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Gulf bonds prove resilience amid virus-induced adversity

As investors dealt with volatility across most of its prized asset classes, Gulf bonds are emerging resilient after yet another crisis. The region’s debt markets did witness instances of sharp sell-off in the last few weeks, but analysts still see them ending the year strong. According to capital markets expert Anita Yadav, this year total new bond issuances will likely surpass the record $101 billion raised in 2019. So far this year, the GCC bond markets have stayed resilient, having in recent weeks only sold off 60% of emerging market debt and roughly 50% of high-yield debt. Net debt of sovereigns in the region still remains relatively low and credit ratings are relatively high compared with that of other emerging market countries.

GCC banks face 'earnings shock' from lower oil price, Covid-19

GCC banks will see significantly reduced revenue as they face an earnings shock from the oil price drop and Covid-19 pandemic. S&P Global Ratings credit analyst Mohamed Damak says the coronavirus will take a toll on important sectors such as real estate, hospitality, and consumer-related, but these will be relatively short lived and he forecasts a gradual recovery in nonoil activity from third-quarter 2020. In his view, if the recovery takes longer than expected, GCC banks could feel greater pressure. In March, S&P revised its outlooks of some UAE banks including First Abu Dhabi Bank, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, Mashreqbank, Sharjah Islamic Bank and National Bank of Fujairah to negative. Most central banks in the GCC have already come up with stimulus packages to help the banking system withstand the economic fallout. The Central Bank of the UAE on Sunday doubled the size of its stimulus package to Dh256 billion.

SAJIDA Foundation combats Covid-19 as beacon of hope

Microfinance institution SAJIDA Foundation has rapidly diverted its resources and operations to tackle the pandemic from multiple frontiers. On the health front, one of its secondary-care hospitals have been dedicated to the treatment and isolation of Covid-19 patients, while the other has continued general medical services focusing particularly on maternal and child care. At the same time, nearly 2,000 field forces have reached 0.4 million microfinance members with life-saving information regarding the prevention and treatment of Covid-19. Mass awareness raising efforts have included leaflet distribution as well as household visits, while maintaining social distancing measures. SAJIDA’s members have also benefitted from a credit shield facility which supports members through loan outstanding waivers and cash benefits during emergencies.

Should big money give poor nations debt relief to fight COVID-19?

On May 1 G20 nations gave debtors a payment holiday until the end of the year, giving developing nations more time to pay for healthcare during the pandemic. Despite more than 100 countries applying to the International Monetary Fund for emergency aid, the IMF and World Bank have not been so generous, insisting nations keep repaying interest on debt. Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed al-Jadaan said private institutions are owed $18bn by the world's poorest nations this year. If they were to suspend half that amount, that would provide an additional $9bn to fight COVID-19.

Loan moratorium: Borrowers need to inform banks on consent, says finance minister

Malaysian borrowers who wish to continue with the six-month moratorium need to inform their respective banks of their consent via the banks’ designated platforms. Although the moratorium is automatic starting April 1, the borrowers’ consent is still legally required. Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) said starting from May 1, bank customers with hire-purchase loans and fixed rate Islamic financing will receive a notification on the steps they must take to complete the deferment process under the six-month moratorium on loan and financing payments. Customers will be notified via SMS, email or registered mail from their banking institutions.

#Bahrain's Al Baraka Bank looks for acquisitions as coronavirus pandemic hits valuations

Bahrain's Al Baraka Banking Group plans to expand into India, China and Indonesia as the coronavirus pandemic pushes valuations down. The pandemic, which has tipped the global economy into a recession, slated to be the deepest since the Great Depression, has dented lending. Al Baraka Banking Group plans to setup a small commercial bank in China focusing on trade financing to capitalise on growing commercial ties. In Indonesia, the lender has already explored the possibility of taking a stake in Bank Muamalat three years ago and will continue to look for further opportunities. Al Baraka currently operates in Sudan, Turkey, South Africa, Algeria, Pakistan, Syria, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon.

Foundations Help Launch Financial Inclusion Nonprofit

Sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Mojaloop software project has announced the launch of the Mojaloop Foundation. With additional support from founding sponsors Omidyar Network, the Rockefeller Foundation, Coil, Google, and ModusBox, the foundation will work to advance its free open-source software as a public good in service of financial inclusion globally. The software serves as a blueprint for how to simplify and reduce the cost of payment interoperability. This will enable banks, digital service providers, government agencies, NGOs, and other entities to develop tools that increase opportunities for low-income and unbanked individuals to access financial services.

Unified legislative framework for Islamic finance launched

Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum announced the launch of a new initiative to create a unified global legal and legislative framework for the Islamic finance sector. The framework is set to enable the Islamic economy to expand its reach and responds to calls for greater standardisation within the sector. A memorandum of understanding has already been signed between Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre (DIEDC) and the Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI). Furthermore, Norton Rose Fulbright has been recently appointed to provide legal advice in drafting the code for the global framework.

Islamic bank, Türk Eximbank ink $100 mln deal to aid SMEs

The Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) and Türk Eximbank signed a syndicated murabaha deal of $100 million to finance small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The new murabaha facility is expected to increase companies' export capacity and workforce, similar to the previous one. According to IsDB, the new facility will play a significant role to alleviate the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the manufacturing sector by providing long-term funding to companies to finance their capital expenditures.

South Africa working on rand-denominated #sukuk issue

The Republic of South Africa is working on a rand-denominated sukuk for the financial year 2020/2021. Details regarding the size, tenor and structure of the Shariah-compliant notes will be made in due course. The government may also consider issuing a second sovereign U.S. dollar sukuk in the long term. South Africa issued its first-ever international sovereign sukuk in 2014. The deal consisted of a $500 million 5.75-year note, offering a profit rate of 3.90%.

Launched World’s First Halal Angels Network to promote Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Startups to tap $5 trillion, Halal consumer market

The World’s First Halal Angels Network was launched to promote Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Startups to tap the $5 trillion Halal consumer market. It was launched during the COVID-19 pandemic to help investors, businesses, entrepreneurs & startups overcome these challenging times. The network is founded by Indian American Dr. Tausif Malik and is the first Angels Network backed by Blockchain technology. The areas of interest for investments would be future technologies (Blockchain, Fintech AI, etc), Modest Fashion & Cosmetics, Retail, Pharmaceuticals, Food Cafe & Restaurants, Processed Food & Tourism. Halal Angels Network is setting up offices in GCC, Europe, and South East Asia and is planning to host Halal Angels & Venture Capital Two Day Summit 2021, for Networking, Startup Showcase & Strategic Partnership.

Islamic finance gaining stronger foothold in #China

As this year’s GDP growth of China is forecast to reach a 44-year low of just 2.5%, there is enough ongoing in the background to prepare for a post-coronavirus rebound. One such sector bustling with activity is Islamic finance which has grown in importance since China embarked on the program of the New Silk Road, officially known as Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Expanding across Central and Western Asia and eventually the Middle East, the BRI leads through many Islamic economies and jurisdictions, so it is obviously advantageous for Islamic finance and halal trade to join and contribute to the BRI. There is also development of the sector within China itself. Malaysia’s Affin Islamic Bank together with Hong Kong-based Bank of East Asia has been looking into the opportunity of launching Islamic banking services in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang. China’s Ningxia and Xinjiang autonomous regions are home to a Muslim population of about 25mn.

PSE delays Rs200bn #sukuk

The Pakistan Energy Sukuk-II (PES-II) has been delayed by 7-10 days. The Power Holding Limited (PHL) is issuing the second issue of the Energy Sukuk to address the liquidity constraints being faced by the country’s power sector. Sources said the delay occurred as the government had to notify certain rules and regulations which could be completed in a couple of days.

Abu Dhabi based NMC Health’s trading arm sees major job cuts

More than 300 staff members at NMC Trading have been laid off and more are likely to follow. It was on April 9 that NMC was placed under administration on the UK High Court’s orders, following a request submitted by ADCB, the UAE bank with the highest loan exposure to the company. Letting go of its trading division could bring in some much needed funds for NMC Group. It's also part of the strategy to focus exclusively on core operations made up of its hospitals and clinics.

Saudi's Al Moammar Information Systems signs $77mln Islamic loan

Saudi Arabia’s Al Moammar Information Systems (MIS) signed an Islamic facility agreement with Riyad Bank for 290 million Saudi riyals ($77.15 million). The revolving facility will be renewable every year. MIS’s listing on Tadawul last year marked the first listing for a company from the IT sector on the Saudi bourse. The company reported a net profit after zakat and tax of 76 million riyals in 2019, compared to 64.5 million riyals in 2018. Revenues rose to 997.5 million riyals last year, compared to 886.2 million riyals in 2018.

International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation extends US$100m COVID-19 Emergency Financing for purchasing wheat and sugar in favor of Egypt

The International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC) has signed a US$100 million financing agreement with the General Authority for Supply Commodities (GASC) to cover the Egyptian Government’s commodity needs during the Corona outbreak. ITFC CEO Hani Salem Sonbol said the financing supports the importation of critical basic commodities such as wheat and sugar. The wheat policy is of strategic importance to the Egyptian Government to ensure food security for all Egyptians. Since 2018, ITFC has been supporting the Governments’ efforts through a trade finance facility benefiting the GASC, Egypt’s largest wheat purchaser.

#Bahrain’s Al Salam Bank exits $182.5 mln U.S. multifamily real estate

Bahrain's Al Salam Bank has sold a portfolio of seven multifamily assets in the United States for $182.5 million. Al Salam acquired the real estate assets in North Carolina and Texas in 2016. The bank said the sale price exceeds the original underwriting for the portfolio. Al Salam Bank’s head of private banking Ali Habib Qassim said the exit comes at an opportune time ahead of the uncertainty of the current COVID-19 crisis.

Many Join Saudi Online Platform to Teach Arabic Calligraphy

The Saudi Ministry of Culture announced its launch of the first electronic platform to teach Arabic calligraphy and Islamic decoration. The electronic platform will be supervised by a group of professional calligraphers from the Kingdom and the Arab world. The platform offers various training courses, including professional courses in the types of Arabic calligraphy, making calligraphic paintings and artwork, letter formations, gilding, Islamic decoration, drawing and coloring, the art of paper marbling and Ebru (needle art). The platform will also give the trainee the opportunity to develop Arabic computer fonts by learning designs and programming fonts. The online platform was launched in 2018 and has over 19,000 users from 30 different countries around the world.

Alwaleed Philanthropies allocates $30mln to fight COVID-19

Alwaleed Philanthropies has allocated $30 million to a variety of diverse initiatives to battle against COVID-19 in collaboration with a variety of partners. The fund, chaired by Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, includes an additional $20.6 million on top of $9.4 million of existing funds, which have been reallocated for the fight against COVID-19. Continuing to support the Middle East and North Africa, the fund includes a significant allocation towards initiatives including allocation to UN-Habitat to improve water, sanitation and hygiene in the most vulnerable communities. Alwaleed Philanthropies will be working with the Gates Philanthropy Partners to fund a number of health projects to accelerate the development of therapeutics to protect vulnerable populations.

Islamic factoring tipped as game-changer for Turkish exports

At the moment there are six Islamic banks operating in Turkey, with Kuveyt Turk, Turkiye Finans and Albaraka Turk holding around three quarters of their market share. Harun Çelik, the Islamic Trade Finance Corporation’s (ITFC) regional head for Turkey, says that agriculture is one of the sectors where Islamic banks have big growth potential. Out of almost Tl120bn (US$18.5bn) of agricultural finance in Turkey, the six Islamic banks are only getting 1% of that. That’s where he sees growth potential. Perhaps the greatest nascent opportunity lies with small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs). One useful emerging tool for SMEs could be factoring. A form of supply chain finance, factoring typically involves a supplier selling its invoices to a third party at a discount. For the supplier it means quicker access to working capital, while the third party makes its profit once the invoices are paid.

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