Tunisia Plans $500 Million Sukuk Sale by End of November

Tunisia, where citizens started voting for a new parliament, plans to raise $500 million from the sale of sukuk by the end of November, according to Finance Minister Hakim Ben Hammouda. Consultations with Citigroup Inc., Natixis SA, Standard Chartered Plc and Qatar-based QInvest are ongoing, Hammouda said. Former Finance Minister Elyes Fakhfakh in July 2013 said the nation would raise as much as $700 million from the sale of Islamic bonds, the same month it approved a sukuk law. Tunisians cast ballots for a new parliament today, marking a milestone in the North African nation’s transition to democracy following the ouster of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali more than three years ago. Results are expected Oct. 29, and presidential elections are scheduled for next month.

ETFs Lag $2.3 Trillion Market as Options Scarce: Islamic Finance

Almost a decade since the Islamic world’s first exchange-traded fund started operating, assets account for less than one percent of the total $2.3 trillion ETF market, according to Falah Capital LLC. The U.S. fund manager set up its inaugural Shariah-compliant ETF this month. While the Philippines is set to become the latest nation to start an index of Shariah-compliant stocks this year, a lack of investment options in equities and bonds that comply with religious tenets is hindering growth in ETFs, Falah Capital’s CEO Thom Polson said. The Falah Russell-Ideal Ratings U.S. Large Cap exchange-traded fund has a market capitalization of $2.4 million and covers Shariah-compliant American companies.

Bank Asya Stock Halted in Istanbul as Concern Over Future Grows

Turkey’s stock exchange halted trading in Asya Katilim Bankasi AS (ASYAB) twice today, deepening concern about the Islamic lender that has lost almost half of its market value this week. Istanbul-based Bank Asya swung between losses and gains of as much as 11 percent before Borsa Istanbul halted trading, saying “abnormal” buy and sell orders warranted the decision. The stock resumed trading on Sept. 15 following a five-week suspension imposed on the heels of a failed takeover bid by Qatar Islamic Bank SAQ and amid speculation the government will seize the lender. It fell 48 percent in the three days through yesterday. The lender is “just trying to stay afloat,” Erdogan said today.

Female Bank CEOs Deepen Malaysia Expertise Pool: Islamic Finance

Two of Malaysia’s 16 Islamic lenders now have female CEOs and three of the 11-member central bank Shariah Advisory Board are women, becoming role models for Prime Minister Najib Razak’s push to raise the female labor participation rate to 55 percent by 2015, from 52.4 percent now. The push, which mirrors similar efforts in Japan and South Korea, aims to widen the pool of available talent and help Malaysia maintain its position as the world’s preeminent center for Islamic finance. Only one Shariah bank in the Middle East has a female CEO. Besides, being open to female talent has allowed Malaysia to access a wider pool of Shariah scholars, an area where there is a shortage of experts.

Erdogan Feud With Gulen Turns Asya Sukuk to World’s Worst

A feud between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and U.S.-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen has made sukuk from Asya Katilim Bankasi AS (ASYAB) the worst-performing in the world. Debt from the Shariah-compliant lender known as Bank Asya has lost 29 percent this year, compared with an average 4.5 percent return for dollar-denominated sukuk globally. The government must be clear about what the “problem” with Bank Asya is and decide whether it will take over the lender or impose restrictions on it. The bank, whose shares resumed trading on Turkey’s bourse on Sept. 15 following the five-week long suspension, is planning to raise funds in a capital increase, it said yesterday. The stock slumped 42 percent this week to a record low of 72 kurus at 12:24 p.m. in Istanbul.

Dubai’s DIB Boosts 2014 Loan Growth Forecasts on Economy

Dubai Islamic Bank PJSC (DIB) has raised loan growth forecasts for 2014 as it increases its corporate and real estate businesses amid the fastest economic expansion in the lender’s home market for at least seven years. The bank expects lending to grow 15 percent to 20 percent in 2014, more than the 10 percent to 15 percent it had previously forecast, according to Chief Executive Officer Adnan Chilwan. The company will continue to expand to take advantage of the emirate’s buoyant property market, while keeping its proportion of total lending at about 25 percent. Besides, the lender is exploring the option of setting up a new bank in Kenya by the end of the year to add to its presence in Pakistan, Jordan, and Bosnia, Chilwan said. It also expects to increase its stake in Indonesia’s Bank Panin Syariah.

Ethical Sukuk Boosted by Vaccine-Funding Debut: Islamic Finance

The International Financial Facility for Immunization seeks to sell as much as $500 million of dollar-denominated Shariah-compliant notes, using the bond proceeds to supply vaccines to some of the world’s poorest nations. IFFIM, a non-profit organization based in London, will sell the three-year vaccine bonds backed by commodities as early as this month. The sukuk will be of the Murabaha type and are rated AA by Standard & Poor’s. Ethical or green sukuk aren’t governed by any industry standards and don’t need a separate endorsement from an Islamic scholar. Issuance of green sukuk is expected to rise as there is growing awareness of environmental preservation.

Goldman Sukuk Lures Mideast’s Top Fund Manager: Islamic Finance

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) will probably succeed in its latest attempt to sell sukuk as investors clamor for Islamic bonds. GS will meet investors in the region this week before potentially selling a dollar-denominated, benchmark-sized issue through its unit JANY Sukuk Co. The New York-based lender’s first foray into the Islamic capital markets three years ago ended without a sale amid criticism from scholars about the structure of its sukuk program and the use of funds raised. This time the planned security will be a Sukuk al Wakala. Goldman Sachs along with Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank PJSC, National Bank of Abu Dhabi PJSC, Emirates NBD Capital Ltd. and NCB Capital will manage the new offering.

Islamic Debt Seen Funding U.K. Wind Farms to Rail Tracks

Islamic debt could become a source of funding for U.K. infrastructure projects from wind turbines to high-speed trains and airports as Britain cements its position as the first sukuk market in a non-Muslim nation. Investors see scope for the U.K. to issue Shariah-compliant bonds with varying maturities after the Debt Management Office attracted bids for more than 10 times the 200 million pounds ($331 million) of securities offered at its debut sale in June. There is investor appetite for more sales that could help fund almost 400 billion pounds of planned infrastructure projects. The U.K. government envisages 377 billion pounds of infrastructure projects in the coming years, with most of it financed privately or part-privately. Major projects include a high-speed railway link between London and Birmingham and wind turbines.

Moody’s A3 Credit Rating Gives Sharjah Debut Sukuk Edge

Sharjah gears up for its first Shariah-compliant bond sale this month. The emirate may price the debt to yield 2.5 percent to 3 percent if it’s a five-year issue. That compares with a yield of about 2.66 percent on non-Islamic notes due 2019 for Dubai, which doesn’t carry a rating. Sharjah’s A3 rating at Moody’s Investors Service, a grade four levels above junk, widens the pool of investors who can buy the debt. Moody’s cited the emirate’s “strong” fiscal and government-debt position, which may appeal to some money managers in Asia and Europe whose fund rules prevent them from holding non-rated or below-investment-grade debt. The emirate will meet investors in the U.A.E., Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Malaysia and the U.K., and will sell a sukuk subject to market conditions.

South Africa Hires Three Banks for Debut Sukuk Offering

South Africa said it appointed BNP Paribas SA, KFH Investment and Standard Bank Group Ltd. to arrange a debut sukuk sale of at least $500 million. Investor meetings will reportedly run from Sept. 8 to Sept. 12 in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. A sukuk issue may follow but the timing will depend on market conditions. South Africa is looking to issue a benchmark-size sukuk. Former South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan earmarked $1.5 billion of foreign issuance over this and the next two fiscal years in his February budget, including a sukuk of as much as $500 million. Standard & Poor’s cut South Africa’s rating to BBB-, on par with Russia and Brazil, in June, with a stable outlook. Fitch Ratings has a negative outlook on its BBB assessment, the second-lowest investment grade.

Bank Asya Barred From Selling Sukuk After Shares Suspended

The Turkish regulator Capital Markets Board (SPK) said it won’t consider Bank Asya’s (ASYAB) application to sell 140 million liras ($65 million) in debt, dealing another blow to the suspended Istanbul-based lender. It cited ambiguity over ownership. The shares have been on hold since Aug. 7, after large swings on contradictory government statements about a possible state purchase. Bank Asya was subsequently suspended from trading on the Istanbul exchange and removed from the main indexes. Regulators have also revoked the bank’s right to collect tax on behalf of the government. The bank said it applied to sell the debt in March. Bank Asya shares declined 14 percent this year before being suspended. That compares with a 20 percent gain on the Turkish banking index this year.

Perpetuals in Vogue as Malaysia Airports Sells: Islamic Finance

Malaysia Airports Holdings’ plan to sell perpetual sukuk highlights rising interest in the debt from companies looking to shore up their balance sheets. The manager of all of Malaysia’s 39 airports will hold an investor presentation for the offer on Aug. 25. It will be the nation’s first sale of rated ringgit Islamic bonds with no set maturity following unrated issues by Malaysian Airline System in 2012 and Boustead Holdings in June. Perpetual bonds, which rating companies treat as equity, have been becoming more popular as they allow issuers to raise money without damaging their creditworthiness and offer higher yields to investors. Moreover, it’s more cost efficient because the transaction is tax deductible.

Malaysia’s Khazanah Sells $476 Million Ringgit Islamic Bonds

Khazanah Nasional Bhd., Malaysia’s state-owned investment fund, has sold 1.5 billion ringgit ($476 million) of Islamic bonds. The firm priced the five-year debt to yield 4.14 percent, within its earlier guidance of 4.1 percent to 4.18 percent. The issuance is part of a 7 billion ringgit program to raise funds for corporate purposes. Khazanah will issue the new debt via its unit Rantau Abang Capital Bhd. It’s the second time this year that the company has tapped the ringgit sukuk market after selling 15-year securities in March at a coupon of 5.2 percent. Khazanah is in the process of buying up the 30.6 percent stake in Malaysian Airline System that it doesn’t already own.

High-Yield Sukuk Faces Test as Pakistan Readies: Islamic Finance

A shortage of global sukuk will probably help cut borrowing costs on Pakistan’s first Islamic bonds since 2005, boosting a government besieged by opposition street protests. The government plans to offer $1 billion of the notes, with the sale scheduled for the first week of September. Assuming it’s a five-year maturity, the coupon rate will probably be 5.75 percent to 6.25 percent. The nation paid 7.25 percent for 2019 non-Islamic dollar debt in April. This deal will be an important test to see how a politically volatile country, as Pakistan is at the moment, can issue a high-yield sukuk. There will be demand because no other country is giving this huge return. The rupee has rebounded 9.3 percent from a record-low of 108.70 per dollar on Dec. 3. It closed at 99.49 yesterday.

Shariah Study Lures Non Muslim Students in Asia: Islamic Finance

Demand for Islamic finance training from non-Muslims rose more than fourfold in the past seven years as students seek to enter an industry whose assets are set to double to $3.4 trillion by 2018. Malaysia’s International Centre for Education in Islamic Finance had 2,000 people enrolled on its courses this year, of whom about 14 percent are from nations with small Muslim populations. That compares with 3 percent in 2007. While students from South Korea, Japan and the U.S. dominate the enlistees, those nations have yet to introduce Shariah-compliant legislation. The industry needs 1 million people with Islamic finance knowledge by 2020 as Shariah-compliant assets are set to reach $6.5 trillion by then.

Saudi Market Surprise Sparks Speculation of Sukuk Access

Saudi Arabia’s plan to open its $531 billion stock market to foreigners is prompting speculation that Islamic bonds will be next. The government’s approval of overseas financial institutions to trade equities may herald a similar relaxation of rules in the local-currency primary debt market. Opening the local-currency sukuk market would give foreign investors access to companies that sold 42 billion riyals ($11.2 billion) through a dozen sales in the past year. That’s more than three times the amount of dollar Islamic bond sales, which are open to overseas buyers. However, access to the kingdom’s debt market may appeal more to investors wanting to broaden their exposure than to those seeking yield since lots of Saudi debt prices very tightly.

Mideast’s One Islamic Banking Woman CEO Sees Egypt Growth

Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank PJSC (ADIB)’s Egyptian unit sees demand for Shariah-compliant finance picking up, expecting to complete deals for about 5 billion pounds ($699 million) in the next year. The institution is working to provide syndicated financing for as much as five infrastructure projects in electricity, oil and gas, Nevine Loutfy, the only woman chief executive officer of a Shariah lender in the Middle East, said. ADIB Egypt was one of six lenders, including state-owned Banque Misr SAE that arranged a $110 million Islamic facility for East Delta Electricity Co. in February 2013, the nation’s first Islamic loan, she said. ADIB Egypt expects 2014 to be its second profitable year in a row, Loutfy said.

Moody’s Shows Sharjah Coming of Age With Sukuk: Islamic Finance

Sharjah, the third-biggest sheikhdom in the United Arab Emirates, is getting bigger in Shariah finance. The emirate has reportedly approached banks about a debut sukuk sale. Moody’s Investors Service last week gave state-backed Sharjah Islamic Bank PJSC an A3 rating, citing its strong capital buffers. While Moody’s said that Sharjah’s economic growth this year is expected to be only 0.5 percent, the ratings company also pointed to the government’s low levels of debt and strong finances. Sharjah’s economy is well-diversified, with strong manufacturing and a more affordable cost of conducting business than in Dubai or Abu Dhabi.

U.A.E. Islamic Bank Asks What’s in a Name After Barclays

Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank PJSC (ADIB), which bought the local retail assets of Barclays Plc (BARC) last month, is weighing whether to change its name as it targets more non-Muslim customers beyond its home market. The lender may change to Abu Dhabi International Bank outside the nation to lure customers drawn to ethical banking, Tirad Mahmoud, chief executive officer of ADIB, said. This could help capture a loan market that’s about 200-times the size of Shariah lending. With 60 percent of U.A.E. residents already holding bank accounts, faster growth opportunities for ADIB may need to come from international markets. The lender’s purchase of the Barclays asset was a rare chance to secure 110,000 new customers at home.

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