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Shariah compliant #Robo #Advisor ‘Algebra’ to pilot in Asia before going global

#Malaysia-based private wealth management firm Farringdon Group is all set to launch its Shariah compliant Robo Adviser 'Algebra'. A robo-advisor is an online wealth management service that provides automated, algorithm-based portfolio management advice without the use of human financial planners. Farrigdon Group CEO Stuart Yeoman said that Algebra can take minimum investments worth $4000 and the launch is planned for next month. Before going global, Farringdon is piloting the product in Asia frst. Algebra is backed by smart beta trading algorithms to derive its active equity portfolio and blends it with Sukuk bond funds to derive a risk weighted portfolio. The robo-advisor will follow basic Islamic principles. It has received the approval of Shariah Scholar Datuk Dr Daud Bakar of Amanie Advisors for its shariah investment strategy.

Goldilocks Investment builds Dana Gas stake

An Abu Dhabi Global Market fund, Goldilocks Investment, has acquired 5% of Dana Gas. Goldilocks has a reputation of buying companies going through financial difficulties. Goldilocks has recently acquired 350 million shares in Dana Gas, which has seen its share price rise by nearly 70% in the past month. Goldilocks is part of Jassim Alseddiqi's Abu Dhabi Financial Group, a diversified investment company with about US$5 billion under management. Dana Gas has assets in Egypt and the Kurdish region of Iraq that have had good operational results but have suffered from erratic payments. Dana Gas also has an ongoing dispute with holders of its $700 million in sukuk, for which it has taken preemptive legal action to avoid a declaration of default.

#GCC governments seek to diversify funding with Islamic #bonds

According to S&P Global Ratings, GCC sukuk issuances jumped 37.7% in the first half of 2017 as governments are seeking to plug deficits amid low oil prices. The rating agency added that issuances of sukuk will not grow at the same rate in the next couple of years, with hurdles such as a lack of standardisation of sukuk rules deterring sales. Mohamed Damak, primary credit analyst at S&P, said the volume of sukuk issuance is expected to remain strong in 2017, but this is likely to be the exception rather than a new norm. 2016 was a record year for regional bond issues in the GCC region, with over $60bn worth of fixed income sold. Last year Saudi Arabia sold $17.5bn worth of bonds in its first international sale and Qatar sold $9bn. Despite the record value of issuances, S&P said that a big funding gap remains. It is estimated at $275bn and about half of that gap is expected to be raised through bonds and sukuk.

UNHCR wins nod to use Islamic alms to aid Middle East #refugees

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has begun a scheme that enables Muslims make donations from the alms they typically pay state bodies for the benefit of the poor. According to experts, the amount of zakat money distributed each year in Muslim countries ranges from $20 billion to $30 billion. UNHCR has projected it will need a total of $8 billion for life-saving assistance to millions of Syrians inside their homeland and in neighboring countries. UNHCR has also called for $2.1 billion to provide food and medicine for Yemen, where 12 million people are at risk of famine and cholera brought on by two years of civil war. The new alms project plans to help some 30,000 of the most vulnerable Syrian refugee families in Jordan, with around $180 in monthly cash support for each family.

Lessons from Dana Gas #Sukuk debacle

Dana Gas invited holders of its outstanding sukuk to open discussions on restructuring the payment. The reason given by Dana Gas was that the sukuk has now been declared non-syariah compliant and, therefore, not valid. The company also proposed to exchange the sukuk with a new four-year enforceable, syariah-compliant instrument. It seems that Dana Gas is trying to restructure cheap on the back of credit deterioration, hiding behind the façade of syariah validity. Moreover, the company has filed for protection in the Federal Court in Sharjah to impose its structuring plan on certificate holders. It is obvious that the sukuk debacle may have serious implications for Dubai’s ambitions of being a premier sukuk origination and Islamic economy hub. The Dana Gas sukuk is a failure of inadequate capital market legal framework, underdeveloped regulatory framework and a serious lack of uniformity.

Bursa #Malaysia-I Welcomes Inter-Pacific Securities Sdn Bhd As Islamic Participating

Bursa Malaysia added Inter-Pacific Securities Sdn Bhd (Inter-Pac Securities) to its Islamic Participating Organisations (Islamic POs) list. Bursa Malaysia CEO Datuk Seri Tajuddin Atan welcomed the new company and said that with this addition investors would have a wider choice of Islamic POs to represent them. Inter-Pac Securities Director Tan Mun Choy expressed his gratitude for Bursa Malaysia's approval to carry out Islamic stockbroking services.
With the inclusion of Inter-Pac Securities, there are now 12 Islamic POs carrying out Islamic stockbroking services of which 1 is on a full-fledged basis (BIMB Securities) and the other 11 are on a window basis.

Arabia CSR Network successfully conducts Middle East's first ever training on global standards for #sustainability reporting

The Arabia CSR Network (ACSRN) conducted the Middle East's first round of training for Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Standards for Sustainability Reporting. The course covered GRI Standards, including an overview of how to implement these standards. According to Habiba Al Marashi, CEO of ACSRN, the move demonstrates the increasing importance of sustainability reporting. The training focused on the frameworks of the standards, how to apply these in actual reporting and the process of putting together a GRI Standards compliant report. The training will allow the participants to use the right methodology for putting together their sustainability reports. Participants received a certificate each, presented by GRI for successful completion of the course.

Dana Gas’s #sukuk move is a surprising one

Dana Gas’s sukuk move is a surprising decision as it could have a detrimental effect on Dubai's goal of becoming the Global Centre for Islamic Finance. Financial analysts agree that Dana's manoeuvre to invalidate its own sukuk on Sharia non-compliance grounds harms the whole Islamic finance sector. Several questions arise and Dana Gas provides no answer. It is difficult to understand how Dana went from "discovering" the "unlawful" nature of the sukuk to getting injunctions in at least two jurisdictions without actually managing its communications. When DG acts in this way, it does not only potentially harm Dana's creditors but every investor in the UAE and the whole financial system.

#UAE's Dana Gas gets injunction from English court blocking claims on $700 mln #sukuk

Dana Gas obtained an injunction from the English High Court of Justice in London restraining sukuk holders from taking any hostile action against the company. The company obtained similar injunctions from the Sharjah Federal Court of First Instance in the United Arab Emirates as well. Dana Gas announced last week that its outstanding $700 million sukuk were not sharia-compliant and were therefore unlawful in the UAE. The company said it would therefore halt coupon payments on the sukuk, and proposed exchanging the sukuk for new Islamic bonds with lower profit distributions.

Islamic finance #risks raised by Dana Gas case

Dana Gas applies Shari’ah non-compliance as a cause for restructuring. Dana Gas has proposed a restructuring to holders of its $700 million of Sukuk maturing in Oct 2017. Its proposal is on the basis that these Sukuk are no longer Shari'ah compliant because standards of interpretation have changed since they were issued in 2013. Dana Gas is seeking to have its existing Sukuk declared invalid in a UAE court and this court has granted Dana Gas an injunction protecting it from claims until the case is decided. If the precedent of revisiting Shari'ah compliance infects the Islamic finance industry, there is greater risk of a loss of confidence in other markets too. There are many examples of distressed conventional bond borrowers engaging in opportunistic negotiating positions. The result was higher cost of borrowing for them rather than for the broad asset class.

Dana Gas bid to void #debt stuns analysts who question motive

The gas producer's decision to declare its own Shariah-compliant bonds unlawful has baffled investors all over the world. Sharjah-based Dana Gas said it no longer considered its two Islamic bonds totalling $700 million issued four years ago as Shariah compliant under UAE law. The move comes after Dana Gas announced plans in May to restructure the debt. The company is owed about $1 billion from Egypt and the self-governed Kurdish region in northern Iraq. Dana Gas plans to replace the current sukuk with four-year bonds paying less than half of the current profit rates and without a conversion feature. The Sharjah Federal Court of First Instance has issued an injunction while it considers Dana Gas’s application. Dana Gas said it won’t pay its next two profit distributions on July 31 and Oct. 31, and that they will be accounted for as part of the new instrument.

Shariah Compliant #Robo to Launch

#Malaysia's Farringdon Group is about to launch its new Robo-adviser service which follows Shariah investment guidelines. Their new system branded Algebra relies on smart beta trading algorithms to derive its active equity portfolio. It blends the data with fixed interest Exchange Traded Funds (ETF’s) or Sukuk bond funds to derive a risk weighted portfolio suitable for any investor. Its shariah investment strategy is approved by Shariah Scholar Datuk Dr Daud Bakar of Amanie Advisors, the official launch date is set for July 10th 2017. By asking questions online, Algebra can complete a fact find and calculate its clients risk attitude and this cuts out the need for expensive consultants. Together with the Shariah version of this platform Farrington have also built and incorporated a Non-Shariah option.

IIRA maintains ratings of #Bahrain Islamic Bank

Islamic International Rating Agency (IIRA) has reaffirmed ratings of Bahrain Islamic Bank (BIsB) at BBB/A2 on the national scale and BBB-/A3 on the international scale. IIRA added that the bank’s rating outlook is constrained by the macroeconomic environment and tougher industry conditions for banks in the Gulf. Given the presence of external, regional concerns, the outlook on international scale ratings is assessed as Negative. Impairment in recent financings remains minimal, indicating improvement in the bank's business underwriting capability. However, overall asset quality concerns remain notable. IIRA has assigned BIsB a Fiduciary Score of 71-75, which signifies that the rights of various stakeholders are adequately protected.

Warrants issued for 78 Bank Asya senior executives: 47 detained

The Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office issued detention warrants for 78 senior executives of Bank Asya, which was confiscated by the Turkish government. Bank Asya was associated with the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016 due to its links to the Gülen movement. Forty-seven of the 78 bank executives have been detained so far on suspicion of membership in an armed terrorist organization and financing a terrorist organization.
Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement. According to a report by the state-run Anadolu news agency, 154,694 individuals have been detained and 50,136 have been jailed due to alleged Gülen links.

#UAE's Dana Gas invites #sukuk holders to a call to discuss sukuk's "unlawfulness"

Abu Dhabi's Dana Gas has invited holders of its outstanding $700 million sukuk to discuss the planned sukuk restructuring. The energy company plans to provide background on its declaration of the current sukuk's "unlawfulness". Dana Gas announced last week that its sukuk were not sharia-compliant and were therefore unlawful in the UAE.

Global #Sukuk Market Outlook: the surge in Sukuk issuance isn't the new normal

The Sukuk market performed strongly in the first half of 2017 as issuance increased by 37.7% in the first six months of the year. This was primarily driven by the jumbo local and foreign currency issuances by some GCC governments. Sovereign issuers turned to Sukuk because wanted to diversify their investor base and to benefit from the good liquidity conditions in local and global financial markets. S&P Global Ratings expects the volume of Sukuk issuance to remain strong in 2017, but this is likely to be the exception rather than a new norm. In their view, the large transactions in the first half of 2017 are unlikely to be repeated in 2018. It remains to be seen if the recent developments in Qatar will impact issuance out of the country. Qatar was placed under sanctions by a group of governments that cut diplomatic ties and trade and transport links.

Islamic finance overcomes teething problems in #Oman

According to a recent report issued by the Central Bank of Oman (CBO), the Islamic banking industry is growing at a faster rate than conventional banking, with Islamic banking assets up more than 62% year on year. Total assets held by Islamic banks and Islamic banking windows in February 2017 amounted to 3.27 billion Omani riyals (Dh31.2 billion), compared to 2.43 billion riyals a year earlier. This took Islamic banking’s market share from 5.1% in 2015 to 10.8% by February 2017. Islamic banking has a sizeable market share of more than 25% in the GCC. Saudi Arabia dominates the region with an Islamic banking market share of 51.2% in terms of total banking assets, followed by Kuwait at 45.2%. In UAE, Qatar and Bahrain Islamic banks’ market share stood between 20-30% of gross assets. In Oman, within a span of four years from introduction, the Islamic banking segment has reached OMR 3.07 billion in gross assets with a market share of 10.8% as of February 2017. The two main players in Oman are Bank Nizwa (BKNZ) and Alizz Islamic Bank (BKIZ).

Race to become Islamic banking’s #fintech hub

The Middle East has been a late adopter of financial technology, or fintech. According to Accenture, of more than $50bn in fintech investment globally since 2010, only 1% has gone to the Middle East and North Africa. Now several cities are racing to establish themselves as fintech hubs. Last year Cairo launched two accelerators and Abu Dhabi has created the region’s first regulatory sandbox, allowing new products to be tested for two years without full regulatory compliance. In March Abu Dhabi signed an agreement with the Monetary Authority of Singapore to undertake joint fintech projects and Dubai’s new fintech accelerator has already begun accepting applications. Bahrain, too, has teamed up with Singapore to develop a fintech ecosystem. Fintech can serve the masses of migrant workers in need of remittance services and it can also bring cheaper services to the unbanked. According to the World Bank, over four-fifths of the population in the region are unbanked, which means a higher proportion than anywhere else in the world.

Fitch: Deposits in #Morocco Islamic Banks to Grow up to 10 %

According to Fitch Ratings, Islamic banking products in Morocco could expand their deposit bases by 5 to 10%. Fitch notes that the ability to grow the deposit base is positive for Morocco’s economic development because deposits represent about 70% of banking sector funding. The experts also noted that banking penetration is already high in Morocco, with 70% of adults holding a bank account. Therefore, participation banking is unlikely to take a significant market share from the well-established conventional banks. Growth rates in the Moroccan banking sector have been volatile in recent years, reflecting unsteady economic trends. Deposit growth has outstripped loan growth, but credit demand is set to accelerate. The ability to offer participation banking services could broaden the pool of potential depositors in the country, mitigating the competitive pressure.

#Nigeria plans $328mln debut #sukuk sales this month - DMO

Nigeria's Debt Management Office (DMO) announced the sale of its initial $328 million sovereign sukuk in the local market. The proceeds will be used to finance road projects in the country. The bond will be traded on the Nigerian Stock Exchange and also on the FMDQ over the counter platform. The sale will be managed by First Bank and Islamic wealth manager, Lotus Capital, and will aim for retail and institutional investors. Africa’s second largest economy intends to borrow about $10 billion from debt markets to fund a budget deficit aggravated by lower oil prices. It also targets concessionary sources to clear its funding needs and expects to issue N20 billion ($62million) green bond after raising a $1.5 billion Eurobond in the first quarter.

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