Financial Times

Warning over tax clampdown on property owners

Plans to levy capital gains tax on property owners who hold their homes through a company structure risk discouraging investment in the private rented sector, tax specialists and investors warn. Scott Nicol, vice-president of Gatehouse Bank, which channels Middle Eastern investors' money into UK property, said he was also worried about the proposals. Gatehouse backed Sigma Capital last year to develop 6,600 privately rented houses in a deal worth £700m. If all the homes are built, Sigma will become Britain's biggest private landlord.

UK Islamic banks disappointed over plans for sukuk

The UK government's decision not to choose a local Islamic bank as an arranger for its sukuk is a lost opportunity to promote the homegrown Islamic finance industry, according to Harris Irfan, of European Islamic Investment Bank. Malaysia’s CIMB, Qatar’s Barwa, National Bank of Abu Dhabi, Standard Chartered and HSBC have been chosen to lead the sale.

Arabic calligraphy and the fine art of corporate logos

Wissam Shawkat, an Iraqi calligrapher who moved to Dubai at the end of 2002, splits his time between fine art calligraphy and designing logos for some of the largest companies in the UAE. As well as logos for regional companies trying to emphasise their roots, he also translates international brand names into Arabic typography for their Middle East operations. Calligraphy is an obvious choice for companies targeting Arab consumers as it creates more emotional reference to them. International companies that open operations in the Gulf often use calligraphy as a stamp of authenticity. Calligraphy might be considered an odd choice for those international companies that employ and cater to non-Arabic speakers, but the designs are rarely judged on their legibility alone. It's about creating an icon.

Debt issuance by Middle Eastern lenders surges 40% in first half

Middle Eastern debt issuance surged 40 per cent in the first half of 2013, the strongest period on record, according to new data released by Thomson Reuters. Debt raised reached $26bn, including $20.8bn of investment grade corporate debt in the first two quarters of the year, accounting for around 80 per cent of debt capital markets activity. In a further sign of a brighter outlook for the financial sector, debt capital markets underwriting earned banks $102m, more than double the income of the same period last year, and the best first-half performance ever, the report said.

Aston Martin owner gets creditor backing for debt restructuring

Aston Martin's indebted majority owner has won the backing of sufficient creditors to proceed with a fresh debt restructuring plan – using the British luxury carmaker as collateral – ahead of a planned seven-year asset disposal program. Investment Dar's proposed restructuring received the minimum required backing of at least 13 per cent of creditors, but did not exceed the 56 per cent maximum that the company would allow.

Investment Dar uses Aston Martin stake as debt deal collateral

Investment Dar has become overextended in the global financial crisis and its complex debt restructuring has dragged on for four years. The indebted Kuwaiti shareholder of ASTON MARTIN has offered a new debt restructuring deal to creditors, using its shares in the British luxury car brand as collateral. Under the plan, creditors of Kuwait’s Investment Dar will be given the option of becoming lenders to Oasis Holding (a Jersey-registered 'special purpose vehicle', SPV) while taking a 50 percent discount on what they are owed. The private equity group’s 24 per cent stake in Aston Martin and its 28 per cent stake in affiliate Asmar, which also holds shares in Aston Martin, will be among assets to be shifted across to the SPV. Altogether, Kuwaiti investors own 60.5 per cent of Aston Martin.

XL Group seeks to tap Islamic demand for insurance products

Insurance major XL Group and Islamic specialist Cobalt underwriters will offer sharia-compliant insurance for companies buying commercial property, paving the way for Islamic investors to tap London’s subscription-based insurance market for the first time. The new offering will allow multiple insurers to take part in Islamic insurance deals, adding scale to the fledgling sharia-compliant insurance industry in the UK. Under Islamic insurance, premiums are reflected as contributions, capital is segregated from the participants' funds and there is transparency on cost. It's necessary to abide by the scholars' principles on how things should be structured.

Bank tie-up collapses in Egypt

A joint venture deal between Middle East’s EFG-Hermes and Qatar’s QInvest has failed because the Egyptian Financial Supervisory Authority did not approve it in time. Under the terms of the deal, QInvest would have injected $250m into a joint venture banking business, and owned 60 per cent. Businessmen in Egypt have complained that, since the 2011 revolution officials have shied away from making big decisions because of fears over possible allegations of corruption. Analysts had also speculated that the failure of the regulator to approve the deal might be linked to the trial of the two chief executives of EFG-Hermes, alongside the two sons of the former president, over profits from the 2007 sale of El Watany Bank of Egypt. However, EFG-Hermes has said in the past that it did not believe the case had anything to do with the delay in approving the joint venture.

The Investment Dar: Creditors stand by for 'problem child' payment

After the debt troubles of Kuwait's Investment Dar (TID) of the past few years, some creditors are hoping for their first payment in June. However, creditors are still concerned over Investment Dar’s court-agreed repayment schedule. The asset disposal plan is reportedly making progress, against a tough economic backdrop, while resisting pressure to sell at distressed prices to buyers who sense a desperate vendor. The debt plan agreed by the court split the creditors into three groups, with repayment over eight and a half years.

Arab-led investment plan for crucial jobs

After the Arab Spring, an international but Arab-led investment plan is urgently needed to deal directly with the job shortage and promote economic stability across the region. The Arab Stabilization Plan is a private sector led policy response that envisages a multilateral economic plan. It focuses on creating jobs through fast tracked, project-based investment, achieving significant returns for investors and countries alike. However, the prospect of the private sector acting alone to restore economic growth is dim. In order to ensure a safer transition and prevent further instability and the potential for extremism, there is an urgent need for investment intervention over the medium term. Through a common regional investment platform, participating countries would be able to benefit through enhanced regional economic development, stability and security.

UAE financial association board resigns

The entire board of the Financial Services Association of the United Arab Emirates reportedly resigned after having lost trust and confidence in the group’s co-founder and sole shareholder Arwa Hamdieh. She herself claims having disbanded the board due to delays in implementing decisions. The board represented a third of the association’s members.

Bank secures sharia funding for Brazil

A Gulf investment bank has provided sharia-compliant funding worth millions of dollars for a Brazilian sugar and ethanol maker. The deal is an example of how smaller firms can be considered new investment possibilities for the wealthy Islamic lenders of the Gulf region. The deal is brokered by Abu Dhabi Equity Partners and will ensure financial means for an unnamed chemical alcohol producer in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul. This will be at the same time a three-month investment opportunity for the lending company.

It’s plain for all to see, ESG research works

There is enough evidence that corporate governance and other research referred to as "extra-financial" is helpful for performance improvement of investment portfolios. For instance, in June this year Deutsche Bank released an extensive review examining the most recent academic literature regarding the relationship between environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) factors and investment returns. Some of the most important conclusions were that academic research consistently finds a lower cost of debt and equity capital for companies with better ESG performance characteristics.

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Commodity trade finance lures Arab banks

Without causing much noise, liquidity-rich Arab banks have been taking part in commodity trade finance - an area which, until recently, was dominated by a small number of French banks. While the market share of eurozone banks has decreased from 80% two years ago to 50% today, banks from the Gulf region become more and more present. The lending limitations of the eurozone banks is caused by constrained US dollar liquidity.

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HSBC's Islamic closures highlight dilemma

Last week HSBC decided to close down its Islamic retail banking operations in six markets so that it will be present only in Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and, in shrunken form, Indonesia. This event underlined the contradictions of the broader sector. On one hand, Islamic banking is continuously reported to be growing at e very high rate - more than 20% a year. On the other hand, there is a huge difference between asset growth and revenues and profit. Poor performance in retail banking markets is the reason for HSBC's withdrawal as well as for the decrease of Barclays' and Deutsche Bank's Islamic banking teams in Dubai.

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Turkey moves ahead with Islamic bond plan

After almost a decade of preparation works, Turkey makes the next step in its Islamic bond plan. Citigroup, HSBC and Liquidity House of Kuwait are mandated to examine opportunities for sukuk issuance. The expectations are that the government will be able to gain a profit of up to $1bn through the sukuk. Also, the sukuk is likely to bridge the funding gap in the country's budget deficit target of 1.5 per cent of gross domestic product for 2012.

The sukuk wave ‘is going to get bigger’

Sukuk continues to attract interest among investors. Until now, $17.4bn have been raised in the form of 45 issues. This may look little compared with conventional credit markets. However, in Islamic banking, it is the highest issuance in the first half of the year since 2008. The sukuk wave is expected to become even bigger. Causes therefore are that the majority of sukuk investors are Islamic investors as well as that liquidity in the Middle East is driven by oil prices to a high extent. The situation is different in Malaysia, since the country is not an oil producer. The solution there is shaping the supply side to boost the market by regulation.


Islamic finance suffers growing pains

Robin Wigglesworth reported in the Financial Times that although, the Islamic finance industry may have breached the USD 1,000 billion mark in assets, difficulties arise, in spite of claims that the industry’s model is inherently more robust than conventional finance.

Islamic financial institutions have proven equally susceptible to a global economic downturn and property correction as their larger conventional peers. Dubai has been an active issuer of Islamic bonds, known as sukuk, and the exposure of Islamic banks to the emirate’s debt pile has caused the cost of financing to rise greatly during the past two weeks and triggered a rash of credit agency downgrades

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