Islamic windows should become full subsidiaries: Bank Nizwa CEO

More full-fledged Islamic banks are needed and the Islamic banking services of conventional banks should be converted into full subsidiaries if Oman were to fully embrace the Islamic finance concept in its entirety, says Dr Jamil El Jaroudi, CEO at Bank Nizwa. It would also eliminate potential regulatory arbitrage between conventional banking and Islamic banking that could harm or raise doubt on the Sharia aspects, he added. The Islamic windows' cost of doing business and relying on their parent banks’ infrastructure resulted in a disadvantage for the business of fully-fledged banks. Nonetheless, the windows have yet to reach their critical sizes to be able to justify conversion into standalone banks.

Business interview: Takaful industry has great potential in Oman

Datuk Dr Mohd Daud Bakar is the founder and executive chairman of Amanie Advisors. He chairs the Sharia'a Advisory Council at the Central Bank of Malaysia, the Securities Commission of Malaysia. A Sharia'a board member on various financial institutions in Malaysia and the Middle East, Dr Bakar is also deputy chairman on the board of Al Madina Takaful in Oman. Dr Bakar was recently in Muscat to attend Al Madina's Sharia'a board meeting. He spoke about the global Islamic finance industry and shared his views on the outlook for Oman's Islamic banking and takaful markets. He said that in Oman, awareness needs to be spread at all levels through all available channels.

Oman’s Islamic banking sector records robust growth during the first half of 2015

Helped by growing awareness of Sharia’a-compliant banking services and increasing number of branches, the Islamic banking sector in the sultanate recorded robust growth during the first half of 2015. The combined assets of the sector surged 64 per cent to RO1.83bn as of June 30, 2015 against RO1.11bn a year ago. Islamic banking now accounts for 6.3 per cent of the total banking assets in Oman. Total financing by Islamic banks and windows jumped by 85 per cent to RO1.38bn from RO745mn. Oman's Islamic banking sector comprises two fully-fledged Islamic banks (Bank Nizwa and alizz islamic bank) and six Islamic banking windows of locally incorporated commercial banks.

Bank Sohar appoints new head of Islamic banking

Bank Sohar has appointed Salim Khamis Al Maskari, the former senior assistant general manager of branches, as the head of Sohar Islamic, Bank Sohar’s Islamic banking window. Prior to joining Bank Sohar in 2007, Salim Al Maskari had worked as the district manager of the Sharquiyah region for Oman International Bank and later moved to Bank Muscat as the regional manager of the north capital region. He has more than 29 years of experience in the banking sector in Oman and holds a Master of Business Administration from the University of Hull, UK. He also completed his Certification in Islamic Banking and Takaful Products (CIMA) examinations in 2015.

Oman central bank rejects Bank Muscat's $1.3 bln sukuk plan -source

Bank Muscat, Oman's largest lender, has delayed plans to launch a 500 million rial ($1.3 billion) sukuk programme after the central bank rejected the proposal, a source at the bank said. The regulator informed Bank Muscat in writing that it would not accept the plans in their current form, which involved the lender asking for a single approval to issue 100 million rials a year for the next five years, the source said, adding that the central bank had concerns over plans to use the sukuk proceeds to increase personal lending. The bank will restructure the sukuk proposal and file for the approval again. The plans for the sukuk to be issued in various tranches was backed by Bank Muscat's shareholders in March.

CBO shows commitment to Islamic banking, says Fitch

Effective regulation and supervision of Islamic banks achieved through a dedicated unit of the Central Bank of Oman (CBO) is positive for the sector as it should strengthen early detection of risks and support growth, Fitch Ratings said. The central bank inaugurated its specialist department for overseeing Islamic banking last week. The department will build up resources and expertise and centralise all aspects of Islamic banking regulation and issuance. Although the industry represents just over five per cent of total banking assets in Oman, it could grow rapidly, as it has in neighbouring countries where market shares range between 20 to 30 per cent, the ratings agency said. The global ratings agency added that a limited number of Omani corporates have issued sukuk and the country's banks may follow.

Oman central bank sets up Islamic banking department

The Omani central bank has established an independent department to handle Islamic banking. The new department will handle all Islamic banking matters, though the existing examination and surveillance departments will continue their supervision of banks. The creation of a separate Islamic banking department appears to clear the way for two steps seen as critical to the long-term development of the industry: issuance of sovereign Islamic bonds, and the introduction of sharia-compliant money market tools. The government has said it plans to sell its first sukuk, an issue of OMR 200m ($520m), in coming months, while a central bank task force has been studying Islamic money market operations.

Bankers in Oman caution against 'excessive consumerism'

Banks in Oman believe that ease of access to financing and a wider range of options have enhanced the experience of customers but also hold the opinion that excessive consumerism should be avoided through educating the society. Yousuf Al Rawahi, deputy general manager - head of branches, retail and private banking at Ahlibank, says that with the ease of available credit, any society will have consumerism, which has to be managed accordingly. However, he says more efforts are required to promote the culture of saving in Oman. Asad Batla, head of consumer banking at Bank Nizwa, believes that the rate of consumption in Oman has witnessed ‘exponential’ growth. He added that Bank Nizwa encourages its customers to have discipline in their financial decisions, while constantly focusing on helping them lead financially-secure lifestyles.

Final approval for takaful law expected soon; industry constitutes 6% in total business

A final approval for the draft takaful or Islamic insurance regulation, which was cleared by the State Council in February, is expected soon. The draft Takaful Insurance Law, which was prepared by the insurance regulator, Capital Market Authority (CMA), is expected to give the much-needed impetus to the development of the Islamic financial sector. The law, which was drafted with the assistance of a consultant in line with the principles of the Islamic Financial services Board, was circulated among all related parties, especially insurance firms for their feedback, before seeking approval from various entities like the Ministerial Council and the Ministry of Legal Affairs.

Sohar Islamic SME financing grows in popularity

In line with the government's initiatives to boost the Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) sector in the Sultanate, Sohar Islamic, Bank Sohar's dedicated Islamic Banking Window, continues to support the sector with its SME line of services. The bank provides financing up to 90 per cent at competitive profit rates for a maximum tenure reaching up to 5 years allowing SMEs to invest in construction equipment, machinery and commercial vehicles. The product is underpinned by simple application and approval process, thus ensuring quick turnaround time (TAT), tie ups with major dealers of equipment and commercial vehicles, collateral-free financing (financed asset constitutes the primary security), and less documentation. In addition to the SME finance, Sohar Islamic has banking solutions that cover retail and corporate financing needs.

Ahli Bank’s ‘Al Hilal MENA Fund’ posts 12 per cent return

Al Hilal MENA Fund (AHMF); Sharia Compliant, open-ended fund, managed by ahlibank asset management has posted commendable returns of 12 per cent year to date, as on April 30, 2015. Al Hilal MENA Fund is the first and only Sharia Compliant fund sponsored and managed by a bank in Oman. The fund invests across listed equities and sukuks issued and tradable within the GCC region. The current investments represent geographical coverage spanning Oman, Qatar, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia. The diversified sector exposure constitutes investments into petrochemicals, fertilizer producers, industrial chemicals, oil and gas exploration, Islamic banking, takaful, real estate, telecom, consumer discretionary and industrial manufacturing.

Oman announces OMR200 million debut sovereign sukuk issue

Oman government on Sunday officially announced the much-awaited maiden sovereign Sukuk issue of OMR200 million. The sovereign Sukuk issue will be through a private placement and will open for subscription soon. It will be marketed primarily to Islamic financial institutions, and sophisticated investors with a minimum subscription amount of OMR500,000, said Tahir Salim Al Amry, who heads the Sukuk committee. The sovereign Sukuk is primarily aimed at addressing the need of the nascent but fast growing Islamic financial sector in Oman. The Sukuk will serve as a domestic investment and liquidity management instrument to Islamic financial institutions in the country, he added.

Bank Muscat shareholders approve RO 500 million sukuk programme

Bank Muscat's shareholders have approved the Board's recommendation for the setting up of a RO 500 million (or its equivalent in US Dollar currency) Meethaq Sukuk Programme for the issuance of sukuk in various tranches in the domestic and international markets through public subscription or private placement. The Sukuk tranches under the Meethaq Sukuk Programme will be in different amounts, maturities, and profit rates, issued on different dates with varying terms and conditions of subscription. All Sukuk will be issued within five years. Approval was also given to the Board's recommendations to issue convertible bonds.

Omani Shari’ah authority holds first meeting

The High Sharia Supervisory Authority held its inaugural meeting at the Central Bank of Oman HQ in Muscat with Sheikh Dr Kahlan bin Nabhan Al Kharoosi, Sheikh Dr Abdullatif bin Mahmood Al Mahmood, Dr Said Bouheraoua, Ahmed Suhaimi bin Yahya and Dr Yaqoob bin Mohammed Al Waily in attendance. The formation of the High Sharia Supervisory Authority is considered pivotal to the CBO's efforts to introduce Islamic banking to Oman in a way that is likely to match demand. Both standalone Islamic banks as well as Shari’ah compliant windows are allows in Oman, unlike neighbouring Qatar.

Islamic banking not expensive, says Bank Nizwa CEO

Oman's Bank Nizwa has launched a pioneering educational platform entitled 'Islamic Finance Knowledge Series', which aims to raise the community's awareness about Islamic banking across Oman. Jamil El Jaroudi, the bank's chief executive officer, noted that the new initiative is seeking to address the misconceptions about the concept of Islamic banking. El Jaroudi said that one mistaken belief is that it is more expensive to obtain financing from an Islamic bank than a conventional bank, which is not necessarily true. The sessions of the series will be delivered to both the public and private sector individuals, as well as college and university students.

Nod for Takaful Insurance draft

Oman's State Council yesterday approved the draft Takaful Insurance Law referred to it by the Council of Ministers and the report which was prepared by Majlis Ash'shura and the State Council Economic Committee concerning that law. Out of 58 articles, 46 articles have been ratified in compliance with the views expressed by the government and the Majlis Ash'shura, although some articles were not agreed upon. The law ensures the formation of a non-conventional mechanism in the insurance system. It's expected to contribute significantly in stimulating the economy by attracting investors and encouraging consumers who are interested in Islamic insurance system.

Bank Nizwa’s sharia supervisory board assesses opportunities to extend Islamic financing products

Oman's Bank Nizwa recently held its 11th Sharia Supervisory Board meeting to discuss proposals for additional Sharia compliant financing solutions to meet the growing needs of the Bank’s individual and corporate customers. Dr. Jamil El Jaroudi, CEO of Bank Nizwa said the regular meetings allow the Bank to assess the performance of current products and services while also identifying the best approach for launching new propositions. The Board’s decisions are guided by the Islamic Banking Regulatory framework issued by the Central Bank of Oman, as well as the Sharia standards issued by the Auditing and Accounting Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions in Oman.

CMA organises major forum on governance of family businesses

The Capital Market Authority (CMA), represented by the Oman Centre for Corporate Governance and Sustainability, in cooperation with the Pearl Initiative, organised a seminar on 'Governance of Family Businesses and the Separation of Ownership from Management and Succession Planning'. The seminar was aimed at airing the views of those present and fostering dialogue among the representatives of the family businesses, business experts and specialists in this regard. Speakers underlined the importance of accountability and transparency in the family and state-owned companies that seek to successfully achieve permanence and continuity.

S&P lowers Saudi and Oman outlook on low oil price

Standard and Poor's has lowered the outlook for the world's top oil exporter Saudi Arabia to stable from positive and its Gulf partner Oman to negative on sliding oil prices. However, the ratings agency affirmed the strong "AA-/A-1+" long- and short-term foreign and local currency sovereign credit ratings for Riyadh over the "strong external and fiscal positions" it has built up in the past decade when oil prices were too high. It said low oil prices will place pressure on the kingdom's gross domestic product (GDP) and per capita income because Saudi Arabia's economy is undiversified and vulnerable to a sharp and sustained decline in the oil price.

Oman Islamic Finance Report 2015: Building on a Strong Start

"The Oman Islamic Finance 2014: Building on a Strong Start" is written and produced by Thomson Reuters, Islamic Research and Training Institute (IRTI), and the General Council for Islamic Banks and Financial Institutions (CIBAFI). The report provides substantive due diligence on the opportunities for Islamic financial services in Oman.

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