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First Islamic bank in France already in June?

Gilles Saint-Marc, a Paris based lawyer is cited that the first Islamic bank in France may start already in June 2009.

Malaysia to Seek Large Islamic Banks for International Reach

Malaysian Governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz said to Bloomberg, that an international Islamic financial institution of a large size that can take international business, whether business in Europe, or South Korea or any part of the world is wanted to be seen, reported Shanthy Nambiar and Haslinda Amin on Bloomberg.

Amlak Finance will halve its s take in a property investment

Amlak Finance will halve its investment in Sky Gardens, a tower located near the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC). Amlak had purchased properties in various parts of Dubai to sell them to potential purchasers. As buyers have become fewer, the company decided to scale back its investment.

Mawarid and Al Arabiya launching portal for Islamic economics

Mawarid Finance announced in cooperation with Al Aswaq Al Arabiya of Al Arabiya News Channel the launch of an e-portal dedicated to Islamic economics. The new e-portal features a database of Islamic financial companies and institutions in addition to fatwas related to Islamic financial transactions, products, updates on Islamic financing.

A link was provided in the Press Release.

Stress testing Islamic finance

Ayah el Said and Rachel Ziemba discussed risk management considerations comparing stress testing in conventional finance and the Islamic finance industry on RGEMonitor.

For Islamic financial institutions, a plausible scenario means factoring in possible contractions in several of the economies that have been the centers for Islamic finance as well as significant asset market corrections which would weaken the balance sheets of Islamic financial institutions. A stress scenario should factor in at least another 40% drop in property prices in Dubai and considerable drops in other markets. The increased risks of investment losses on the one hand, and rising non-performing loans on the other, adds to the vulnerability of Islamic banks.

Lead Manager Bahrain Sukuk

Bahrain’s central bank confirmed that it has appointed Deutsche Bank, HSBC Bank and Calyon as lead managers for its upcoming sale of the sovereign USD 500 mn 5-year Sukuk.

It will also issue 3-year debt in local currency to raise a further 250 mn Bahraini dinars.

Dubai Islamic Bank offers to buy back Sukuk up to USD 200 mn

Dubai Islamic Bank offered to buy back up to USD 200 mn of sukuk. Pricing shall be at least 86 % of face value, but not more than 90 % determined by an auction.

Dubai Islamic has USD 750 mn of sukuk due 2012.

Noor Islamic Bank closes Rep Office in Tunisia

Noor Islamic Bank closes its representative office in Tunis. The decision shall be taken as expansion plans have been revisited towards focussing on the Gulf region.

Addendum: Noor Islamic Bank denied the closure of the rep office in a press release.

New Islamic brokerage firm in Kazakhstan

Fattah Finance was launched in March, immediately after Kazakhstan's law on Islamic finance came into force.
A subsidiary of Almaty-based financial services provider Almaty Financial Centre, Fattah currently offers only brokerage services, but plans to expand its range of activities later this year as it grows its team. It offers its clients shares that are listed both in Kazakhstan and in other markets. "It doesn't matter where the shares are listed, only whether they are Sharia compliant or not," says Ussenzhan Turdiev, head of Fattah's information and analysis department.

The full interview by Clare Nuttal can be read via the link below.

New consultancy founded "Quantis"

Quantis was founded recently to provide expertise in responsible Islamic finance combined with quantitative methods by Marwan Muhammad and others.

http://www.quantislam.com

Fitch has affirmed Al-Rajhi A+

Fitch Ratings affirmed Al-Rajhi's long-term issuer default rating (IDR) at "A+" with a stable outlook. Its short-term IDR at "F1", individual rating at "B/C" and support rating at '1'. The bank continues to dominate the Islamic market segment and retail banking, which has been historically its main focus. The bank's long-term IDR is unlikely to change unless the sovereign rating changes.

ABC International Bank plc ("ABCIB") has appointed Faisal Alshowaikh as Head of Islamic Financial Services

ABC International Bank plc ("ABCIB") has appointed Faisal Alshowaikh as Head of Islamic Financial Services, based in London, to grow and develop its Islamic finance business, which was first established in late 1999, and includes Real Estate, Leasing and Islamic home finance through its alburaq retail finance business

Gatehouse and SAM launching Water Fund

Gatehouse Bank launches with Sustainable Assets Management (SAM) an Islamic compliant mutual fund focussing on sustainability-oriented companies that offer technologies, products and services throughout the entire value chain of the water industry.

Monetary Authority of Singapore issues guidelines for Islamic banking

At the 6th Islamic Financial Services Board (IFSB) Summit on 7 May, MAS announced that it has issued a set of Guidelines on the Application of Banking Regulations to Islamic Banking. The Guidelines consolidate the various regulations and clarifications which MAS has issued, and offers specific information on the regulatory treatment of various Islamic structures. This set of Guidelines will provide greater clarity and certainty for financial institutions offering Islamic banking products in Singapore.

MAS has also issued two regulations clarifying that, with immediate effect, Singapore-based banks may enter into Diminishing Musharaka financing and Spot Murabaha transactions. In addition, MAS has ensured equal tax, regulatory and liquidity treatment of the Singapore dollar sukuk with Singapore Government Securities, effective immediately. Taken together, these various changes will allow banks to conduct a wide range of Islamic financing activities, and to have greater flexibility in structuring instruments to meet their risk management needs.

Please view the Guidelines here:

IDB unit funds PT Bank Negara Indonesia expansion to Asia

Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector, a unit of Islamic Development Bank plans to invest as much as USD 500 mn in PT Bank Negara Indonesia’s Shariah- compliant banking unit to help it expand in Asia, specifically Indonesia, Southern Thailand and Malaysia.

The nation’s Shariah-compliant banking assets rose 47 % to 48.4 trillion rupiah (USD 4.6 bn) at the end of 2008, according to Bank Indonesia data.

Islamic National Bank in Gaza as sign of divide

The new Islamic National Bank is regarded as sign of divide between the Palestinians. The Palestinian Monethariy Authority refused the license, being the recognised body according to the Oslo agreement in 1993 and Paris economic agreement on 1994 between the Palestinians and Israelis. Alternatively the bank has sent its establishing papers to the Prime Minister's office in Gaza and they have given it authorisation to start banking activities in Gaza.

Unlike other banks, it has no global serial number (swift code) which makes it impossible to work with other banks around the world or even in the Palestinian territories. The main clientele of the bank are Gaza Government employees, approximately 31,000.

Malta attracts investments from Dubai

Investors from Dubai are negotiating with government officials of Malta on a number of assets and projects in the Mediterranean island state. Dubai has already become a leading investor in Malta's economy with investments totalling near USD 1 bn over the last few years including the USD 300 mn SmartCity project, Euro 500 mn in International Hotel Investments (IHI) Group which owns Corinthia Hotels, as well as Tecom Investments' acquisition of a stake in Maltese telecom operator Go, with many more to come.

IDB plans USD 500 mn Sukuk end of June

Saudi Arabia’s Islamic Development Bank (IDB), plans to sell USD 500 mn Sukuk by end of June, reported Shanty Nambiar on Bloomberg. The Jeddah-based bank plans to raise as much as USD 5 bn over the next 5 years through 2014 to fund the bank's projects in member countries.

IDB also plans to start a new USD 1.5 bn to USD 2 bn infrastructure fund funded by public and privat sector as joint investors.

Concept of Sharia-Compliant Hotels explained

Paul Rosenberg and Hala Matar Choufany are giving in a contribution to 4hoteliers a set of criteria for Sharia compliant hotels, distinguishing it from merely alcohol free, "dry" hotels:

In order for a hotel to be fully Sharia-compliant, it is extremely important that most of the facilities (such as floors, spa, gym and guest and function rooms) be separate for males and females. This is especially significant at the development stage when designing floor plans of the hotel. Beds and toilets should not be placed in the direction of Mecca.

Neither alcohol nor pork should be served in any of the food and beverage outlets at the hotel and there should be no minibar in the rooms.

See full article for more details as below.

Middle East covers more than half of the Islamic Finance market

Research conducted by Shariah-Fortune screened around 810 companies in 50 countries worldwide offering Shariah compliant financial services. The Middle East covers more than half (around 56 %) of the Islamic Finance market. Around 450 companies are located in this region. Leading countries are the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Asian companies compound to a market share of about 20 %. In particular. Malaysia is one of the key players, not only in Asia, but also globally.

114 companies have been screened in Europe, which accounts for around 14 % of the global market share. On top position in Europe is the UK, boosted by the FSA´s regulatory initiatives. Compared to its global importance North America takes only a small part in the listing for Islamic Finance. Around 44 companies (ca. 5 %) are located in the USA and Canada.

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