Reuters

#Morocco opens first Islamic bank branch months after approval

The first Islamic bank in Morocco, Umnia Bank, has opened its doors five months after the central bank's approval. The North African country long rejected Islamic banking because of concern about Islamist movements, but its financial markets lack liquidity and investors. Umnia Bank is a joint venture of Qatar International Islamic Bank (QIIB) and Moroccan lender Credit Immobilier et Hotelier (CIH Bank). Umnia recently opened a total of three agencies, two in Casablanca and one in Rabat. The bank plans to open more branches throughout the country. Morocco is the most advanced of North African neighbours in developing Islamic finance. Tunisia and Algeria are also starting to explore the sector.

BRIEF-Kuwait Finance House denies any decision to merge with Ahli United Bank

Kuwait Finance House denies any decision to merge with Ahli United Bank. Kuwait Finance House is currently studying many other strategic alternatives to enlarge its profitability and marketshare among local and regional banks.

#Qatar Islamic Bank's dollar #sukuk books top $1 billion -lead

Order books for Qatar Islamic Bank's planned dollar five-year sukuk have topped $1 billion. The senior unsecured deal is part of a $3 billion sukuk programme. It will be of benchmark size, which conventionally means upwards of $500 million. Initial price guidance for the Islamic bond was 145-155 basis points over mid-swaps. Citi, Emirates NBD Capital, HSBC, Noor Bank, QInvest and Standard Chartered Bank have been appointed to lead the transaction.

#UAE’s Dana Gas begins refinancing talks on $700 mln #sukuk

United Arab Emirates' energy producer Dana Gas has started refinancing discussions with the holders of its $700 million sukuk maturing in October 2017. The company has faced a cash shortage in the last period and is now planning to restructure its dollar sukuk which was issued in May 2013. Dana Gas CEO Patrick Allman-Ward refused to comment. The energy producer in April repaid an outstanding $60 million loan for its Zora gas field project in the UAE to avoid a breach on the facility. Dana is owed receivables of about $1 billion from Egypt and the Kurdistan Regional Government. Its cash balance as of the end of March was $298 million, slightly below $302 million as of the end of last year. To focus on cash preservation, the company reduced its operational and capital spending in the first quarter.

#Turkish wealth #fund head says signed Islamic mortgage deal with IDB

Turkey's new sovereign wealth fund has signed a framework agreement with the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) to develop Islamic mortgages. Turkey's government has already transferred stakes worth billions of dollars in Turkish Airlines, major banks and other companies to the wealth fund to finance big-ticket infrastructure projects. Fund chairman Mehmet Bostan said the fund had authority to support mega projects but its priority is to invest in leading global industries in areas like technology, telecoms and energy. Bostan said financial technology was one of the fund's areas of operation, adding it was working on a joint payment platform and mobile banking. He added that the Turkish fund has received invites from other national funds and was negotiating with two of them after signing an agreement with the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF).

Albaraka Turk secures $213 million Islamic #loan

Turkish lender Albaraka Turk has secured a $213 million murabaha-based loan syndication, up from the $150 million it initially sought. The bank said the profit margin for the 370-day sharia-compliant facility was 125 basis points over three-month LIBOR. The lender had appointed ABC Islamic Bank, Dubai Islamic Bank, Emirates NBD Capital Ltd, Qatar Islamic Bank and Standard Chartered Bank to arrange the transaction. The bank is a unit of the Al Baraka Banking Group, which is also planing to issue dollar-denominated sukuk.

Head of #Islamic #finance body #IFSB to #retire

The secretary general of the IFSB will retire next week, according to a statement. Jaseem Ahmed will step down middle of April after leading the IFSB 6 years.
The process for the selection of a new secretary general has begun. Zahid ur Rehman Khokher acting as interim secretary general.

#Bank #of #England plans liquidity tool for #Islamic #banks

The Bank of England said it would develop a sharia-compliant liquidity tool for use by Islamic banks, to attract business from the industry's core centres. London has for some time sought to position itself as a global hub for Islamic finance.
The central bank has issued a consultation paper on a fund-based deposit model, that would help Islamic lenders to meet regulatory requirements for liquid asset buffers. It was stated, that the facility is unlikely to be ready before the spring of 2018, and it has yet to decide on whether it will develop a liquidity insurance facility. However, the tool would be a welcomed development for Britain's Islamic banks. These include Gatehouse Bank, the Bank of London and the Middle East, Al Rayan Bank and a unit of Qatar Islamic Bank.
The pricing would be comparable with conventional tools, and attractive for Islamic banks.

#Merger of three #Qatari #banks to take six months

The merger of Qatari banks Masraf Al Rayan, Barwa Bank and International Bank of Qatar is said to take six months to complete, Masraf Al Rayan’s chairman Hussain Ali al-Abdulla said lately. In December Reuters had reported that merger talks had begun which, if successful, would create the Gulf state’s second-largest bank. The new bank would have assets worth more than 160 billion riyals ($44 billion).
KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers have been appointed as merger advisers, along with law firm Allen & Overy as legal adviser, and furthermore the Barwa Bank and International Bank of Qatar. Masraf Al Rayan’s shareholders approved the issuance of sukuk worth up to $2 billion to meet the bank’s liquidity needs. In January banks had been appointed to handle a debut sukuk issue of around $500 million, banking sources told Reuters that month, but Abdullah said on Sunday the timing of the issue had not been finalised. Asked whether the bank’s liquidity had been affected by low oil prices Abudullah said “liquidity now is better than in 2016” and that the U.S. Federal Reserve’s raising of interest rates last month would improve the profits of Qatari banks.

Shareholders at #Qatar's Masraf Al Rayan approve #sukuk #issuance for up to $2bln

The shareholders of Qatar's Masraf Al Rayan, an Islamic lender, approved the issuance of sukuk worth up to $2 billion to meet the bank's liquidity needs on Sunday. The Gulf state's second largest lender by market value appointed banks in January to handle a debut sukuk issue of around $500 million, banking sources told Reuters that month.

#Malaysia's Maybank Islamic looks to home markets to drive growth

Maybank Islamic is turning to its home markets for growth, in particularly Indonesia where it manages $2 billion worth of assets and is aiming to compete with domestic Islamic banks. According to CEO Mohamed Rafique Merican, the bank could grow beyond its core markets of Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, but expansion in other markets would be opportunistic. Indonesia remains a key market for the bank, after Malaysia which accounts for 90% of the bank's business. As part of the ASEAN banking integration framework (ABIF), Indonesia and Malaysia have agreed in August to give their banks greater access to each other's markets. The move would give Malaysia's Islamic banks a potential lead to tap into the world's biggest Muslim-majority country, and one that continues to restrict to foreign lenders.

#Pakistan updates guidance for Islamic banks' external #audits

Pakistan's central bank has updated guidance on sharia governance for Islamic finance institutions. The goal is to expand the scope of external audits to help mitigate conflicts of interest and increase transparency. Those religious scholars who are members of an Islamic bank's sharia board are now barred from serving in any external audit firm. From now on, external sharia audits will have to cover pool-management practices and technology systems. This includes the way Islamic banks calculate distribution of profit and loss to depositors, the tracking of assets, and the allocation of income and expenses. The move is designed to separate the verification of profit and loss distribution between the banks and the external auditors, in contrast to the joint verification that was allowed under earlier guidance.

#Turkey's grain board TMO, Gap Insaat to sell debut Islamic #bonds

Turkey's state grain board TMO and construction firm Gap Insaat have received regulatory approval for debut sukuk sales. Turkey has seen steady issuance of sukuk from the government and the country's Islamic banks, but an increase in corporate issuance could help tap into a much wider stable of issuers. According to the country's Capital Markets Board, the TMO will raise 150 million lira ($41.6 million) via a sukuk that will be arranged by Islamic lender Kuveyt Turk. Turkey is seeking to build a bigger role in the industry and forge closer ties with fast-growing economies in the Gulf and southeast Asia. The Turkish Treasury hired banks to arrange a sale of sukuk in the international markets, with meetings set to begin this week in the United Arab Emirates.

BRIEF-Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank appoints Khamis Buharoun as acting CEO

On March 15 Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank appointed Khamis Buharoun as acting CEO. The appointment of acting CEO Khamis Buharoun is in context of CEO Tirad Marouf Al Mahmoud's medical leave.

Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank considering dollar #sukuk issue -sources

Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (ADIB) is considering to make a U.S. dollar-denominated sukuk issue over the next few months. The Islamic lender would join a number of Gulf Cooperation Council banks raising debt internationally through both Islamic and conventional bonds to improve their liquidity. Bahrain-based Gulf International Bank was the first regional lender to raise debt internationally this year with a $500 million bond sale in January. It was followed by a $1 billion sukuk sale by Dubai Islamic Bank, a $500 million conventional bond by Ahli Bank Qatar and a $500 million bond by the United Arab Emirates’ Bank of Sharjah.

#Algeria plans interest-free local #bond to offset dive in energy income

Algeria plans to raise money from an interest-free local bond in order to offset the huge fall in its energy earnings. The North African OPEC member has already cut public spending, introduced new taxes and reduced government subsidies on fuel. Finance Minister Hadji Baba Ammi said the new bond would not bear interest, which may help attract a greater number of Algerian buyers. The minister said bondholders would receive a share in projects that the issue would finance as an incentive. The government launched its first local bond last April, but it was harshly criticised by the religious community. While neighbours Morocco and Tunisia are developing laws for Islamic finance, Islamic banks and sukuk bonds, Algeria still has no legal framework for such operations.

Kuveyt Turk gets nod for 2 bln lira #sukuk, closes Dubai unit

Turkish participation bank Kuveyt Turk has received regulatory approval to raise 2 billion lira ($555.8 million) via sukuk, as it expands its domestic footprint while winding-down its Dubai unit. Kuveyt Turk, 62% owned by Kuwait Finance House , would sell the lira-denominated sukuk to qualified investors through its asset-leasing company, KT Kira Sertifikalari Varlik Kiralama, according to a regulatory filing. No timeframe or tenor were given for a potential deal. New funding could help the bank's plans to expand its branch network to 400 offices this year from a current 385. The bank increased its net profit by 22% and total assets by 15% in 2016. In December, however, the bank said it would terminate all activities of its wholly-owned subsidiary in Dubai, as it had not established a commercial advantage. It will continue to service the Gulf region via its branch in Bahrain, while concentrating on its operations in Turkey and Germany.

Halic Leasing widens #Turkey's #Islamic #finance market

Halic Leasing is expanding its sharia-compliant business portfolio to tap demand from small businesses. This is a sign that Turkey's Islamic finance market is growing beyond traditional banking services. According to Halic's General Manager Gokcen Sahin, the company is building a portfolio of leased assets and is targeting new business of around $25 million by the end of the year. Halic also aims to attract further investments from Islamic mutual funds while expanding into construction equipment later this year. The plans come after the firm's new shareholders injected fresh capital at the end of last year and set up a sharia committee to ensure its products conform to Islamic principles. Gokcen Sahid added that with a good quality portfolio, Halic may also consider raising funds via sukuk in the future.

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