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Moroccan jurist Ahmed Raissouni slammed for calling micro loans «Sharia-compliant»

Moroccan jurist Ahmed Raissouni and his recent fatwa on micro loans in Morocco has stirred controversy among Moroccan salafists. They urged the head of the International Union of Muslim Scholars to review his opinion on the matter. Raissouni said the loans introduced recently were Sharia-compliant, but salafists sustain the view that usury, even with an interest rate of 0.5%, remains a prohibited practice. Mohamed Talal Lahlou, a professor of Islamic economics said that these loans are meant to promote the national economy and the explanation of its advantages, as presented by Raissouni, is a sort of normalization of what is prohibited by Islam. He denounced the reasoning, which increases the power of an authoritarian and usury system.

StanChart betting big on Shariah-based banking

Standard Chartered is bullish about the fortunes of its Islamic banking business in Bangladesh, Saadiq. The global lender introduced Islamic banking in Bangladesh 15 years ago and has been a trendsetter since. It was the first to introduce Islamic credit card in Bangladesh in 2007 and arrange Sukuk transaction in 2019. The bank has introduced a product, Saadiq Hajj Savers, to provide its customers a one-stop solution for Hajj and Umrah. This account will enable customers to deposit a fixed amount every month and earn profit on their monthly average balance at an attractive rate. Saadiq has another savings product in the works: the Saadiq Graduate account targeting fresh university leavers.

#Bangladesh's Islamic finance industry keeps booming with no slowdown in sight

The central bank of Bangladesh approved applications from two domestic banks, Standard Bank and NRB Global Bank, to become fully Islamic banks. The two banks so far only operated Islamic windows but sought to convert to fully-fledged Shariah-compliant banks to enlarge their scope of product offerings. NRB Global Bank said it plans to change its name to Global Islami Bank to underscore its new role. The move brings the number of fully-fledged Islamic banks in Bangladesh to ten, with the others being Al-Arafah Islami Bank, Islami Bank Bangladesh, Exim Bank, Social Islami Bank, Shahjalal Islami Bank, Union Bank, First Security Islami Bank and ICB Islamic Bank. Analysts note that the industry has still high potential for further expansion as Bangladesh enjoys a vibrant economy with GDP per capita having more than tripled over the past decade.

BRIEF-Dar Al Takaful In Negotiations To Acquire Noor Takaful General And Noor Takaful Family

Dar Al Takaful executed a conditional offer letter to acquire 100% of shares of both Noor Takaful General and Noor Takaful Family. Completion of transaction is expected to take place in second quarter of 2020. After the transaction, Noor Takaful General and Noor Takaful Family will continue to conduct their business on an as is basis. Takaful policies underwritten by each of Noor Takaful Family and Noor Takaful General will remain unchanged and in full effect. Emirates NBD is acting as sole financial advisor on this transaction.

Saudi Arabia's Riyad Bank starts marketing 10-yr dollar #sukuk

Saudi Arabia’s Riyad Bank has started marketing 10-year dollar sukuk at around 225 basis points over mid-swaps. The Tier 2 subordinated sukuk sale is part of a $3 billion issuance programme. The bank hired JPMorgan, Riyad Capital and Standard Chartered to lead the deal. First Abu Dhabi Bank and HSBC are also involved in arranging the potential debt sale.

Pirate Statement on Homelessness for the United Nations

Pirate Parties International (PPI) released a statement, which also appeared on the website of the United Nations. PPI concludes that technology-based tools such as internet crowd sourcing of information and low threshold access to resource information better targets help where it’s needed. In areas where housing cannot be provided, PPI proposes open use of apps, websites and computer labs to help homeless locate resources. Merging technology, resources, helpers and users via digital platforms is a new frontier in fighting homelessness. Finland proves the efficacy of Housing First to reintegrate homeless into society. PPI are strong supporters of the self-evident truth that people function better when they have a place to live.

Riyad Bank planning USD #sukuk under new programme

Saudi Arabia's Riyad Bank is planning to issue an international Tier 2 U.S. dollar sukuk under a new programme. Funds raised from the first issuance under the new programme will diversify the bank's sources of finance, strengthen its capital base, support the expansion of its credit business and other activities. Riyad Bank has mandated J.P. Morgan, Riyad Capital, Standard Chartered Bank, First Abu Dhabi Bank and HSBC as joint lead managers for the upcoming sukuk. Fitch rated the sukuk programme BBB+(EXP)'/'F2(EXP).

Al Baraka celebrates Art Week in headquarters with an Art Exhibition by employees

Al Baraka Islamic Bank organized an art exhibition for talented employees of the Bank as well as for the staff of Al Baraka Banking Group. The Art exhibition took place on 28th January 2020 at the Al Baraka Headquarters in Bahrain Bay. Al Baraka Group President Mr. Adnan Ahmed Yousif said the exhibition aimed to explore the historical legacies of Bahrain, from traditional crafts, industry and pop culture to modernism’s forms, including art and architecture there by encouraging the talented employees. He further stated that some of the paintings would be selected for use in the Group’s calendars and greeting cards.

INJAZ #Bahrain set to launch its first mobile application

INJAZ Bahrain has endeavored to develop its first mobile application with the support of Al Salam Bank-Bahrain, K-Labs and Inforise IT. The application will offer an enhanced registration experience by enabling new joiners, volunteers and alumni to choose among a list of programs offered by INJAZ Bahrain in collaboration with public and private schools. The application will also provide INJAZ Bahrain’s privileged volunteers with reward points based on their contributed volunteering hours towards youth development. The INJAZ Bahrain application will be available for both Android and IOS users by June of this year. In an aim to expand youth education and economic development, INJAZ Bahrain is leveraging mobile to harness digital innovation to improve the learning process and encourage more volunteers to join its programs.

Al Salam Bank offers exclusive financing for Saraya Al Reem villas

Al Salam Bank-Bahrain signed a memorandum of understanding with Al Saraya Properties Company to offer an exclusive financing facility for customers purchasing villas in the new Saraya Al Reem 3 development. The bank's property finance scheme is available to all customers, including Bahraini nationals eligible for Mazaya social housing.

ShariaPortfolio rolls out portfolio management services in #Canada

ShariaPortfolio has introduced portfolio management services in Canada. The firm recently launched offices in Vancouver as well as Toronto. Plans are on to expand the employee strength of ShariaPortfolio Canada in additional provinces eventually. ShariaPortfolio imbibes halal ethical standards in its investment selection, taking a long-term perspective to wealth management. The firm has been operating in the US since 2003. It oversees $115m in assets for clients across 26 states. Besides, it delivers institutional level services to support collaborations with traditional financial services providers looking to incorporate Islamic portfolio management.

Maybank Islamic establishes regional footprint with Dubai branch

Maybank Islamic has officially opened its first overseas branch in Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC). It offers wholesale banking services and facilities, with emphasis in corporate financing, treasury, and capital market and trade finance. According to Maybank Islamic’s CEO Datuk Mohamad Rafique Marican, the DIFC branch was a significant milestone for Maybank Islamic, as it not only marks its first overseas branch but also Malaysia’s first Islamic bank to have a presence outside local shores. The regional office is headed by its country manager Nik Joharris Nik Ahmad, who has over 20 years experience having worked in Kuwait, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. Maybank Islamic offers a range of Islamic financial products and services across 354 Maybank touch points in Malaysia, as well as international operations in Indonesia, Singapore, Hong Kong, London, Labuan, and Dubai.

IMF: Oil-rich Gulf Arab states may spend savings in 15 years

The International Monetary Fund warned that Gulf Arab states could burn through all their savings in the next 15 years as worries about climate change and supply from new competitors dampen oil prices. The stark alarm from the IMF comes as the island nation of Bahrain faced defaulting on a loan in 2018 and received a $10 billion bailout from its neighbors. According to IMF, the world’s demand for oil is expected to grow more slowly and eventually begin to decline in the next two decades. Oil production in the GCC represents 20% of global supplies. While GCC nations largely grew their reserves from 1997 to 2007, they began spending rapidly in the decade that followed. The monetary body recommended faster diversification away from an oil-based economy, a renewed push to save money and reforming the region’s large civil service.

Swiss fintech firms venture deeper into Middle East

Swiss fintech company Instimatch has launched into the Middle East, having won a licence to operate in Qatar, and signed up its first Kuwaiti bank. The company is poised to incorporate Islamic finance-compliant solutions and blockchain into its platform. Qatar's Masraf Al Rayan and Ahli banks are among the 80-plus entities signed up by Instimatch, along with Kuwait's Gulf Bank. Instimatch plans to have Qatar as a springboard for further expansion in the Middle East and later to Africa and Asia. Along with other countries in the region, Qatar recently launched a national fintech strategy to beef up its financial centre with digital innovations.

Indonesian Islamic P2P lender Ammana Fintek Syariah eyes international expansion starting with #Malaysia

Indonesian Islamic peer-to-peer lender Ammana Fintek Syariah is keen on entering international markets and is starting its expansion with neighbouring Malaysia. Ammana is also eyeing Brunei and Dubai as part of its international expansion. The Shariah-compliant fintech is in the process of applying to become a member of the international Islamic finance standards body the Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI). Ammana Fintek Syariah was established in July 2017 and disbursed 17.6 billion rupiah ($1.29 million) in financing in 2019.

Global Iman Fund: Learn about Canada's Shariah Compliant Equity Mutual Fund

Global Growth Assets Inc. has Canada’s only Shariah compliant equity mutual fund, the Global Iman Fund, which boasts a solid 10-year track record showing consistent growth. Fundata has awarded the fund its coveted FundGrade “A” rating, which places the Global Iman Fund in the top 10% of all global equity funds in Canada in risk-adjusted performance. Global Iman Fund is actively managed by the Swiss multinational financial services company UBS. The fund has been endorsed by a Fatwa from the Islamic Finance Advisory Board as being Shariah compliant. Audits by the Advisory Board find that the Fund invests in companies according to its objectives of Shariah compliance.

Shariah-compliant Qatar First Bank buys Seattle office building for $117 mln as it seeks to overturn losses

Qatar First Bank has acquired a property in Seattle, Washington, USA, for $117 million as it seeks to overturn its 2018 loss of 482 million riyals ($132.38 million). The four-building corporate campus property is fully rented by telco T-Mobile and software company Mindtree. QFB in 2019 exited its investments in several assets including Turkey-based English Home, Kuwait Energy, and Future Industries Holding. It said in October its strategy was to monetise its private equity portfolio and reinvest in more secure assets across politically stable jurisdictions. The bank made a loss of 303.64 million riyals for the nine-month period through Sep 30, 2019. QFB held 2.87 billion riyals in assets at the end of September last year.

Jaiz Bank gets investment grade rating from IIRA

Nigeria’s Jaiz Bank has been assigned positive rating by the Islamic International Rating Agency (IIRA). This is the first rating for the bank as the first Sharia compliant bank in the country. The Bank gets an investment grade rating of BBB (Triple B) for the medium to long-term and A2 in the short-term (A Two) on the national scale. The IIRA also assigned it a foreign currency rating of B-/B (Single B Minus/B) and local currency rating of B/B (Single B/B) on the international scale with a ‘Stable’ outlook. The agency affirmed that when compared, Jaiz Bank fares well in terms of risk exposure with its gross non-performance falling below 10%.

DIB set to cut jobs following merger with Noor Bank

Dubai Islamic Bank (DIB) is planning more than 500 dismissals at newly acquired Noor Bank as part of cost cuts across both lenders. DIB, the largest Shari’ah compliant lender in the UAE, has more than 9,000 employees, while Noor Bank has between 1,200 and 1,400 full-time staff. DIB completed its acquisition of Shari’ah-compliant Noor Bank in January 2020 in a deal that will make DIB one of the world's largest Islamic banks, with total assets worth AED 275 billion ($75 billion). Job cuts will be on both sides but DIB is the buying side so job losses are expected to be more on Noor side.

Islamic Bank hires new CIO

Birmingham-based Al Rayan Bank has appointed Simon Nash as the new chief information officer.
Simon Nash has 30 years’ experience in the financial services sector with multinational businesses including RBS, Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank. He will lead information technology innovation as well the development and augmentation of information policies and processes. He will be responsible for a team of almost 50 colleagues and will oversee further technology projects scheduled for this year, including the ongoing development of the recently launched mobile banking app.

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