As the referendum on whether to leave or remain in the European Union looms in the UK, voices are getting louder, particularly in the country’s financial industry that it would not necessarily be a good idea to vote for a Brexit. Since the weight of the UK in the global financial market is substantial – the financial sector of the City of London has a 20% share in the global market for trading foreign securities and a sizeable part of it depends on the UK’s access to the internal EU market – such a strong position would be certainly threatened.
This could have serious impact on the growing role of Islamic finance in Europe which is entrenched in the UK and from there makes its way into the continent. Since the 1990s, when the first mortgages in the UK were set up in line with Shariah law, the country has aggregated the most advanced experience in Shariah-compliant finance in the Western world. Corporate sukuk followed a decade later, and in 2014, the UK became the first country in the EU to issue some sovereign sukuk and listed them on the London stock exchange. From then on, Islamic finance steadily entered the rest of Europe.
Issuance of Sukuk is up all around the world, up on last year, due to current economic factors and the goodwill for the instrument among global investors
The good news on the Sukuk front is continuing. The proportion of Sukuk bond issuance hit a record in the first quarter of 2016 in the main markets for this form of finance, said Fitch Ratings. According to Fitch’s data, there is a clear upwards trend in use of Shari'ah-compliant borrowing as more countries create legal frameworks to support issuance and as issuers try to attract a broader investor base, including Islamic finance investors.
Total new Sukuk issuance in the Gulf Cooperation Council, Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey, Singapore and Pakistan was around $11.1 billion in the first quarter of 2016, with a maturity of 18 months. Issuance was up 22% from the fourth quarter of 2015 and 21% from a year earlier, while non-Sukuk bond issuance of $17.1 billion was down 23% quarter on quarter and 45% year on year. Sukuk represented 39.3% of total bond and Sukuk issuance in these countries during the quarter—the highest proportion in the past eight years.
Highlights and Performance
Bloomberg Malaysia Sukuk
Bloomberg Malaysia Sukuk Ex-MYR Total Return and Dow Jones Sukuk Total Return indices ended relatively flat at 103.9 (+0.02%) and 159.8 +0.01%) respectively, with yields tightened marginally by 0.6bps to 2.470%. Combined with the Fed‘s dovish meeting (June 15), uncertainty over the Brexit referendum jitters (June 23) and mixed signals from China over slowing economy bring the risk-adverse sentiment. The top performers over the week were INDOIS 3/26 and GS 9/19, which moved -11bps to -13bps; while the underperformers were dominated by banking papers — EIB 1/17, Noor Bank B3T1 and DIB B2T1 which widened 12bps each.
Bank Indonesia cuts key policy rates by 25bps in a surprise move, with the BI rate, deposit facility rate and 7-day reverse repo rate now stand at 6.50%, 4.50% and 5.25% respectively. In addition to the rate cut, BI also raised the minimum threshold on loan-to-funding ratio to 80% from 78%. Indonesia risk premiums widened 1.5bps to 196.0bps.
On the demand side, the institutional demand for high quality liquid assets are expected to keep sukuk demand high. As we get closer to the deadline of Basel III implementation, the lack of liquidity management instruments in Islamic finance is pushing this issue to the forefront.
Among the global economic developments, one positive driver for sukuk issuance could be the European Central Bank’s quantitative easing that might prompt some European investors to take positions on higher-yielding but riskier emerging-markets assets such as sukuk. Negative interest rates in Europe and Japan also are likely to attract investor of Gulf sukuk issues.
In 2015, the market saw $11.3 bn (17% to the total) in sukuk issuance for liquidity management purposes. The International Islamic Liquidity Management Corp. alone issued $6.4 bn and is actively working on providing solutions to the market. Other stakeholders such as sovereign and central banks are now conscious of the role they have to play. In 2015, the market also saw another $4.9 bn issued in form of capital-boosting sukuk by financial institutions in the GCC and Malaysia.
In #Malaysia estate planning is an often forgotten element in a Muslim’s financial plan. According to Abdul Aziz Peru Mohamed, CEO of as-Salihin Trustee, estate planning is how we protect the assets we have spent a lifetime accumulating. He says 85% of the local Muslim population have not done any estate planning. There had been an estimated RM60 billion worth of unclaimed assets since the country’s independence in 1957. This is a substantial increase from RM42 billion worth of frozen assets in 2011. By having a will or trust, the issue of unclaimed assets will not arise as the settlor will appoint an executor or trustee to manage the deceased’s assets.
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.
In the USD sukuk pipeline, DP World and Noor Bank have selected banks for a possible benchmark issuance. Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek mentioned plans of an issuance within 1H16. Bloomberg Malaysia Sukuk Ex-MYR Total Return (BMSXMTR) and Dow Jones Sukuk Total Return (DJSUKTXR) indices closed lower at 103.55 (-0.26%) and 159.18 (-0.44%) respectively. Malaysia’s revenue fell slightly to MYR1.54bn (-0.7%) in 2015 while income tax revenue increased by 7.8%. Turkey's unemployment rate declined to 10.9% and its government budget balance improved to TRY5.36bn in April. Indonesia’s trade balance rose to USD667m in April mainly due to the larger than expected decline in imports.
#Malaysia’s state investment company 1MDB paid the coupon on its Islamic debt after missing two payments on other securities earlier. The company undertook the scheduled payment of 143.8 million ringgit ($34.9 million) on its 5 billion ringgit 5.75% notes due 2039. President Arul Kanda said 1MDB has ample liquidity to make interest payments and service its current debt obligations. 1MDB’s separate $1.75 billion of 5.99% notes due 2022, which are guaranteed by IPIC, rose 0.1 cent to 103.7.
Malaysia's Bank Muamalat will set up a 1 bn ringgit ($243.4 mn) sukuk programme after redeeming 400 mn ringgit worth of subordinated sukuk on June 15. Bank Muamalat's new sukuk programme has loss-absorption features to meet Basel III criteria, qualifying as Tier 2 capital. In February, Bank Muamalat and Malaysia Building Society called off merger talks that would have created one of the country's largest standalone Islamic banks.
Bank Islam #Malaysia has denied rumours that its managing director Zukri Samat would be replaced. Chairperson Zamani Abdul Ghani said the board had decided to renew Zukri’s service contract. His re-appointment has also been approved by Bank Negara Malaysia. Zamani expressed hope that Bank Islam’s staff would continue to give their full support to Zukri.
Malaysia’s central bank, Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM), announced it has closed its investigations into 1MDB after the investment firm paid a fine for non-compliance with local financial regulations. The Finance Ministry insisted that there was no misappropriation but only administrative weakness in the firm. However, 1MDB will be barred from borrowing public funds. Malaysia’s Deputy Finance Minister, Johari Abdul Ghani, said 1MDB will be dissolved once it pays off its debts. The firm currently has debts totalling RM50 billion ($16 billion) as of January, as opposed to assets of RM53 billion.
Sultan Nazrin Shah will lead a special session on Islamic Social Finance at the United Nation’s inaugural World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) in Istanbul. The summit is calling for a 'Grand Bargain' on finance and aid organisations will be told to stop competing for resources. The UN fell short of US$7.5bil (RM30.6bil) in funding needs last year, 30% of what it required. IDB’s research on zakat in 2015 shows an estimated US$600bil (RM2.4 trillion) available to meet humanitarian needs. If 1% of this is made available, it can meet the global funding deficit for 2015.
The recovery of the sukuk market is expected to continue as the threat of a steep increase in US interest rates is quickly diminishing. Based on the view of lower interest rates for a longer period, CEO of Maybank Islamic Asset Management, Ahmad Najib Nazlan has a cautiously optimistic outlook on the sukuk market. Following a renewed positive sentiment, Indonesia’s Financial Services Authority (OJK) recently called on state-owned firms to issue more Islamic bonds. In Malaysia the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) is also calling on the government to increase the supply of ringgit sukuk as it gears up for the launch of its shariah-compliant option for contributors in January 2017.
The fates of 1MDB bonds are diverging this month: those guaranteed by Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund have rallied, while notes with support from Malaysia’s own government have dropped. 1MDB's 4.4% 2023 notes, backed by the government, slumped 6.4% in May, set for the worst slide in 16 months. The fund’s 5.99% 2022 bonds, backed by Abu Dhabi’s International Petroleum Investment gained 1.9%. The contrast reflects growing investor concern about the Malaysian government backing as Najib grapples with an economy forecast to expand at the slowest pace in seven years amid a collapse in oil prices.
RAM Ratings has assigned an A3/Stable rating to Bank Muamalat Malaysia's proposed Up to MYR 1 billion Subordinated Sukuk Murabahahh Programme. The proposed Sukuk is Basel III-compliant and will qualify as tier-2 capital. The bank aims to continue concentrating on personal and corporate financing this year while de-emphasising its home-financing portfolio, given the competitive mortgage segment. Bank Muamalat has made significant strides in cost savings, which had contributed to higher y-o-y pre-tax profits in 9M FY Mar 2016. Profitability, however, remains weak compared to peers.
Nazir Razak, the brother of Malaysian Prime Minister, Najib Razak, has been cleared of any wrongdoing by an independent investigation undertaken by CIMB Group. Nazir voluntarily took a leave of absence to allow an independent review to be carried out after it was revealed that he had transferred cash to the ruling coalition's politicians in the run-up to the Malaysian general elections in 2013. Although he admitted to transferring the money, Nazir insisted he did nothing illegal. Nazir has now resumed his role as CIMB Group chairman and CIMB Bank director.
Malaysia’s biggest pension fund is calling on the government to increase the supply of ringgit Islamic bonds as the manager of $170 bn starts a Shariah-compliant option for savers. The Employees Provident Fund (EPF) prepares to launch the Islamic plan with an initial 100 bn ringgit ($25 bn) in January. Currently the Shariah-compliant share of issuance is 42%. CEO Shahril Ridza Ridzuan said the government is actively looking at it. Boosting sales would help expand the range of maturities of the securities and their investor base. Overseas investors owned 19 bn ringgit of the government’s Islamic bonds in April, 8.2% of their total note holdings in the nation.
A venture capital fund based on Islamic finance principles will be initiated by the end of May. It is the result of a joint initiative of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) and Malaysia’s state-owned investment firm Malaysia Venture Capital Management. According to Treasury secretary Irwan Serigar Abdullah the initial fund size would be $100mn and could be bulked up later. In the first stages, the venture capital fund would be utilised to finance startup companies in Malaysia and the entire Southeast Asia region and could later be extended to finance entrepreneurial initiatives in other Islamic countries.
#Malaysia’s Employees Provident Fund (EPF) announced plans to divest its stakes in tobacco businesses and focus on investing in assets deemed socially and environmentally responsible. CEO Shahril Ridza Ridzuan said EPF plans to dispose of its stake in British American Tobacco (Malaysia), despite not outlining a specific timeframe for the move. The first fully shariah-compliant fund (EPF-i) is planned to launch in January 2017 with an initial fund size of between 80 and 100 bin ringgit. Preparing for the launch of the EPF-i, the fund had increased its exposure to shariah-compliant investments covering multi-asset classes to about 40% of total investments.
In #Malaysia the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) expects 1.5 mn to 2 mn members to convert their contributions to the syariah-compliant fund in the first year of implementation. CEO Datuk Shahril Ridza Ridzuan said 71% of the members agreed on the need for the Islamic pension scheme called Simpanan Shariah. Simpanan Shariah’s initial fund size will be RM120 bn. EPF is in the process of classifying its assets as syariah-compliant and conventional, with about 40% of its assets now fully syariah-compliant.