Islamic finance is increasingly making inroads into the US in a variety of forms, but widely out of the radar of the broader public. In the recent past, there has been a rise in the number of Islamic financial service providers. There are now about three dozen official Islamic finance providers in the US. Among the top institutions offering Islamic financial services in the country in terms of asset size are Lariba American Finance House and the associated Bank of Whittier in Los Angeles, as well as University Islamic Financial in Michigan. In terms of skills training, Harvard University has an Harvard Islamic Finance Program and the Franco-American Alliance for Islamic Finance is organising Islamic finance seminars this summer. On the consumer side, Islamic finance in the US is mostly prevalent in the real estate market.
A new study from IFC has found that external risks, security concerns, and over-indebtedness are perceived as the most serious challenges facing the microfinance sector in the Arab World. The survey, conducted in conjunction with Sanabel, the Microfinance Network of Arab Countries, said tackling those problems will be key to spurring the development of the industry. Microfinance has grown at a much slower rate in MENA over the last six to seven years, than it has in other parts of the developing world. The report marks the first in a series of studies on the microfinance sector to be developed by IFC and Sanabel. The initiative is part of IFC's wider efforts in MENA to expand access to finance, support to micro, small, and medium enterprises, and create jobs.
Founded in San Francisco and recently moved to Jakarta, a financial startup called Blossom aims at nothing less than shaking up the microfinance sector in Indonesia. The company, launched in October 2014 by US entrepreneur and practicing Muslim Matthew Joseph Martin, plans to bring Shariah-compliant microfinance to the country. What sets Blossom apart from other financing schemes are two special features. First of all, its entire platform is Shariah-compliant. The second feature is the fact that its platform uses the cryptocurrency Bitcoin for global money transfers, at least in the background, to keep transfer costs low and money flows transparent. Last month, Blossom announced that it will make a "pilot investment of up to 100,000" in Bitcoins into BMT Nusantara Condet to fund small to medium businesses in Jakarta.
The tenth edition of Euromoney Saudi Arabia conference concluded on Wednesday with a firm belief that multisectoral reforms to diversify the Kingdom's economy an approach to look beyond the oil sector will add value to the local market with financial dynamism. Experts in the first session of the concluding day on sovereign bonds and sukuk referred to the intersection of ethical investment and Islamic finance in the wake of the Tadawul opening up to foreign investors for the first time. The panelists observed that in the context of the global financial crisis Islamic finance is seen as a significant option in international market which is good for the Kingdom that plays a leadership role.
Capital Intelligence (CI) has downgraded the ratings of Tadhamon International Islamic Bank's (TIIB), based in Sana'a, Yemen. TIIB's Financial Strength Rating (FSR) is downgraded to 'B' from 'B', and the Outlook for the FSR is downgraded to 'Negative'. The Outlook for TIIB's Foreign Currency Ratings, which are affirmed at 'C' Long-Term and 'C' Short-Term, are downgraded to 'Negative' as is the case with all CI-rated Yemeni banks, reflecting the current turmoil and severe economic weakness. The Support Rating is maintained at '4', reflecting the limited capacity of support. Non-performing loans (NPLs) and assets are expected to rise, which will require additional provisioning, thereby hitting profitability.
Backed by a good track record and triple A ratings IsDB issued a 1.5 billion sukuk as part of its ambitious program to raise 10 billion. The issuance was met with success despite the general market uncertainty. The value of sukuk offered is still small despite the fact the Islamic finance industry is believed to have grown to 2 trillion. Governments and institutions in the west and Islamic states are driving this lucrative business. However, existing regulations suffer from being incomprehensive and untested in most cases and that again could be traced to the lack of a central body with authority to enforce such regulation. Accordingly it is left to each individual country to come up with whatever it sees fit to adopt and apply.
Saleh Kamel, chairman Board of Trustees Iqraa Waqf for Employment & Business Expansion, has highlighted the worsening situation of endowment properties in Muslim countries as a result of interference of governments. Kamel who is also chairman of the board of trustees of Iqra Endowment, emphasized the role of development in fighting poverty while speaking at the 35th Albaraka Symposium for Islamic Economics. He urged the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) to strengthen its efforts in developing endowment properties in the Islamic world. Other speakers presented a number of models for endowments from different parts of the world, and emphasized the need for transparency.