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Creditworthiness Of Gulf Banks Is Likely To Weaken In 2009, S&P says

Press Release

LONDON, April 29, 2009--The credit profile of Gulf banks will likely deteriorate this year, notably because of the tougher operating environment, lower business volumes, tighter liquidity, and the region's stock market slump since the end of third-quarter 2008, said Standard & Poor's Ratings Services in a report published today.

"We believe that as a result, asset quality and profitability of the banks that we rate are likely to suffer," said Standard & Poor's credit analyst Mohamed Damak, lead author of the report, "Tougher Environment Weakens Financial Profile Of Gulf Banks And Pressures Their Credit Ratings."

Indeed, we believe that 2009 will prove to be a difficult year for most Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) banks.

"On a positive note, thanks to their good financial profile, Gulf banks have entered this tougher environment from a position of relative strength," said Mr. Damak.

S&P: Saudi Arabian Insurance Markets Withstand Regulatory Restructuring And The Global Economic Downturn

Press Release

LONDON, April 29, 2009--In the spring of 2009, uncertainty remains the dominant theme for insurance companies and banks across the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region, as it does internationally, Standard & Poor's Ratings Services noted in a report, titled "Insurance Markets In Saudi Arabia In The Wake of Regulatory Restructuring And The Global Economic Downturn."

Even within the GCC, however, Standard & Poor's detects a widespread belief that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and its financial institutions have been less affected by the downturn than most of its neighbors, and that recovery will likely come more quickly there than elsewhere. Meanwhile, the ongoing flow of Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) on the Tadawul Stock Exchange in Riyadh in 2009--including the April IPOs of insurers Al Rajhi, Weqaya, ACE Arabia, and AXA Cooperative to raise a cumulative Saudi Arabian riyal 260 million (approximately $69 million) of new capital--indicate that Saudi investors still have considerable liquid assets with which to support attractive business propositions.

S&P: High Financing Costs May Crimp Future Issuance Of Project And Infrastructure Sukuk In The Gulf

High Financing Costs May Crimp Future Issuance Of Project And Infrastructure Sukuk In The Gulf

LONDON, April 28, 2009--The global slowdown, along with local macroeconomic factors, appears to have curtailed the anticipated growth of sukuk (including those for infrastructure and project finance) in the Gulf region, says a report published by Standard & Poor's Ratings Services titled "Islamic Sukuk Come Of Age In Infrastructure And Project Finance." What's more, investor appetite for these instruments may continue to be adversely affected by the high costs of financing, predominantly local investor appeal, a real estate downturn, hydrocarbon prices, and accounting issues.

Dubai Islamic Bank's shareholders agreed Monday to increase its capital

Dubai Islamic Bank's shareholders agreed Monday to increase its capital by 3 billion dirhams (USD 816 mn) over five years. The bank said in an emailed statement that shareholders at a general assembly also agreed to convert an 3.75 billion-dirham deposit from the Ministry of Finance into Tier 2 capital.

Dolphin Energy plans Islamic tranche worth about USD 500 mn

Abu Dhabi-based Dolphin Energy has signed USD 3 bn of loans that will part refinance a USD 3.45 bn debt facility maturing in July, it is also finalising an Islamic tranche worth about USD 500 mn and is preparing to launch a bond worth USD 500 mn to USD 1 bn.

Specialised banks needed for SME finance in UAE

Various experts were interviewed and confirmed the need for special banks addressing the needs of small and medium sized companies in the UAE.

EcoFirst Consolidated Bhd aims to issue Sukuk year end

EcoFirst Consolidated Bhd, Malaysia hopes to raise about RM 80 mn to RM 100 mn through the issuance of Sukuk by year-end to finance the building of two high rise buildings on top of the mall as well as the mall’s refurbishment, reported Shannen Won in The Star Malaysia.

Malta explored as location to issue corporate Sukuk

In the coming weeks, Malta will be explored by a large institution for its potential to the introduction of the Sukuk

Any organisation interested in participating in an information session being organised with the visiting institution or in having one to one meetings are invited to send an email to Reuben Buttigieg on rbuttigieg@maltamanagement.com

AAOIFI seeks mandate to vet products according to their Sharia Standards

The Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI) will seek a mandate from its trustees to examine the degree of sharia financial products' compliance with its 40 standards, its secretary-general, Mohamad Nedal Alchaar, said according to Liau Y-Sing from Reuters.

Lack of common standards makes it difficult to sell products across borders, while possibly enhancing innovation.

Deyaar launches distressed debt funds

Dubai real estate developer Deyaar will launch a series of funds of up to AED 1 bn to buy distressed debt, including its own, as it looks to boost returns for shareholders, reports John Irish on Reuters.

Its first AED 500 million fund is about 60-70 % subscribed by a mix of local and overseas investors and would buy back properties on which investors have defaulted from Deyaar's own portfolio according to the CEO, Giebel.

Deyaar will rent out the units to provide cash flow for the company before selling them once the Dubai property market recovers.

Amlak and Tamweel still in need for refunding

The UAE’s two largest Islamic home finance companies will need to secure adequate funding before they can re-start lending, the chairman of Tamweel. Both firms have been funded by banks on short term maturities, a business model, which does no longer work.

Malaysia's retail sukuk a success

Malaysia's retail Sukuk was a success and oversubscribed, now a second tranche is in preparation.

Mega bank to be founded in Bahrain

The whole-sale "mega bank" initiated by Saleh Kamel, Chairman of Dallah Albaraka Group shall be situated in Bahrain and is going to fundraise this year reported Shakir Husain in Gulf News. The bank should be business even outside the Muslim regions.

The bank's founders will contribute USD 1 bn in equity and USD 10 bn will be raised by offering shares to the public. Another USD 200 bn is planned to come from sukuk issuance and investment funds.

Among the main shareholders will be the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), the Jeddah-based multilateral lending agency, Dallah Albaraka Group, Kuwaiti Real Estate Bank and another 10 banks. There are two possible names being considered for the bank, which are Al Imar and Al Istikhlaf.

Albaraka plans to enter France

Al Baraka Banking Group said it planned to enter the French market to tap into Western Europe's largest Muslim community reported Will Waterman in Arabianbusiness. Further Al Baraka's units in North Africa are planning tie-ups with French partners to "establish Islamic banking in France", it said in a statement on the Nasdaq Dubai, where it is also listed. However no legal agreements have been finalised

Moody's: Sukuk market revitalised by Asian Sukuk

New sales of Islamic bonds or sukuk, by Asian governments such as Indonesia are revitalising the market, ratings agency Moody’s said in a report, wrote Uta Harnischfeger in The National. Last week, the government of Indonesia issued its first international dollar sukuk, raising US$650 million (Dh2.3bn). The Sukuk was seven times oversubscribed.

Fitch affirms Jordan Islamic Bank for Finance and Investment at 'BB-'; outlook stable

Fitch Ratings has today affirmed Jordan Islamic Bank for Finance and Investment's (JIB) ratings at Long-term Issuer Default (IDR) 'BB-' (BB minus) with stable outlook, Short-term IDR 'B', Individual 'C/D' and Support '3'.

Iran allows foreign bank branches: Citibank and Goldman Sachs among the first applicants

Iran welcomes foreign banks to establish branches in the country and engage in normal banking operations. According to Presstv, Article 44 of the Constitution had heretofore placed banking activities exclusively in the hands of government. In tandem with the Law on Usury Free Banking Operations, these two measures effectively blocked foreign banking operations from conducting business in the mainland.

With the long-awaited privatization law having already come into force in the summer of 2008, allowing the normal functioning of foreign banks in Iran is viewed as a major economy boosting initiative by the Central Bank of Iran (CBI). The rules for regulating the activity of foreign banks are set forth in four parts and 13 articles in the decree dated March 18, 2009 by the Council of Ministers and titled The Executive Bylaw of the Manner of Establishment and Operations of Foreign Bank Branches in Iran. The minimum capital for establishing a foreign bank branch in Iran is 5 million euros.

Under the new circumstances, four US banks, including Citibank and Goldman Sachs, have applied for opening a branch in Iran. The banks made a formal request to the CBI to establish a branch.

Arthur D. Little: Shariah-Compliant Banking is an Increasingly Attractive Option for Western Players

A new report released today by management consultancy Arthur D. Little entitled “Islamic Finance Comes of Age” has identified a surge in activity around Islamic finance as a promising opportunity for the global financial services industry as it emerges from the current recession. With Islamic finance assets currently standing at USD 800 bn, Arthur D. Little expects this figure to surge to as much as USD 4 trillion in the next six years, representing a major opportunity for Western financial institutions looking to develop new partnerships and global markets.

The report can be downloaded after free registration at: http://www.adlittle.com/islamic_finance

Gaza: Islamic National Bank founded in controversy

In Gaza a new "Islamic National Bank" was started with a capital of USD 20 mn reported Kifah Zaboun in Asharq Al-Awsat. The bank is licensed by Gaza without the consent of the Palestinian Monetary Agency.

The chairman of the bank, Ala Al-Rafati, denied accusations from sources within the Fatah movement which claimed that the bank is affiliated to Hamas saying that the Islamic National Bank is a private institute with a Board of Directors and an Executive Body.

Saudi insurance companies incl takaful operators going IPO

Four Saudi insurance firms launched on Saturday initial public offerings to raise a total SAR 260 mn. Axa Cooperative Insurance Co and Wiqaya Takaful Insurance and Re-insurance Co will offer a 40 % stake, or 8 mn shares each. Ace Arabia Cooperative Insurance Co will also offer a 40 % stake equivalent to 4 mn shares, while Al Rajhi Company for Cooperative Insurance will offer 30 %, or 6 mn shares.

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