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#Bahrain's GFH Financial Group launches $200 million schools investment arm

GFH Financial Group, the Bahrain-based Islamic investment bank, plans to invest $200 million (Dh734m) in the privately-owned schools sector through its new investment platform, Britus Education. Developed and emerging markets have both seen a surge in private education during the last decade. Britus Education will invest in mid-market schools that can be improved through maximising student capacity, improving academic outcomes and optimising fee structures. According to a report published by Alpen Capital, the total number of students in GCC schools is set to grow at a compound annual rate of 2.3% per year to reach 14.5 million in 2022. Enrolment in private schools is expected to grow at a compound rate of 4.1% per year until 2022, much faster than the 1.3% growth anticipated for public schools.

Aust tax rules complicate Islamic finance

Australia could be a regional leader in Islamic finance but tax issues are holding the sector back domestically. Talal Yassine, the managing director of Crescent Wealth, said that Australia needed to seize the opportunity of being so close to the world's leading Islamic economy, Malaysia. He said Australia's financial industry should follow the lead of the agricultural industry, which decades ago made the decision to dominate halal exports. Australian Muslims spent $US5.3 billion ($A7.8 billion) on the lifestyle sector in 2018, including $US1.94 billion ($A2.9 billion) on media and recreation and $US1.74 billion ($A2.6 billion) on food. With a growing Muslim middle class, Yassine sees a massive opportunity waiting to happen.

MICROFINANCE EVENT: 2nd African Islamic Fintech Summit; November 29 – 30, 2019; Dakar, Senegal

Focusing on "African financial inclusion in the digital era", this event is a continuation of a similar summit held in Tunisia in March 2019. The event in Dakar will address the topics of Islamic finance, financial technology and economic empowerment. Panel discussions will focus on the next generation of fintech and the outlook of Africa, the social impact of fintech and the challenges Islamic finance faces in the era of fintech. Workshop sessions include analysing big data in Islamic banking and understanding how digital payments can support sustainable development. This event is jointly organized by the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD) and the International Islamic Finance Training Institute (IIFTI).

Dubai-based Fintech, Beehive, Releases State of the SME Ecosystem Report

Peer-to-peer lending platform Beehive has released an insightful new report revealing the state of MENA's SME ecosystem. The report is based on a survey of 175 SME owners and senior management and a roundtable of 13 prominent SME founders / CEOs. Key findings from the report include: surveyed MENA SMEs have more women in senior positions than the global average. 28% of respondents see innovation as a priority for growth, yet only 2% of business owners are currently trying to access finance to fund it. SMEs offer young people a great opportunity for development. 48% of SMEs would hire someone under 25 with no experience. The report focused on key areas that impact SMEs such as talent acquisition, innovation and growth factors. The survey results showed positive indicators such as SME appetite for market expansion and the opportunity for women in business.

SC launches new roadmap to drive sustainable investments

The domestic capital market is expected to play a critical role in helping Malaysia meet the estimated RM45 billion required to finance its long-term sustainable development goals. Securities Commission Malaysia (SC) chairman Datuk Syed Zaid Syed Jaffar Albar said climate change poses physical and financial risks to companies. The change to more sustainable practices requires investments in new technologies and funding which carries risks with indeterminate outcomes. Malaysia alone is projected to require RM45 billion in the next five years. Therefore, the SC released the sustainable and responsible investment (SRI) roadmap to establish the country as a regional SRI centre. The roadmap identified 20 strategic recommendations based on the SC’s five i-Strategy: the widening of the range of SRI instruments, increasing the SRI investor base, building a strong SRI issuer base, instilling a strong internal government culture and designing information architecture.

#Indonesia’s Alami wants to prove Islamic finance can be profitable

Alami started as an aggregator platform in 2018. The firm later obtained a registration from the Indonesian Financial Services Authority (OJK) in May 2019, and since then, the startup has channeled nearly 70 billion rupiah (US$4.96 million) to more than 50 SMEs. Founder Dima Djani hopes to dispense a total of 80 billion rupiah (US$5.6 million) by the end of this year, and he targets to triple the number next year. From fundraising to business operations, Alami is committed to complying with all sharia principles and values. In the near future, Alami plans to reactivate its aggregator platform, and the firm is also currently exploring opportunities to add individual loan services in collaboration with sharia banks.

Dubai Islamic Bank proposes Noor Bank acquisition via share swap

Dubai Islamic Bank (DIB) has proposed the acquisition of Noor Bank through a strategic investment via a share swap. Noor Investment Group and Emirates Investment Authority will become strategic investors in DIB. The share swap ratio is 1 new DIB share for every 5.49 shares of Noor Bank through the issuance of 651,159,198 new DIB shares in aggregate. UAE’s largest standalone Islamic bank will convene a general assembly on December 17 to seek shareholder approval for the proposal. Dubai Islamic Bank was designated by the UAE central bank in 2018 as systematically important. It is the only standalone and full-fledged Islamic bank out of four financial institutions the regulator considers "too big to fail".

#Oman hires local banks for domestic #sukuk programme

Oman has hired local lenders Bank Muscat, Bank Nizwa and Alizz Islamic Bank to set up a sukuk issuance programme. It plans to issue five-year and seven-year Omani rial denominated sukuk, which will be open for subscriptions starting from Monday until Dec. 8.

Waqf, zakat mechanism can make houses more affordable: Amiruddin

The Malaysian government is currently looking into various avenues in Islamic finance which can be used to make houses more affordable. Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Amiruddin Hamzah said that one state in the northern region is currently conducting a waqf housing scheme for the people. He said this at the sidelines of the inaugural International Centre for Education in Islamic Finance (INCEIF). INCEIF president Datuk Azmi Omar said that there are a lot of waqf land that can be used to develop affordable housing. The cost to develop the houses can be lower, however, the houses will be under a long-term lease. On another matter, Amiruddin said that the digital banking framework is set to push the country forward in the digital banking landscape.

Sharia committee wants to quadruple Islamic bank assets by 2024, will partner with #Malaysia

Indonesia's sharia financial committee hopes to quadruple the nation's sharia bank assets over the next five years. The comittee's executive director Ventje Rahardjo said that the goal was to reach Rp. 2 quadrillion (US$142.2 billion) in sharia bank assets by 2024. The committee plans to widen its coverage of Islamic finance to the Islamic economy in general. Therefore, the name of the committee will be changed to the National Committee for Sharia Economy (KNES) to better reflect its responsibility to oversee the development of the halal value chain. Ventje added that Indonesia and Malaysia would work together to create a regional halal standard. The committee also plans to digitize sharia financial services, including a digital zakat platform and a sharia-compliant e-wallet.

Wethaq launches first ‘fintech’ #Sukuk on its market infrastructure using SWIFT gpi Link

UAE-based fintech company Wethaq has issued the first pilot sukuk on its securities market infrastructure. Al Ghurair Investments acted as the issuer advised by Mashreqbank acting as lead arranger, R3 as protocol provider, Clifford Chance as legal counsel and the Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre as mentor. Wethaq’s fintech infrastructure is developed on R3’s Corda Protocol integrating SWIFT global payments innovation, gpi Link platform. By using the gpi Link, Wethaq will be able to seamlessly integrate SWIFT’s gpi service into its platforms, opening itself up to more than 3,500 banks around the world. SWIFT gpi Link is a gateway to interlink ecommerce and trading platforms and enables a fast, secure and transparent settlement.

Islamic pound is demanding credibility from today's consumer brands

A new trend is emerging among consumers, one that emphasises the importance of ethical consumption. Over the past 20 years, Muslim consumers have been searching for brands and products that speak to their religious identity. According to the seventh edition of the State of the Global Islamic Economy report published last week, Muslims spent $2.2 trillion last year on food, pharmaceuticals and lifestyle products and services. This is set to rise to $3.2 trillion by 2024. With the majority of Muslims under the age of 30 and many living in countries with large consumer markets, such as Indonesia, Malaysia and the UAE, there is immense potential for the global community. Halal brands are now finding their way into a wider consumer beauty movement seeking cruelty-free, animal-free products.

United Arab Emirates: Fintech (2nd Edition)

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) consists of "onshore" and financial free zone jurisdictions, to which different sources of payments law apply. There are currently two financial free zones in the UAE: the Dubai International Financial Centre (the DIFC) and the Abu Dhabi Global Market (the ADGM). Payment services can be provided by non-banks. The 2017 Payment Regulations limits the scope of non-bank payment services, imposing ownership restrictions in many cases. Payment by way of cash remains the most prevalent method of payment in the UAE. However, an increasing number of UAE residents are opting to pay by way of debit and credit cards. Online payments are increasingly common and various other digital initiatives are increasingly utilized. Such initiatives include the government's Mobile Wallet, Etisalat Wallet, NOL Cards, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Alipay. Dubai introduced plans to launch its own wallet emCash which can be used as a digital currency and cryptocurrency as well.

IFDI 2019 witnesses shifting dynamics in Islamic finance

The Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD) released the seventh edition of the Islamic Finance Development Report at the Indonesia Shariah Economic Festival 2019. According to the report, the Islamic finance industry’s assets grew to $2.5 trillion in 2018 from $2.4 trillion in 2017, a rise of 3%. This growth slowed from previous years and this was particularly noticeable in the industry’s main markets. Malaysia, Bahrain and the UAE continue to spearhead developments in the industry, while Uzbekistan, Ethiopia, Cyprus and Indonesia are among the biggest gainers in the rankings. Despite the slower growth, new banks and markets continue to enter the market, as seen in Ethiopia, Algeria and Afghanistan. Also, new liquidity tools are being developed to help grow existing Islamic banking markets, as seen in Oman, the UK and Pakistan.

Regulators tell derivatives industry to find Libor consensus

Regulators told the world's derivatives market that it must find a common approach for dealing with a sudden death of Libor, the interest rate benchmark used for pricing contracts worth more than $300 trillion globally. Libor became discredited after big investment banks were fined billions of dollars for trying to rig Libor. The London Interbank Offered Rate (Libor) is slowly being replaced with rates compiled by central banks, including Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank and the Bank of England. Britain's Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has said that Libor is expected to cease after the end of 2021. In preparation for the change, the Financial Stability Board (FSB) said that a "pre-cessation trigger" should be inserted into terms for new derivatives contracts.

#UAE's largest Shariah-compliant bank is about to get bigger: Dubai Islamic board to meet Nov 25 re Noor Bank acquisition

The United Arab Emirates' largest standalone Islamic bank plans to acquire Shariah-compliant Noor Bank. The board of Dubai Islamic Bank (DIB) will meet on November 25 to discuss the acquisition. DIB said that assets post-acquisition will reach nearly 275 billion dirhams ($75 billion). UAE's oldest Islamic bank currently has operations in Kenya, Pakistan and Indonesia and holds a stake in Bank of Khartoum. Dubai Islamic Bank was designated by the UAE central bank in 2018 as systematically important. The bank posted 0.08% increase in net profit to 1.262 billion dirhams ($343.6 million) for the three months ending September 30 compared to the same quarter a year ago.

Expert identifies growth path for Islamic finance in #Nigeria

The Senior Director of the African Finance Corporation (AFC) Mr. Banji Fehintola spoke on the Proshare WebTV programme "Islamic Finance Weekly". He emphasised the need for Nigerians to understand the value of Islamic banking, which is geared towards deepening financial inclusion and driving economic prosperity. He commended the Federal Government for taking the lead in adopting the Islamic Finance product in the country. He said that Nigeria has taken a great step in terms of issuing Sukuk, and they are planning to issue the third one. He also added that with time the country will see corporate issuances in the Sukuk space.

#China-#Bahrain venture fund targets Middle East tech market

China’s MSA Capital and Al Salam Bank-Bahrain launched a $50 million venture capital fund to invest in sectors such as e-commerce and financial technology in the Middle East. The fund also plans to target big data, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and logistics and networking systems. The $50 million MEC Ventures was raised from seed money, Chinese entrepreneurs and institutional investors and family offices from Gulf Cooperation Council countries. MSA Capital has existing investments in Chinese entrepreneurs who have taken the Chinese model into the MENA region.

Global Food and Water Security Alerts

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang suggested that China needs to divert more water to its arid north. He said that local government bonds should be tilted towards water infrastructure to increase per capita water supplies, which are about a quarter of the global average. Li stated that China needs to research water conservation methods to reduce water consumption. He also claimed that the South-North Water Diversion Project had improved Chinese water security. That project, however, has not been as successful as he claims.

HPB strengthens presence in #Indonesia, provides shariah-compliant IT services to Indonesian cooperatives

HeiTech Padu Bhd (HPB) has strengthened its presence in Indonesia with the establishment of PT Desa Tech Nusantara to provide a shariah compliant cooperative Baitulmal Wat Tamwil (BMT) system. HPB executive vice president Salmi Nadia Mohd Hilmey said the project serves all cooperative members and the unbanked across Indonesia with multiple transactional items. A memorandum of understanding (MOU) signing ceremony was held to formalise the collaboration. BMT is a single scalable system in the cooperative ecosystem and has the potential to grow exponentially. Indonesia stands at the top of the Asia Pacific region in terms of unbanked population, as three-quarters of its 250 million people are still outside of conventional financial systems.

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