The Straits Times

#Indonesia gains heft in Islamic banking with 3-way merger

The Indonesian government announced that it would merge the syariah units of three state-owned lenders to create the country’s seventh-largest bank. Pending approval by regulators, the syariah units of Bank Rakyat Indonesia, Bank Mandiri and Bank Negara Indonesia will join forces by February to form a lender with roughly 215 trillion rupiah (S$19.8 billion) in assets. The move is part of an ongoing effort among Indonesian officials to capture a bigger slice of the market of religiously observant Muslims.

#Indonesia launches master plan to breathe new life into Islamic finance sector

The Indonesian government has launched a national master plan to develop its Islamic finance industry. Indonesian Islamic banks hold roughly 5% of total banking assets, compared with more than 20% in neighbouring Malaysia. According to Farrukh Raza, managing director of IFAAS, an Islamic finance consultancy which designed the 10-year master plan, the government would increase its use of Islamic debt instruments to as much as 50% of total issuance in 10 years time. Indonesia's pilgrims' fund would also see the establishment of a dedicated asset management arm to implement a more rigorous investment policy and attract external fund managers.

Hong Kong bank funds said frozen in 1MDB probe by #Singapore and other authorities

Hong Kong bank accounts belonging to several unnamed individuals have been frozen amid global investigations into the finances of the Malaysian state fund 1MDB. Owners are being probed by authorities in countries outside of Malaysia. Authorities in Singapore charged two men following investigations into their dealings with the fund. A Malaysian parliamentary committee had identified at least US$4.2 billion of irregular transactions by the fund.

Singaporean ex-BSI private banker Yeo Jiawei charged amid 1MDB probe

The Singaporean ex-BSI private banker Yeo Jiawei has been charged with receiving benefits from criminal conduct. He was charged on April 16 for receiving S$200,000 in his Bank of China account in 2013. While the charge sheet made no mention of 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), Bloomberg reported earlier on Friday that Mr Yeo was charged with money laundering following investigations into 1MDB's money flows.

Why syariah compliance 'makes business sense'

Being syariah-compliant can help businesses generate long-term returns, a panel discussion heard yesterday. That is because compliance involves adopting socially responsible practices. Mr Rushdi Siddiqui, co-founder and chief executive of Zilzar Tech, noted that companies with such socially responsible practices typically have lower funding costs, and the returns after they are listed are typically greater. A report from Arabesque Asset Management presented similar findings. It reviewed 51 academic studies and found that 88 per cent showed a positive correlation between sustainable practices and operational performance.

Maybank says Islamic loans overtake conventional financing for the 1st time

Malayan Banking Bhd (Maybank) provided more Islamic loans than non-Shariah compliant financing in Malaysia for the first time in 2015 and the business was also more profitable. Maybank Islamic Bhd contributed 51 per cent of loans by the nation's biggest lender, up from 44 per cent in 2014, and a share 10 to 20 percentage points higher is possible, chief executive officer Muzaffar Hisham said. The unit achieved an average 16 per cent return on equity in the last four years, compared with 14 per cent for its parent. Maybank Islamic's total financing rose 21 per cent to RM131.1 billion (S$44.2 billion) last year. Growth will probably moderate to less than 10 per cent in 2016.

Frozen bank accounts linked to 1MDB raises questions about doing business in Malaysia

Bank accounts frozen. Bankers quizzed. As offshore authorities seek to track money flows involving Malaysia's troubled government investment fund, fresh questions are rising about doing business in the country. Crisscrossing countries from Switzerland to the US, Middle East and Singapore, investigators are chasing a trail of transactions linked to 1Malaysia Development Bhd. With the probes potentially running for years, investors and analysts say it may damage the perception that Malaysia is trying to become a more transparent place. The risk is political, economic and commercial. Malaysia's global score worsened in Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index for 2015, putting it on a ranking near Slovakia and Cuba.

More wealthy Asians turn to philanthropy - but on the quiet

Asia's wealthy have been quietly stepping up their commitment to philanthropy, pouring significant fortunes into causes such as education - and doing so well away from the sort of limelight that their Western counterparts often enjoy. Many established private banks have dedicated units to advise their wealth management clients on matters related to philanthropy. Credit Suisse Private Banking Asia Pacific is one of them, having created SymAsia five years ago to help its clients set up charitable foundations. Singapore has been very much part of Asia's growing philanthropic community. The Singapore Government has moved to encourage more giving.

DBS to wind down Islamic banking unit

DBS Group Holdings is winding down its Islamic banking unit, The Islamic Bank of Asia (IB Asia), which it said has been unable to achieve economies of scale. The process of winding down the unit will likely take two to three years. IB Asia, which had been named "Best Islamic Bank in Singapore" by Islamic Finance News in January this year, offers wealth management services to high net worth customers. It also provides treasury, corporate advisory and capital market services to businesses. The move to wind down IB Asia is subject to obtaining approval from its shareholders and receiving regulatory approvals, DBS said.

Ismail Hussein: From a bank to Parliament

Retail investors will soon get to invest in Singapore’s first syariah-compliant real estate investment trust (Reit), the Sabana Reit – set to hold about $850 million of Singapore industrial properties. Maybank Singapore is offering smaller firms an Islamic commercial property loan that comes with one of the longest fixed interest rate terms here. The product, called Maybank Islamic Term Financing, will provide small- and medium-sized enterprises (SME) with financing for completed commercial and industrial properties, on a mid- to long-term basis. Maybank Singapore head of Islamic banking Ismail Hussein said the product had contributed significantly to Maybank’s Islamic SME financing portfolio.

Golden-Agri issues maiden $600 million Islamic bond

Oil palm plantation firm Golden Agri-Resources has issued its first sukuk in Malaysia worth RM1.5 billion (S$600 million). The sukuk will expire in five-year's time - in November 2017. The funds gained through the sukuk are planned to be used for the general corporate purposes of the company and are expected to strengthen its financial flexibility for growth. The issuance of the Islamic bond is a part of a RM5 billion programme.

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