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Islamic finance aims for easier #sukuk investment with proposed new #standards

Two standard-setting bodies are proposing new guidelines for sukuk that would make them more transparent and easier to structure. The Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI) published draft accounting standards for sukuk. It clarifies how sukuk should be treated on balance sheets and which information issuers should disclose. The AAOIFI said it had also formed a working group to overhaul its sharia standards for sukuk. Last year, the Malaysia-based Islamic Financial Services Board (IFSB) drafted its own guidelines for disclosure related to Islamic capital market products. Aligning the market around common standards and requiring all issuers to disclose the same information could increase investment in sukuk.

Religious investors lose faith in Wells Fargo after scandal

A group of nuns and other religiously-affiliated investors have lost faith in Wells Fargo and filed a shareholder resolution calling on the bank to report on a fake accounts scandal that led to a $190 million settlement. The bank employees opened as many as 2 million checking, savings and credit card accounts without the customers' permission in order to meet sales quotas. The San Francisco-based bank said it would provide more specifics on areas like its risk controls, but that did not happen. Wells Fargo's board has taken some steps since the settlement to address concerns, but the religious shareholders now say they need more changes. For instance another resolution filed by the Unitarian Universalist Association calls on Wells Fargo's board to study how to connect executive pay with ethical conduct.

The world is drowning in debt, warns Goldman Sachs

The world is sinking under too much debt and an ageing global population means countries' debt piles are in danger of growing out of control, the European chief executive of Goldman Sachs Asset Management has warned. Andrew Wilson, head of Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), said growing debt piles around the world posed one of the biggest threats to the global economy. The Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has also sounded out a warning about Japan's growing debt pile. The Goldman chief also said that warnings about liquidity shortages in the market were being "overplayed", especially with regards to the corporate bond market.

Religion and risk drive Islamic finance boom

As well as the religious aspect, customers are attracted to Islamic finance by its flexibility, link to real economic activity and its ban on transactions involving speculation or uncertainty. To meet ever-increasing demand, Islamic finance has developed numerous products compliant with sharia law, from loans for cars and houses to funding for major infrastructure projects. The industry, which spans more than 70 countries, could be worth $4 trillion by 2020, according to forecasters including Standard and Poor's. About 80 percent of the assets are now in banks, 15 percent in Islamic bonds called Sukuk, four percent in investment funds and one percent in Islamic insurance known as Takaful.

Saudi bank in $6 bn IPO

Saudi Arabia's National Commercial Bank is going ahead with an initial public offering worth $6 billion despite opposition from Muslim clerics. The IPO from Sunday, making NCB the last Saudi bank to go public, is expected to be one of the largest in the world this year. However, Abdullah al-Mutlaq, a member of the kingdom's official Council of Senior Ulemas, said that the IPO is haram, or forbidden under Islamic tenets which ban usury. On the other hand, NCB's sharia advisory council on Thursday declared the share offer to be acceptable under Islamic law. An NCB prospectus says the bank will offer 300 million shares to the public at 45 riyals ($12) each, for a value of $3.6 billion, while another 200 million shares will be allocated to the state pension agency bringing the total to $6 billion.

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