In the conventional finance space asset-backed financings have proved a successful method of funding social and civil infrastructure. However, in Islamic finance, asset-backed sukuk have not yet taken off. The majority of sukuk are more dependent on the creditworthiness of the sponsor, rather than the performance of the assets. The concept of securitisation of assets, limited in recourse solely by the performance of the assets underpinning them, has only enjoyed limited application in the Islamic finance space so far. For asset-backed sukuk to succeed, investors have to go beyond simply looking at the credit standing of government and quasi governmental entities and start looking at the actual cash flow and exposure to asset values.
Islamic finance has largely been a priority area in Malaysia for three decades and it is not about to slow down. The World Bank's recent Global Report on Islamic Finance highlighted Malaysia as having the largest Islamic banking assets in the region with US$156.7 billion (RM697.15 billion) as at 2013. Malaysia is also the second-largest economy in terms of total syariah-compliant financial assets. However, the report also suggested the need to address several challenges like the need for alternative investments. On a positive note, the report said the syariah governance framework was advanced in Malaysia. Within Asia, Malaysia has been dominating the sukuk issuance market. The US dollar-denominated sukuk have been growing, but sukuk denominated in Malaysian ringgit are growing even faster and dominate the market.
The global Islamic finance industry will see a new entrant in Russia. Moscow Industrial Bank has already started the process of getting acclimatized with the Islamic finance industry by learning from the established model of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB). Abubakar Arsamaskof, president of Moscow Industrial Bank, said that the bank has 7,000 employees working in 260 branches that provide different products and services. He added that their main focus is on industry, construction and agriculture. He also highlighted that they issue Muslim debt card to those wanting to perform Haj. He also indicated that Russian companies are moving towards the Halal industry in a big way and have investments that are estimated at $100 million. The Russian delegation was visiting the IDB to collaborate with regard to Awqaf and enhance the Islamic finance system in Russia. Other negotiations include collaboration between IDB and Moscow Industrial Bank to find investment opportunities and create jobs for youth.
The Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD) and the International Association of Islamic Business (IAIB), signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to explore collaboration between entrepreneurs from Islamic countries and Russian Federation. The two institutions are determined to collaborate on introducing Islamic banking products in Russia and lobbying for changes in Russian banking legislation. ICD's CEO Khaled Al-Aboodi said he was looking forward to the collaboration, while IAIB President Marat Kabayev said the purpose of the partnership was to develop economic ties among Islamic countries, to promote Islamic Finance in Russia and attract investors from Islamic countries. ICD and IAIB also agreed to organize joint professional programmes, market research, workshops, publications, study tours and assistance in production and certification of Halal goods.
According to AllianceDBS Research, a new wave of merger and acquisition (M&A) activities in the Islamic banking space is plausible, although the timing remains the key risk. Potential M&A candidates include the Malaysia Building Society (MBSB), and Bank Muamalat Malaysia (Muamalat). The research house added domestic Islamic financing growth was expected to continue outpacing conventional loans growth, driven by regulatory push for internationalisation of Islamic finance. This was mainly underpinned by a growing push by banks to fulfil Bank Negara Malaysia’s target of 40% proportion of Islamic financing. AllianceDBS predicts the big game-changer will be product innovation. The research house named the main Islamic banking proxy, the BIMB Holdings (BIMB) as the largest Shariah compliant financial institution with strong potential to lead product innovation.
The World Bank Group and the Islamic Development Bank published the first Global Report on Islamic Finance. Subtitled “A Catalyst for Shared Prosperity?”, the report provides an overview of trends in Islamic finance, identifies major challenges hindering the industry’s growth, and recommends policy interventions to leverage Islamic finance. According to the report the Islamic finance industry needs to expand beyond banking, which is currently a dominant component of Islamic finance, accounting for more than three-quarters of the industry’s assets. Another area of development is Islamic capital markets. The use of sovereign sukuk to mobilize financing is essential to develop the market. The report also notes that using Islamic social finance can alleviate poverty and create a social safety net for the extremely poor. By tapping into the potential of the institutions like zakat and waqf, the report estimates that resource needs for the most deprived in South and Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa could be met.
Dubai Islamic Bank became the first Gulf financial institution to print a sukuk this year as it priced a US$1bn 3.664% five-year issuance. The only other bank from the region to have issued this year is Gulf International Bank, which sold a conventional US$500m five-year last month. Proceeds will go towards refinancing a US$500m sukuk coming due in May, as well as a US$300m maturity for the subsidiary Tamweel. Middle East accounts took 61%, Europe 20%, and Asia 19%. By investor type, banks got 52%, asset managers 39%, agencies 3%, private banks 2% and insurers 2%. Lead arrangers include Bank ABC, DIB, Emirates NBD, HSBC, KFH, Maybank, National Bank of Abu Dhabi, Sharjah Islamic Bank and Standard Chartered.
According to Fitch Ratings, the plan to introduce Value Added Tax (VAT) in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states could be a key test for the region's Islamic finance industry. Saudi Arabia and Bahrain approved the implementation of VAT in the GCC, however, local implementation laws must still be agreed in each country. This paves the way for the introduction of an expected 5% VAT rate as early as the beginning of 2018. Without tax neutrality or equality rules, the introduction of VAT would put Islamic finance transactions at a disadvantage to conventional transactions. A VAT charge adds to the instalment payments in a murabaha, while a conventional transaction would not have VAT for the sale of the asset added to the interest payments. Numerous countries with VAT have provided for some form of tax neutrality or equality for Islamic finance transactions, including Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey and Pakistan.
A global body for Islamic finance has issued a draft standard on centralized sharia boards, aiming to improve corporate governance in the industry. The proposed rules come at a time when Islamic banks are trying to widen their appeal in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, while opening up entirely new markets in Africa. The Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI) is seeking industry feedback on the proposed standard until the end of February. AAOIFI said the standard would encourage convergence of industry practices by avoiding contradictory rulings and fostering consistency across products and services. While the standard does not prescribe term limits for scholars, it does require sharia boards to implement a rotation policy for its members while including members with expertise in areas such as accounting and law.
The banking sector in #Kuwait remains solid, robust and unaffected by regional events. The operating environment can be described as low-risk thanks to the country’s central bank regulatory role and conservative approach. Kuwait International Bank (KIB) has risen to become one of the most established in Kuwait. The bank's CEO, Loai Muqames, says diversification into the retail sector took priority with the launch of stand-alone retail banking operations. Since adopting a unified CRM system the quality and efficiency of the customer service has dramatically increased. KIB partners with Kuwait’s telecom providers to offer SMS banking for those account holders without a mobile internet connection. KIB is also investing in those sectors related to the $100bn government funded national development plan currently in motion. These sectors include infrastructure, oil and gas, energy, and real estate.
Halic Leasing is expanding its sharia-compliant business portfolio to tap demand from small businesses. This is a sign that Turkey's Islamic finance market is growing beyond traditional banking services. According to Halic's General Manager Gokcen Sahin, the company is building a portfolio of leased assets and is targeting new business of around $25 million by the end of the year. Halic also aims to attract further investments from Islamic mutual funds while expanding into construction equipment later this year. The plans come after the firm's new shareholders injected fresh capital at the end of last year and set up a sharia committee to ensure its products conform to Islamic principles. Gokcen Sahid added that with a good quality portfolio, Halic may also consider raising funds via sukuk in the future.
According to S&P Global Ratings, the lower liquidity level in the GCC is not the main reason for a drop in the region’s sukuk issuances in recent years. The volume of sukuk was muted last year, particularly compared with conventional bond issuance in GCC countries. S&P believes the complexity of structuring sukuk is the main reason behind muted sukuk issuance in 2016 and it will continue to weigh on volumes in 2017. S&P also estimates GCC sovereigns financing needs at around $275bn over the next three years, the majority of which pertains to Saudi Arabia. While sukuk comprise only a small amount of total outstanding issuance, various governments established the necessary legal frameworks for their issuance.
Pakistan's government-operated National Savings Scheme (NSS) is evaluating whether to offer Islamic banking services. This plan will help depositors put their cash into Islamic Shariah-compliant Ijara sukuk. As soon as that happens, millions of new accounts are expected to be opened, bringing a huge population of medium and small savers into the banking stream. Millions of others who are currently operating accounts in conventional banks may also be snatched away by the NSS. Investments in all types of the NSS go directly to the government of Pakistan, which uses this cash inflow to fill the budgetary gap and to fund its development projects. NSS deposits by people totalled Rs233 billion in 2015-16 and Rs337 billion in 2014-15. In the event of introduction of Ijara sukuk, some of these deposits are likely to be switched to this Islamic mode.
The first workshop on the Sukuk Model Law was held in Dakar, Senegal. The event was organzied by the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) and the Islamic Research and Training Institute (IRTI), in partnership with the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO). A number of experts and finance officials from the eight BCEAO member countries participated in the event. The project aimed to create a model Sukuk law and guidelines that leverage global best practices. Subsequent regional consultations are planned for South East Asia, Central Asia and the MENA regions. Speaking on the occasion, IRTI Director Mohamed Azmi Omar said the workshop reaffirmed the importance of Sukuk as an increasingly significant instrument of resource mobilization.
The Investment Corporation of Dubai (ICD) has completed the issuance of a US$1 billion 10-year sukuk. The $1billion sukuk will be listed on the Nasdaq Dubai exchange and is the first to be issued from the region in 2017 and the second for ICD since 2014. International investor participation was robust with 26% of the issuance subscribed by investors based in the United Kingdom and Europe and 15% by investors based in Asia. Regional investor participation consisted of 58% of the total subscription with the remaining 1% of the investors based around the rest of the world. CEO Mohammed Al Shaibani said the issuance proves the ICD’s ability to provide a stable foundation that supports the ongoing success of Dubai.
#India will soon have Islamic Banking facilities. The Saudi Arabia-based Islamic Development Bank will start its operations from Gujarat soon. During Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to UAE in April last year, the Indian Exim Bank had signed a memorandum of understanding with IDB for a $100 million line of credit to facilitate exports to IDB's member countries. The Reserve Bank of India had proposed opening of an Islamic window in conventional banks for introduction of Sharia-compliant or interest free banking in the country. The proposal was taken up to ensure financial inclusion for those sections of society which remain excluded due to religious reasons.
Islamic finance is the area where Malaysia leads the world. Malaysia has 54% of global sukuk outstanding, 314 Islamic investment funds worth RM100.6 billion ($22.7 billion), and an Islamic capital market that has tripled in size since 2005, accounting for 60.1% of the total Malaysian capital market. In August the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) launched its Shariah savings scheme to give members the option to convert their conventional account to an Islamic one. It has said it expects to invest an average of RM25 billion in Shariah assets every year and it intends to allocate a minimum of 45% of its assets into Shariah-compliant forms. Thus, EPF has sufficient scale to be very interesting to asset managers worldwide. Largely through that mechanism, there are now 20 fully fledged Islamic fund management companies operating in Malaysia.
Dubai Islamic Bank will meet fixed income investors in London on Feb. 6 ahead of a potential sukuk issuance. A five-year benchmark issue, which usually means upwards of $500 million, might follow. The lender has appointed Bank ABC, Dubai Islamic Bank, Emirates NBD, HSBC, KFH Capital, Maybank Investment Bank Berhard, National Bank of Abu Dhabi, Sharjah Islamic Bank and Standard Chartered Bank as joint lead managers and bookrunners.
The Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre (DIEDC) announced the launch of its refreshed strategy for 2017-2021. Making the announcement, Sheikh Hamdan said the first part of the strategy includes identifying new key performance indicators (KPIs) for monitoring the growth of important sectors. The second component is enhancing Dubai’s status as a reference for Islamic finance, Halal sector and Islamic lifestyle that includes culture, art, fashion and family tourism. Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri said the DIEDC’s latest goal is to demonstrate the positive impact of Islamic economy. It is necessary to establish the structural framework of the ecosystem. Finance, production and consumption must feature in it as integrated systems aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Al Mansouri pointed out the need for universally accepted standards across Islamic economy sectors and stressed that the UAE will focus on refining these standards.
Turkey's privately-owned Aktif Bank has received regulatory approval to sell up to $120 million via sukuk. Turkey has seen steady issuance of sukuk from the government and the country's Islamic banks, but corporate issuance remains rare. Aktif Bank will sell the sukuk through its asset leasing company, Aktif Bank Sukuk Varlk Kiralama. Companies can sell sukuk directly by setting up their own asset leasing companies, but the process can be onerous for smaller firms. The government has previously granted tax exemptions for lease-based sukuk, but in August it extended those incentives to all other types of sukuk contracts.