, academics and professional organizations.

Turkey banking chief sees looser regulations after interest rate hike

Turkey is likely to loosen some regulations on domestic banks to spur lending, Huseyin Aydin, the head of the national banking association said, as the government looks to ease the impact of a widely expected central bank rate increase. The government is determined to pursue growth-oriented economic policies. It is expected that easing in macro-prudential measures will be carried out. Five years ago regulators introduced tighter rules designed to cool lending and close a yawning current account deficit. Those included higher reserve requirements, forcing banks to hold more capital.
Aydin said he expects changes to regulations on reserve requirements and risk weighting of assets, which should help to offset the impact of tighter monetary policy on bank costs.

Gulf clients look to Al Rayan Bank for long-term ‘safe’ UK property investments

Keith Leach, chief commercial officer (CCO), Al Rayan Bank, has an answer to the question if the new UK stamp duty charges announced in the autumn budget have a negative impact on foreign investment into property. His answer showed that potential investors are looking at the big, global picture. The tax changes — what might be on the horizon — wasn’t figuring in their thought processes. What was in their thoughts was the political and economic instability in the region, he explained. With regard to the impact of the 3% hike across all bands of stamp duty on buy-to-let landlords in the UK, Leach said it could lead to landlords faced with higher charges raising rents, or abandoning the buy-to-let market with a consequent reduction in availability of rental properties.

IIRA reaffirms ratings of Kuveyt Turk Participation Bank

Islamic International Rating Agency (IIRA) has reaffirmed the ratings of Kuveyt Turk Participation Bank (KTPB) at ‘AA(tr)/A1+(tr)’ (Double A / A One Plus) on the national scale. Ratings on the international scale have also been reaffirmed, with foreign currency rating at ‘BBB-/A3’ (Triple B Minus / A Three) and the local currency rating at ‘BBB/A3’ (Triple B / A Three). Outlook on the assigned ratings is ‘Stable’. The assigned ratings take into account KTPB’s sound financial risk profile, against the backdrop of continued business expansion. Overall profitability position is also healthy; however, efficiency indicators have lagged behind larger players.

Deloitte: Growth potential for Islamic Sukuk financing in Europe

The gap between the spending needs of developing countries and the pressure on financial institutions to carefully monitor their credit exposure in order to optimize their capital management driven by regulatory constraints on solvency, is creating opportunities for more diversified products of alternative funding. Considering promoting the Islamic bond market is on top of the agenda of credit risk management, thus creating room and greater opportunities of growth for Islamic products of asset based or backed instruments. This context provided the background for the Deloitte and IRTI-IDB Group executive workshop, “The corporate Sukuk market in Europe: mapping the pathway for an alternative financing”, recently held in London.

London has potential to take leading position in Islamic insurance sector

Speaking at a conference about UK’s general insurance in London, Max Taylor, chairman of the Islamic Insurance Association of London, said that the success of the takaful model relied on the participation of policy holders as the actions of one have an affect on all policy holders. There have been many attempts to establish takaful insurance operations in the UK in the past, but he said projects failed because of issues with capitalisation, underwriting approaches, and investment strategies under Shariah principles. He added that, internationally, takaful models had been successful in personal lines, but the vast majority of operators of such models were “small” and “risk averse”.

Bank of England joins IFSB Islamic finance body

The Bank of England has joined the Islamic Financial Services Board (IFSB), the second Western regulator to do so after Luxembourg. The BoE joins as an associate member, the 65th regulatory body to join the Kuala Lumpur-based body, bringing total membership to 189, the IFSB said in a statement. The move comes at a key time for Britain’s domestic Islamic banks, as the BoE works to grow the number of sharia-compliant assets they can use in their liquidity buffers, with progress expected by the turn of the year. The IFSB has also admitted the central bank of Kyrgyzstan and the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan as observer members.

Tadhamon success

Bahrain-based Tadhamon Capital announced the successful exit from its investment in Coxlease School in Lyndhurst, Hampshire, UK. The school is a specialist residential education facility for children with severe behavioural, emotional and social difficulties. It is let to Priory Group for a 30-year period with annual rent reviews linked to the retail price index. Acquired in November 2010, the school was Tadhamon’s seed investment in its Social Infrastructure Investment Platform in the UK. The platform currently holds assets valued at more than $523 million across segments. Over the five-year investment period, a minimum annual cash dividend of nine per cent was achieved.

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