Mizuho Bank #Malaysia opened a $300 million credit facility to the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD). The two-year deal will finance projects in the member countries of ICD. According to ICD Chief Executive Khaled Al Aboodi, the $300 million accounts for 24% of funding programs earmarked by ICD in 2017. He added that funds could be disbursed for hospitals in Gambia, manufacturing facilities in Tajikistan or trade finance in Maldives. For Mizuho Bank Malaysia, the deal marks its first cross-border bilateral Islamic facility based on the concept of Murabahah. The bank's deputy CEO, Shinichi Nishiyama, said lending to ICD will expose Mizuho Bank Malaysia indirectly to the markets in Islamic countries and they are looking forward to a long-term partnership with ICD.
US-based State Street Global Advisors announced that a huge exchange-traded fund for investment in gold has been certified as being sharia compliant. The question of whether ETFs themselves comply with Islamic law has not been addressed. The fund, called SPDR Gold Shares, is one of the world's largest ETFs, having a net asset balance of more than $30 billion. Managed and marketed by State Street Global, it is listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The World Gold Council paved the way for certification by asking the Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions to determine criteria for gold trading. The AAOIFI announced standards for gold trading in December 2016. Joseph Cavatoni, who is in charge of ETFs at the World Gold Council, said the certification is an important step toward meeting demand for gold in the Islamic financial market.
In an effort to boost the industry, Bank Indonesia has decided to work with Islamic boarding schools known as pesantren. Anwar Basori, Bank Indonesia's head of Islamic Finance and Economy, said there is a lot of potential in the 27,000 pesantren, which have about 3.6 million students. The central bank said it is finalizing a roadmap for the program under which it will work with the Religious Affairs Ministry to help the business units of pesantren to become financially independent. The schools operate in various business areas, including mini-markets and cattle farms, and provide extracurricular entrepreneurship and Islamic finance education to students. Anwar said that the roadmap would be implemented in early 2017, starting with a pilot project.
At a conference on Islamic finance in Singapore many experts warned that the industry depends too heavily on oil and gas for revenue. According to expert Rushdi Siddiqui the industry saw a 43% drop in sukuk issuance and he argued for the need to 'delink' Islamic finance from oil and gas. Other participants noted that the industry's growth is slowed by the 'perception price' that comes with political volatility in the Middle East and Malaysia.
Islamic banking is growing fast in predominantly Muslim Pakistan, thanks to the growing popularity of its Sharia compliant structure and a helping hand from the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. According to the State Bank of Pakistan most of Pakistan's conventional banks have now opened Sharia-compliant branches and many are working on full conversion to Islamic banking, which is growing at an annual rate double that of the country's Western-style banking sector. Pakistan's 250 million people are served by 22 local and foreign banks, five of which are Islamic. With a few exceptions almost all local and foreign conventional banks also offer Islamic financing services.
A report launched by Thomson Reuters on Friday -- called "Indonesia Islamic Finance: Prospects for Exponential Growth" -- says the country's shariah finance industry recorded 559 trillion rupiah ($42.3 billion) in assets as of 2014, merely 3% of the country's financial industry assets overall. However, while the total financial sector's assets grew by 42% during the 2010-2014 period, assets for shariah finance surged by 139%. Boosted by government infrastructure spending and road maps for development of shariah finance, Indonesia's Islamic finance sector is expected to record double growth over the next five years.