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The evolving landscape of Islamic finance: regulatory developments

The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) has taken a number of measures for the effective regulation of Islamic finance in the country. The SECP has constituted a Shariah Advisory Board, consisting of renowned scholars and has established a dedicated Islamic Finance Department (IFD) to embed Islamic finance in the corporate sector and capital markets. New regulations have been issued under the provisions of the Companies Act. The SECP issued Draft Shariah Governance Regulations, 2018, a comprehensive set of regulations for governance of Shariah-compliant companies, Shariah-compliant securities and Islamic financial institutions. In order to encourage Sukuk issuances, the Sukuk Regulations, 2017, have been notified, and tax neutrality has been provided through an amendment to the Income Tax Ordinance. In February 2018, the SECP adopted three AAOIFI Shariah standards while in April 2018, the SECP issued draft notification for adoption of seven more AAOIFI Shariah Standards.

#Kuwait Bank Adopts Ripple for Instant Cross-Border Payments

The Kuwait Finance House (KFH) has joined RippleNet, an enterprise blockchain network for international remittance payments. RippleNet is a SWIFT-replacement global blockchain network that sees over 100 financial institutions including banks, payment providers and remittance operators. KFH underlined its intention to use Ripple’s unique tool for cross-border payments for its retail customers. With this, KFH can provide instant and secure cross-border money transfers within seconds, with end-to-end visibility over the journey of the payment. Elsewhere in the region, UAE-based RAK Bank became a RippleNet member in September. The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA), the defacto central bank of Saudi Arabia, has also partnered with Ripple. The SAMA also became the first central bank in the world to join RippleNet.

Dana Gas receives $40mn from #Egyptian government

UAE based natural gas producer Dana Gas has now received almost $90mn so far this year from the North African nation.

Call for promoting role of Islamic Waqf

Qatar's Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs organized a forum on waqf where participants called for the advancement of the waqf to regain its role in the Islamic economy. Qatar has made great steps in the advancement of the waqf, starting with the enactment of the laws regulating it, and taking all measures to ensure the governance and transparency of waqf operations. The four-day forum discussed current vital issues including the responsibility of scholars, the renewal of Islamic jurisprudence, the reform of religious education, and the Islamic waqf and its role in development.

#UK Mosque Opens #Crypto #Donations in National First 'Bitcoin Ramadan'

A UK mosque has broken with opinion and opted to accept cryptocurrency donations for this year’s Ramadan period. The Shacklewell Lane Mosque in East London partnered with local Blockchain startup Combo Innovation to set up a Bitcoin and Ethereum wallet for the Ramadan practice of Zakat. The UK’s only Turkish-owned mosque is going against the rulings of various Islamic scholars and the Turkish government, who previously determined cryptocurrency to be "incompatible" with Islam. The mosque hopes to raise around £10,000 ($13,300) for repairs to the building. So far, its Bitcoin address has received funds worth around $2000.

Responding to demand, Islamic #microfinance start-up starts accepting cryptocurrencies for zakat

Islamic microfinance start-up Blossom Finance has started accepting zakat payments in cryptocurrencies for zakat-eligible cryptocurrency assets in response to user demand. Blossom Finance has designated a wallet for zakat payments at a cryptocurrency exchange in Indonesia. Blossom will channel the zakat to the Indonesian financial cooperative Baitul Maal Wat Tamwil (BMT) that will distribute the funds to any of the 87 microfinance institutions that the start-up has agreed to partner with. The crypto zakat payment on crypto assets is completed once deposited in the Blossom-designated wallet. CEO Matthew Joseph Martin said Blossom Finance would not take a fee for providing the zakat payment facility. The company’s aim is to provide a working model for zakat collection and management organizations.

Save the Date – Financial Inclusion Week 2018

The fourth annual Financial Inclusion Week will take place between October 29 and November 2, 2018. This year’s theme is Getting Inclusion Right. In 2018, the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion is celebrating its 10th anniversary and using this moment as an opportunity to celebrate progress and look to the future. The 2017 Global Findex revealed that an additional 515 million people have opened a bank account since 2014, however key metrics for usage and savings have declined. Recently the Gallup Global Financial Health Study has revealed that at the country level greater account ownership does not correlate with greater financial security and control. During Financial Inclusion Week 2018, partner organizations around the globe will hold conversations focused on what the industry must do to ensure that access to financial services brings real value to customers' lives.

First Islamic #crowdfunding platform for affordable homes to increase impact with backing of Expo 2020 Dubai

The world’s first Islamic real estate crowdfunding platform Ethis Crowd will showcase the solution at Expo 2020 Dubai. Ethis Crowd enables individuals to collectively fund and invest in new residential developments for low-income households in Indonesia and Malaysia. Created in 2014 and headquartered in Singapore, Ethis Crowd enables public investors to collectively gather funds to develop affordable housing projects. Typically completed in one to two years, the homes are then sold to ethical partner banks, who resell them to end-users. More than 20,000 investors and donors from 52 countries are registered on the platform. About 60% of the investment comes from Singapore, while an increasing number of investors originate from the Middle East.

QIB and INJAZ Qatar sign deal to launch financial literacy programme

Qatar Islamic Bank (QIB) has signed an agreement with the youth organization INJAZ Qatar to sponsor a three-year financial literacy programme for selected high schools and universities in Qatar. The agreement was signed by Bassel Gamal, QIB Group CEO and Emad Al Khaja, INJAZ Qatar CEO. The new "Personal Finance Program" is a five-week training with interactive sessions tailored specifically for high school students and university freshmen. The programme explores ways to earn money and spend it wisely by budgeting, saving, and investing. Courses include the cautious use of credit cards, and protecting your personal finances. Emad Al Khaja said the course was in line with local cultural requirements, as Islamic banking principles are incorporated into the programme.

Dana Gas reports 27% increase in net profit in Q1 2018

Dana Gas reported a net profit of $14 million for the first quarter of 2018 compared to $11 million reported during the same period last year. The company attributed the increase in net profit to better realised prices and the positive arbitration settlement with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). First quarter gross revenue reached $120 million compared to $118 million in the first quarter of 2017. During the first quarter of this year, group average production was 65,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd), down 7% from 69,900 boepd in the first quarter of 2017. Dr. Patrick Allman-Ward, CEO of Dana Gas, said the first quarter 2018 saw Dana Gas continue to perform solidly from both a financial and operational perspective. The company recorded a 27% increase in net profit and higher revenues reflecting higher realised prices.

Gulf Capital Acquires Strategic Stake in #Saudi Arabia #Fintech Geidea

Asset management firm Gulf Capital has acquired a strategic stake in Saudi Arabian fintech company, Geidea. According to Gulf Capital, this deal with Geidea is the largest acquisition in the Saudi Fintech sector. Geidea was founded in 2008 and is the official distributor of Verifone and a payment solution company. Gulf Capital also reported that this deal is its fifth investment in the technology sector and is part of its efforts to develop the payment and digital financial transaction sector in the GCC. Dr. Karim El Solh, CEO of Gulf Capital, stated that this partnership was paving the way to adopt Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 and move towards a cashless society.

#Kazakhstan's financial hub adds Islamic arbitration capabilities

Kazakhstan's financial hub, the International Arbitration Centre (IAC) is adding specialists in Islamic law to its dispute resolution services. The IAC provides mediation and arbitration services as an alternative to traditional court litigation. The IAC is an independent body launched to complement the Astana International Financial Center (AIFC), an economic zone aimed at developing the republic's financial sector. IAC Chairman Barbara Dohmann said that Islamic finance is now part of everyday business dealings across the region, so the ability to handle civil and commercial disputes in Islamic finance has become very important.

Sharjah turns to the debt market to raise investment capital

The government of Sharjah is tapping the debt markets to help fund large-scale infrastructure and economic development programmes. On March 8 the emirate closed the book on a dollar-denominated sukuk, valued at $1bn. The 10-year bond was listed on the NASDAQ Dubai with an initial price of 150 basis points over the 10-year mid-swap rate, which then tightened to 135 basis points. Demand was high and the bond was oversubscribed, at around $2.4bn. Book runners were local, regional and global lenders, including the Sharjah Islamic Bank (SIB), Dubai Islamic Bank, HSBC and Standard Chartered. In early February the emirate also became the first Gulf sovereign issuer to tap the Chinese interbank bond market, issuing a RMB2bn ($318.4m) Panda bond. The increased investment is expected to boost GDP growth, with ratings agency S&P anticipating growth of 2.5% per year by 2020.

Dentons advised banks on Islamic financing for Byrne Group sale

Dentons has revealed that it acted as legal counsel advising on the Islamic financing of the proposed $270 million acquisition of Byrne Group by Itqan Investments. Byrne is an equipment rental company servicing the construction, industrial, oil and gas industries in the GCC. Through the recently completed transaction, Itqan Investments purchased the entire share capital of Byrne Equipment Rental and its subsidiaries. The organisation hopes to enhance Byrne’s ambition to launch into the Asian market. The Dentons team was led by partner and head of Islamic Finance in the Middle East Qasim Aslam, with support from senior associates Atif Choudhary and Jane Flournoy.

Sharia #fintech in #Indonesia seeing early boom, but VCs need convincing

Indonesia has seen a rapid growth of sharia fintech. In fact, the country’s Sharia Fintech Association already has 28 members, although it was established only in February. The interest is understandable given the size of the market for Islamic fintech. According to a 2017 Sharia Fintech Business Study published by Telkom Indonesia, the market size for sharia lending is worth up to Rp 7.3 trillion ($525 million). However, venture capital firms still seem hesitant about pouring capital into the sector. Mandiri Capital Indonesia investment head Aldi Adrian Hartanto believes that sharia fintech startups would need a more convincing business model and market approach in order to attract investment. Focusing on sharia market alone is not seen as a strong differentiator amid tight competition in the country. Malaysia, however, seems to see it differently. The country has made various efforts to provide funding for Muslim-focused tech. Thus, Malaysia was ranked first for Islamic fintech by Bloomberg Intelligence, followed by the UK and UAE.

Islamic finance body AAOIFI issues #standard for agency contracts

The Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI) has issued its first standard covering wakala, or investment agency contracts. The guidance aims to address the use of wakala in areas such as over-the-counter instruments, treasury placements and Islamic bonds. Wakala is common as a standalone product, but AAOIFI opted to focus its standard on more complex instances where it is combined with other contracts. Islamic banks use wakala for both their short and long-term funding needs, and in recent years have incorporated the contract into hybrid sukuk versions. In wakala, one party acts as agent for another and the AAOIFI standard focuses on this principal-agent relationship. It states that the relationship does not transfer ownership rights of the assets to the agent, the principal should account for the assets in its accounting books. The standard also requires the principal to evaluate the nature of the investment at inception.

After downturn, Islamic finance eyes profits, #fintech: survey

Islamic banks and insurers are focusing on profitability and new financial products. Surveys by the General Council for Islamic Banks and Financial Institutions (CIBAFI) show a strong focus on fintech and digital transformation. Islamic banks are launching technology departments and forming joint ventures with fintech firms. The survey showed that technology-related risks have been steadily increasing and are now the biggest perceived risks. This means Islamic banks must ramp up product innovation efforts, as crowdfunding, P2P and payments platforms will be a major focus in the medium term. The CIBAFI survey on Takaful showed a mixed view on technology, suggesting concerns were focused on operational efficiency rather than innovation.

Islamic finance body IFSB to develop financial inclusion guidance

The Malaysia-based Islamic Financial Services Board (IFSB) plans to develop a technical note on financial inclusion. The technical note will cover regulatory issues including Islamic microfinance, financial technology and integration of social finance. The guidelines will be funded by a grant from the Islamic Development Bank to be implemented over the next three years. Tens of millions of people in the Muslim world lack bank accounts because of poverty, poor education and a lack of infrastructure, but religious reasons are also an important element. Research from the International Monetary Fund has shown that religious concerns play a role in keeping people out of the financial system in countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Tunisia.

Islamic Development Bank finalizing 4-year investment plan with #Turkey

The Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) is working on finalizing a four-year partnership strategy plan with Turkey. Walid Abdelwahab said the IDB aims to invest in various sectors that will fuel growth, such as infrastructure, energy, transportation and education. He said the bank aims to support value chain development in Turkey to enable the country to become more competitive through linking it with global value chains. He added that the bank appreciates Turkey's experience with high-speed railways. IsDB is preparing a documentary on this topic for other member countries of the Group that are interested in this technology.

Hong Kong Gov’t Report Says Bitcoin Poses ‘Medium-Low’ Risk In Financial Crime

The Hong Kong Financial Services and Treasury (FSTB) released a report on the status of money laundering and terrorism financing. The report concluded that virtual currencies, like Bitcoin, are not particularly involved in either type of financial crime. Hong Kong's financial regulators and law enforcement agencies are working together to look into risks associated with Initial Coin Offerings (ICO) and cryptocurrencies. In March this year, Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) halted an ICO in Hong Kong and made the company return the money raised. More recently, in mid-April, the SFC said that the type of fundraising done through ICOs is better suited to venture capital funds.

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