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National Bank of #Bahrain offers to acquire Bahrain Islamic Bank

The National Bank of Bahrain, which owns a 29% stake in Bahrain Islamic Bank (BisB), has made an offer to acquire the entire Islamic lender. Lower oil prices over the past five years are forcing Gulf lenders to consolidate for scale and to better compete in a crowded market. Subdued credit growth, competition for deposits, higher cost of funds and deteriorating asset quality are driving consolidation in the regional banking sector. In the UAE, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank merged with Union National Bank and the combined entity acquired Al Hilal Bank, creating a banking group with AED 423 billion in assets in May 2019. Similarly, in Saudi Arabia, National Commercial Bank is in the process of merging with Riyad Bank to create the Gulf’s third-largest lender with $193 billion in assets.

Islamic banking penetration in the #UAE hits new high

According to the Islamic Banking Index by Emirates Islamic, Islamic banking penetration in the UAE has reached its highest level for five years. The survey showed that three out of five respondents now have at least one Shari’a compliant product. The perception of Islamic banks has improved steadily from 26 percent in 2015, with significant improvements in key areas relating to technology and customer service. However, knowledge or awareness of Islamic banking terminology has not seen clear improvement since 2015. The 2019 edition of the Islamic Banking Index indicates that the sector continues to widen its appeal to an increasing number of both Muslim and non-Muslim customers.

Emirates Islamic: "The time for Islamic banking to come to the forefront of the finance sector is now"

The 2019 edition of the Islamic Banking Index by Emirates Islamic demonstrates significant progress made by the Islamic banking sector. Islamic banking penetration has reached its highest level since the inception of the Index five years ago. The Islamic Banking Index is a benchmark survey revealing the progress, penetration and perception of the Shari’a-compliant banking sector in the UAE. The 2019 edition indicates that the sector continues to widen its appeal to an increasing number of both Muslim and non-Muslim customers. Knowledge of Islamic banking terminology has not seen clear improvement, but has risen for some products, such as Takaful, that have become successful in the financial sector. Perception of Islamic banks has improved steadily, with significant improvements in key areas relating to technology and customer service.

Faith-based institutions answer The Call for impact investing (audio)

Agents of Impact aligned with Catholic, Jewish and Muslim institutions found common ground in using capital to usher in a fairer economy. Last month, the Catholic Impact Investing Collaborative announced a half-dozen institutions with $40 billion in assets have signed a “Catholic impact Investing pledge.” The Catholic impact pledgers are among a number of Catholic institutions carving out portions of their portfolio for direct, private impact investing strategies. Billion-dollar Catholic Relief Services allocates capital to direct investing, blended finance, technical services and capacity building. Other faith institutions are seeing impact investing as a way to complement their philanthropy. A faith-based organization that supports a nonprofit that helps poor farmers in India can complement that work by also investing in a business that buys from those farmers.

SEDCO Holding CEO talks ethical investments at WGES

The World Green Economy Summit (WGES) 2019 was held in Dubai and saw the attendance of over 3,000 delegates. The plenary session of the summit explored lucrative opportunities presented by green finance and how businesses can tap into this promising market. Hasan Al-Jabri, CEO of SEDCO Holding Group, highlighted the company’s Prudent Ethical Investing (PEI) strategy and stressed the significance of ethical and socially conscious investing. SEDCO Holding’s PEI-based portfolios combine the principles of responsible and Shariah-compliant finance, bringing together the many benefits of both approaches. The portfolios ensure long-term risk-adjusted returns to support the performance of businesses and promote greater sustainability.

The IFSB database disseminates data for 2019Q2 for Islamic banking systems in member countries

The Islamic Financial Services Board (IFSB) announced the dissemination of country-level data on financial soundness and growth of the Islamic banking systems for Q2 of 2019. This 14th dissemination completes the availability of quarterly data from Q4 of 2013 to Q2 of 2019. This PISIFIs project currently compiles data from Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brunei, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom. The PSIFIs Database (full set of data with metadata) is available on the PSIFIs portal at the IFSB website http://psifi.ifsb.org.

Wan Azizah: Make Islamic finance part of halal ecosystem

According to Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, action needs to be taken to make Islamic finance part of the halal ecosystem. She said it was reported that there seemed to be a disconnection between the halal industry and Islamic finance. Based on Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM)’s Financial Stability and Payment Systems Report 2017, Dr Wan Azizah said Islamic business financing continued to exhibit a strong growth of 12.5%. However, she pointed out that there was insufficient access to Islamic financing for the growth of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the halal sector. She said Malaysia could serve as a focal point for halal product trade intelligence by being the premier destination for halal trade exhibitions and commerce.

Sanusi Calls For Robust Regulatory and Legal Framework To Deepen Non-Interest Finance In #Nigeria

The Emir of Kano HRH Muhammad Sanusi II has called for robust regulatory and legal framework to deepen non-interest finance in Nigeria. He made this assertion as keynote speaker at the 4th African International Conference on Islamic Conference hosted in Lagos. As Africa faces a $360bn infrastructure gap, Sanusi was of the view that Islamic Finance offered an opportunity for addressing the deficit. Since the blueprint for Islamic Finance was rolled out in the country in 2013 it took 4 years for the issuance of first set of Sukuk bonds in 2017 and 2018 respectively. He commended the organizers of the conference and believed that it served as a platform for creating awareness on Islamic Finance as a vehicle for driving Alternative Financing in Nigeria and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Government to seek nod from IMF to issue Rs 200 billion #sukuk

Pakistan's government seeks the International Monetary Fund's (IMF's) nod for issuance of fresh Sukuks worth Rs 200 billion. IMF's Review Mission is expected to reach Islamabad on November 28, 2019 to evaluate implementation on targets agreed by the Government of Pakistan for $ 6 billion facility. Minister for Power and Petroleum, Omar Ayub Khan last month stated that expensive power sector loans are being replaced with Sukuk which will lessen the financial impact on the economy. Pakistan's circular debt is about Rs 1.6 trillion and the new sukuk is meant to reduce the stock of this historic circular debt. The issue of sovereign guarantee for fresh Sukuks of Rs 200 billion has been raised with the State Bank of Pakistan. Meezan Bank, Faysal Bank, Bank Islami Pakistan, Dubai Islamic Bank Pakistan, MCD Islamic Bank and Al Baraka Bank Pakistan are the mandated lead arrangers.

#Philippines plans to allow banks to set up Islamic banking units

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) is leaning toward allowing local lenders to set up Islamic banking subsidiaries, as it steps up efforts to promote Shariah-compliant finance in the country. According to the central bank's Deputy Governor Chuchi Fonacier, the BSP is pushing for an open approach where conventional banks can operate Islamic banking windows or to establish subsidiary Islamic banks. Operating fully fledged subsidiaries would allow lenders to offer a wider range of Shariah-compliant services than through a window, which remains part of the parent bank. Fonacier added that foreign Shariah-compliant banks would also be allowed to operate locally. The BSP wants to issue the implementing rules for the new law before the end of the year.

Discussing Islamic Art and Architecture

UTM assistant professor Dr. Ruba Kana’an discusses the changing field and her journey to academia. She has recently joined the UTM faculty as an assistant professor of Islamic Art and Architecture in the Department of Visual Studies. Kana’an originally studied architectural engineering at the University of Jordan but was always interested in archeology. Kana’an’s research aims to learn more about Islamic art by examining the combination of Islamic art, Islamic history, and Islamic law. When asked about contemporary Islamic art, Kana’an emphasizes that the field is young. She says that art is an opportunity to see how Muslims dealt with issues and came up with different solutions to express their diversity.

#Saudi Arabia's new bankruptcy law faces key test in the courts

Saudi Arabia's new legislation is part of broader efforts to overhaul the economy, create employment and wean off the economy from reliance on hydrocarbons. Simeon Djankov, World Bank Senior Research Director and Founder of the Doing Business Report, said the bankruptcy law was passed and now investors are eager to see whether the courts actually understand how to implement it. Djankov believes the merit of the law should become clearer in about a year after courts handle initial cases. Only three cases were settled using the new bankruptcy law and around a dozen more are expected to be resolved over the next year. Resolving insolvency was an area of improvement for Saudi Arabia, climbing 30 places to 62nd in the World Bank report.

Additional $3.27 billion needed to support polio eradication: Gates Foundation official

According to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, an additional $3.27 billion in support is needed to make polio eradication a reality. Jay Wenger, Director of the Polio Eradication Programme at the Gates Foundation, said that it is vital that the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, GPEI, receives renewed political and financial support. The biennial Reaching the Last Mile Forum convenes global health leaders to share insights on how to eradicate infectious diseases. Held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, this year's forum in Abu Dhabi is themed 'Accelerating the Pace' and hopes to ensure full financing to finish the job. Wenger said the Gates Foundation is proud to partner with the UAE across a number of initiatives to eliminate diseases.

19 Artworks From Abraaj Group To Be Auctioned This Evening At Third Christie's Middle Eastern Art Sale

The third Christie’s Middle Eastern Modern & Contemporary Art sale will take place this evening as part of Islamic Art Week in London. Approximately 90 Middle Eastern art works have been sourced from around the world – from New York, London and Paris to Beirut and Dubai. With a special focus on contemporary Iranian and Arab works, the sale sheds light on artists from around the region including Syrian artist Louay Kayyali, Iranian artist Manoucher Yektai and Lebanense artist Bibi Zogbé. Five works by Palestinian artist Ismail Shammout are also on offer. Further nineteen artworks worth $1.94 million (Dhs 7,125,329), that were once owned by private equity firm The Abraaj Group, are also being auctioned at Christie's. Other featured artists include late Syrian modernist Fateh Moudarres and French artist Kader Attia.

Fintech Abu Dhabi festival culminates with focus on the next generation

FinTech Abu Dhabi Festival attracted 5,000 registrations and brought together world-class business leaders and FinTech innovators. Future trends in the FinTech industry and the next generation of start-ups took centre stage. Start-ups RISQ and Jibrel Network were announced as the two winners of the FinTech Abu Dhabi Innovation Challenge and took home SGD 200,000 (AED 540,000) each. The panelists discussed how China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is providing US$8 trillion of infrastructure investment to 65 countries. Fintech companies discussed how they are facing issues with many banks not sharing key information. According to Omar Christidis, Founder of ArabNet, Bahrain is the only place that has mandated open banking by the banks, but it needs to happen elsewhere too.

Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala launches $250 million MENA tech investment vehicles

Mubadala Investment Company has launched AED 918 million ($250 million) MENA-focused tech investment funds to support start-ups from the GCC as well as the entire Middle East region. The state investor stated that its new MENA tech funds will invest in companies and venture funds that help boost local tech incubator Hub71. The funds will include a AED 550 million ($150 million) programme, which is committed to support the Hub71 ecosystem. Mubadala Capital stated that it will commit to San Francisco-based Data Collective Venture Capital (DCVC), Middle East Ventures Partners (MEVP) and Global Ventures as a part of its first funds cohort. Similarly, the investment programme will also include a further AED 367 million ($100 million) fund dedicated to direct investments in early-stage technology companies. Microsoft and SoftBank Group are partners in Hub71, and the Abu Dhabi-based scheme offers incentives like office space and health care coverage to encourage start-ups to set up shop in the region.

Algorand Foundation announces Sharia certification for Islamic financial markets inclusivity

The Algorand Foundation, the organization that oversees the Algorand blockchain platform, announced that the network is certified for Sharia compliant financing. The foundation enlisted the Shariya Review Bureau (SRB) as an independent Sharia Advisor to ensure the network complies with the critical procedures of Sharia compliant financing. Algorand’s ecosystem has been growing substantially since launching in June of 2019. With the Sharia certification, Algorand is open to Islamic institutions using the platform for economic exchange and beyond. The Algorand Foundation is providing the trusted infrastructure needed to support the growth of a borderless economy. With research led by Dr. Tal Rabin, the Algorand Foundation is incorporated in the Republic of Singapore.

#Malaysia remains key source of Islamic debt papers

According to Fitch Ratings, Malaysia remains the main sukuk issuer this year besides countries from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region. The increase in Malaysia’s sukuk market is largely driven by Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) and contributed by local currency corporate issuance. Notable corporate deals included energy service firm Serba Dinamik’s US$300 million (RM1.25 bilion) sukuk, the first dollar high-yield sukuk offering in the Asia-Pacific region. The Malaysian market shows how as the Shariah-compliant investor base grows, the cost of sukuk issuance becomes more competitive relative to conventional bonds. Fitch believes that global volumes normalised rather than declined last year after hitting record levels in 2017. Moving forward, Fitch believes macro-economic and geopolitical conditions will affect sukuk issuance. GCC debt markets are relatively developing but individual sovereign funding decisions can profoundly affect total supply.

#Oman to introduce bankruptcy and insolvency law in July 2020

Oman’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry said that the Sultanate’s new bankruptcy and insolvency law will come into effect from July 2020 and it will help companies to get out of the financial turmoil. The bankruptcy law allows the debtor to request a protective settlement if their financial business is disturbed which would lead to suspension of payment of debts. Heirs to the business may apply for protective reconciliation if they decide to continue trading. The debtor continues to manage his funds during the implementation phase of the restructuring plan and remains responsible for any obligations arising prior to or after the date of the adoption of the restructuring plan. Similarly, the bankruptcy law grants the right of every trader to file for bankruptcy, in case they stop paying their commercial debts following the disruption of business activities. A bankruptcy case shall not arise except by a court ruling.

Debate sparked between MEPs and philanthropists on Idea of single market philanthropy

Members of European Parliament, representatives of the European Commission and the European Economic and Social Committee discussed creating a European space for donors and fostering cross-border giving. The debate was entitled 'Single Market for Philanthropy – Helping unlock the potential for public good across Europe' and saw the emergence of a cross-party alliance between Greens, Renew, EPP and S&D. To create a European space for donors, MEPs Sven Giegold and Sergey Lagodinsky discussed a potential proposal for a 29th regime of a 'European public benefit statute'. Regulatory tax barriers, affecting cross-border philanthropy within the EU, currently undermine this. The Romanian Council Presidency issued an EESC opinion on Philanthropy, calling on the EU to promote organised philanthropy, and asking for elimination of barriers within the internal market.

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