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The second Islamic Microfinance Challenge is now accepting applications from Islamic financial services providers that offer Sharia-compliant products that are not based on the “murabaha” concept of “cost plus markup”. The contest, themed “Beyond Murabaha” for 2013, is sponsored by CGAP (Consultative Group to Assist the Poor), Islamic Development Bank (ISDB), Al Baraka Banking Group, and Triple Jump. The contest is also supported by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH. The winner of the contest will be awarded a grant of USD 100,000. The deadline for submitting applications is January 31, 2014, and the application form can be found at the following address: http://www.cgap.org/sites/default/files/islamic_mf_challenge_1.pdf
Donors at the launch of the Global Fund's Fourth Replenishment pledged US$12.0 billion for the next three years, the largest amount ever committed to fight against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. The contributions announced today include funding from 25 countries, as well as the European Commission, private foundations, corporations and faith-based organizations. Besides several countries, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is committing up to US$500 million to the Global Fund for the 2014-2016 period. Securing fresh resources for the next three years will help the Global Fund move closer with its partners toward a tipping point in controlling these epidemics, turning what scientists call high-transmission epidemics into low-level endemics and making them manageable health challenges instead of global emergencies.
The Gulf Monetary Council has dismissed media reports that it had set a date for the launch of a single currency for Arab Gulf countries. The Monetary Council is mandated with placing regulations for the establishment of the Gulf Central Bank and completing the establishment of the Monetary Union. Media reports this week said that four of the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries would announce the introduction of a common currency by the end of December. The common currency to be announced by Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia will be pegged to the Dollar, the reports said. The GCC countries have been discussing a currency union similar to the Eurozone for more than 15 years.
More measures to encourgae the development of the Hong Kong’s Islamic financial market, particularly the sukuk and the Islamic fund management industry were discussed during the first meeting of the Joint Finance Forum which was held in the special administrative region. The forum participants agreed to identify potential sukuk issuers and encourage cross-border sukuk issuances between Hong Kong and Malaysia. Moreover, they also agreed to consider launching Islamic funds and make use of the established mutual recognition framework for Islamic funds between Hong Kong and Malaysia to facilitate cross-border Islamic financial activities.
Property developer Sigma Capital Group has formed a 700 million pound ($1.14 billion) joint venture with Shariah-compliant Gatehouse Bank for the development of up to 6,600 new rental homes in Britain. The joint venture will initially invest 200 million pounds (approximately $326 million) in the construction of 2,000 residences in Liverpool and Salford in northwest England. Under the terms of the agreement, Gatehouse will deliver the equity element of the venture. Britain aims to address its imbalance of housing supply and demand by providing loans for the purchase of homes and by financing a 1 billion pound (about $1.6 billion) Build-to-Rent fund to encourage investment into rental housing.
Hong Kong's government has proposed a new law allowing it to issue Islamic sovereign bonds. This is a grand plan but maybe a little too ambitious. This is not the first time the government has promoted Islamic finance but not much has been achieved. The Hong Kong government now plans to issue sukuk. But whether a government issue will encourage other companies to follow with their own offerings remains a big question mark. The government has already launched the government bond and ibond programme but the local debt market is still not very active. Brokers speculate the Hong Kong government wants to promote Islamic bonds because Beijing wants to have a good relationship with Middle Eastern countries. If that is true, it may be up to some mainland companies to issue sukuk.
The 55-year-old American economist Nouriel Roubini is considered one of the leading economic thinkers of his generation. For 2014, the good news according to him is that there is an uneven but meaningful recovery under way pretty much everywhere. The bad news is that asset inflation and “frothiness” could create the conditions for another bust. Quantitative easing leads to a risk of financial instability, and greed in financial markets can still cause bubbles and crashes, he warned. But when he turns to the Middle East economies, and to the growing sector of Islamic finance, his tone brightens noticeably. The Islamic system is less volatile and potentially more stable than conventional financial systems. The advanced economies can learn from the Islamic system in this respect, he said.
Bahrain's Ibdar Bank was launched as a brand on Monday following the merger of Capivest, Elaf Bank and Capital Management House, after more than a year of negotiations between the Bahraini lenders and authorities. Ibdar hopes to leverage the combined expertise of its predecessor banks and a larger balance sheet to win business. The Islamic lender now has $300 million of paid up capital, $329 million in equity and assets of $360 million, which it hopes can help it win deals in its focus areas of capital markets, private equity and real estate. Ibdar is not leveraged and will retain Elaf Bank's licence in Malaysia to support a geographical scope that includes the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey.
AAOIFI Accounting standards reflect concept and essence of Islamic finance transactions and can enhance confidence of users of Islamic finance products and promote growth of demand. This was the conclusion at the AAOIFI-World Bank Annual Conference on Islamic Banking and Finance which was held in Bahrain on 18 & 19 November 2013. The conference also discussed venture capital from an Islamic finance point of view, proposing a model based on a musharaka/partnership arrangement. Moreover, the main types of risks faced by Islamic financial institutions such as non-compliance risks, operational risks, financial risks, and so on were outlined. The conference wrapped up by presenting some guidelines about how AAOIFI standards can be promoted in countries that follow international accounting standards or IFRS.
The global demand for Islamic pension funds is currently between $160 billion and $190 billion, according to estimates by Ernst & Young's (E&Y) Global Islamic Banking Center. At present, most of these funds are parked under conventional sovereign pension funds due to lack of investment options. Several fast-growth emerging markets including Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and UAE are seeing strong demand for Shariah-compliant retirement plans. A key decision is whether to allow members of the fund to transfer their existing account balance to the Sharia-compliant fund, or if only the future contributions should be segregated as conventional or Islamic. Additionally, timing for the desired transfer is important. The fund would model the outcomes based on several factors.
London-based Gatehouse Bank plans to build 6,600 rental homes and gain from the shortage in decent housing stock. The bank hopes to gain from the big shift in the country’s housing market away from buying to renting. Gatehouse has formed a joint venture with the property developer Sigma Capital to leap into the sector. Initially they will build 2,000 new homes in Liverpool and Salford at a cost of about £200m before going on, if the venture proves a success, to build a further 4,600 properties with a further £500m investment. If successful, it would overtake Britain’s biggest stock market-quoted landlord, Grainger Trust, which has currently got 4,000 homes. Gatehouse already has a £1bn property portfolio across the UK and US.
As part of its ongoing commitment to support Saudi sports, Bank AlJazira is geared up to kick off its new sports marketing campaign “support with passion,” which will be launched on Dec. 1. Through this campaign, Bank AlJazira will reveal the new set of club-themed credit cards that will carry colors and logos of 7 Saudi football clubs which have the widest fan base. This credit card will give the fans of Saudi football clubs a practical tool to express their passion and support for the club they admire in a unique way. The new campaign from Bank AlJazira will feature Al-Fateh, Al-Shabab, Al-Nasr, Al-Ahli, Al-Ettifaq, Al-Ittihad and Al-Wehda clubs. Fans now can browse various sets of designs for each card, with the opportunity to get incentives rewards and attractive awards in addition to star-related and club-official items.
Islamic Bank of Britain's directors responded favourably to a £24.1m offer from Qatari bank Masraf Al Rayan (MAR). The offer comes through MAR’s wholly owned subsidiary, Al Rayan (UK) Limited. MAR’s offer was first muted in October 2012 when the previous offer from IBB’s majority shareholder Qatar International Islamic Bank (QIIB) lapsed. The offer is being recommended by the independent IBB directors who consider it to be fair and reasonable. The offer from Al Rayan (UK) will provide IBB with a new parent company with plans to grow the bank and inject additional capital to fund that growth. The advisory firm Cattaneo provided financial advise to the Islamic Bank of Britain, legal advice was provided by Eversheds. MAR received legal advice from CMS Cameron Mckenna.
Dubai Holding, a conglomerate owned by the emirate's ruler, and Kuwait's Al Fajer Re plan to launch a Emirates Retakafulfirm with $500m of authorised capital in January to tap unserved demand in retakaful. The new firm, Emirates Retakaful, will be set up in the Dubai International Financial Centre, said Fareed Lutfi, director of insurance services at Dubai Holding. There will be scope to add more investors to the firm, he added. Emirates Retakaful will focus on covering general takaful business, such as oil- and aviation-related risks, and later explore family takaful risk.
Abed Al Zeera has been removed with immediate effect from the board of European Islamic Investment Bank (EIIB).
Power cables and wires manufacturer Ducab has taken a strategic initiative to convert its conventional metals hedging practices into Islamic structures. The ultimate objective of this initiative is to persuade global metal exchanges to adopt the product as one of the standard traded offerings. This new hedging opportunity was placed under the spotlight at the 2013 Global Islamic Economy Summit, which took place on 25 and 26 November, as Ducab seeks to promote the Sharia-compliant hedging to other major companies in the MENA region.
The Islamic fund industry manages about $46 billion, only a tiny part of the total global asset management figure, which stands at $60 trillion. The issues that need be addressed for the Islamic asset management and investments to grow were discussed at the first Global Islamic Economy Summit 2013. Performance of the funds is key to bringing in clients, both institutional and retail. In a region, such as the GCC, where the retail component is extremely small, funds have to ensure capturing all the sectors in the market. Moreover, savings ratio in Muslim countries is low and awareness of mutual funds among retail groups is very low. With an attractive performance and support from the sovereign funds and pension funds and the governments, the sector may grow substantially.
The Islamic Finance market has an estimated market of around Rs 300 billion and with the operation of currently five commercial licensed banks, three finance companies and other institutions, Sri Lanka’s total deposit base is nearly Rs 35 billion and the total loan base is Rs 24.8 billion. In Sri Lanka the Banking Act No 30 of 1988 was amended in March 2005 to accommodate the concepts of Islamic banking. Major banks such as HSBC, Standard Chartered Bank ABN Amro have dedicated Islamic Banking subsidiaries or Islamic Banking windows. Islamic finance is considered a key opportunity to bring in funds via different agencies, countries and foreign currencies. Introducing new Shariah-compliant instruments and products is important for expanding the Islamic finance industry in the country.
Draft Islamic banking and insurance regulations have been prepared in Morocco and could be passed by parliament before the end of next year. Morocco has been seeking to develop Islamic finance for about two years, partly as a way to attract Gulf money and fund the huge budget deficit. The government originally planned to issue its first sovereign Islamic bond this year but that plan appears to have been delayed. The Islamic finance laws could clear the way for Morocco to see its first conventional bank with an Islamic window, as well as sukuk issuance by private firms. Two or three private firms could tap the market fairly quickly after the laws are passed.
The Central Bank of Bahrain yesterday announced that the monthly issue of the Sukuk Al Salam Islamic securities for the BD36 million issue, which carries a maturity of 91 days, has been oversubscribed by 102 per cent. The expected return on the issue, which begins tomorrow and matures on February 26 next year, is 0.85pc, compared with 0.85pc for the previous issue.