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Chevening OCIS/ Abdullah Gül Fellowship applications are now open

The Chevening Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies (OCIS) Fellowships are aimed at mid-career academics or professionals who are dedicated to a more informed understanding of the culture and civilisation of Islam and contemporary Muslim societies. Chevening OCIS Fellowship and Chevening OCIS Abdullah Gül Fellowship are a collaboration between the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office and OCIS. The fellowship programmes will commence in October 2020. Fellows will need to develop their own research project to focus on during their fellowship prior to arriving in the UK. The Chevening OCIS Abdullah Gül Fellowship is available to applicants from Turkey. All applications for a Chevening Award must be made through the Chevening designated online application system (OAS), which can be accessed through www.chevening.org.

Islamic Development Bank hires banks to raise more than $1 bln in #sukuk -sources

The Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) has hired banks to arrange a new issue of U.S. dollar-denominated sukuk, which is expected to be more than $1 billion in size. Hired banks include Emirates NBD, Standard Chartered, Gulf International Bank and HSBC and the transaction is expected to take place next month. IsDB was last in the market in April this year with a $1.5 billion five-year sukuk deal. It generally issues dollar-denominated bonds twice a year, and last year it also sold its first sukuk denominated in euro. The new transaction will be more than $1 billion in size, with one of the sources saying it could go up to $1.5 billion.

Mena blockchain firm targets Islamic finance

Blockchain firm R3 has partnered with Dubai-based startup Wethaq to bring blockchain technology to the Islamic finance market. According to R3 CEO David Rutter, blockchain is driving an unprecedented period of innovation across capital markets, with more assets moving towards complete digitisation. Wethaq’s platform-as-a-service offering will use R3’s Corda enterprise blockchain infrastructure to digitise the pre-sale issuance, management and financing of sukuk securities. Interest in using blockchain technology for Islamic finance has increased in the last 12 months. Abu Dhabi-based Al Hilal Bank claimed to be the first firm to execute a sukuk transaction via the blockchain back in November 2018.

Bangladesh Bank Survey: Minimum balance, low income, high cost major barriers to access to finance

According to a Bangladesh Bank survey, the major barriers to accessing finance in the country are minimum balance requirement, low income, staff attitudes, lack of physical access and high cost of products. Other factors like inadequate financial literacy, lack of proper documentation, lack of initiatives of banks and financial institutions, low level of technological infrastructure, lack of suitable product structure of banks, opportunity cost and high cost of products are also acting as hindrances to access to finance. In Bangladesh a large number of the adult population still remains financially excluded. The major barrier is geographical or physical access measuring the average distance from households to bank branches. Bangladesh has less than seven branches (or ATM) per 100,000 population and about 67 branches (or ATM) per 1,000 square kilometre.

Ethereum deemed halal by Muslim scholars, may stimulate ETH demand

Prominent Muslim scholars and financial advisors released a white paper declaring Ethereum halal. Ethereum’s compliance with Sharia law has been contemplated for some time. Because of most cryptocurrencies are likely securities, the semblance to interest provokes a stir among those in Islamic finance. Instead, Ether represents a “utility token” and functions as a currency that powers Ethereum. Now, a white paper from Oman-based Amanie Islamic Finance & Shariah Advisor highlights that Ether does indeed adhere to Sharia law. Although the opinion is not final by any means, it still holds weight among devout Muslims. The ruling is similar to comments made by the chairman of the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission in March, which affirmed that Ethereum is closer akin to a commodity than a security.

Duterte signs law regulating Islamic banks in #Philippines

President Rodrigo Duterte has signed Republic Act (RA) 11439 that allows the establishment of Islamic banks in the Philippines. Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Benjamin E. Diokno said R.A. No. 11439 would unlock the full potential of Islamic financing in fostering inclusive economic growth. RA 11439 mandates the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) to exercise regulatory powers and supervision over the operations of Islamic banks. The Trade department earlier said that several banks have expressed interest to open their branches in the Philippines, once a law on Islamic banking is signed. The banks were identified as CIMB, Islamic Development Bank, Qatar Bank, Credit Investment Bank of Malaysia and a Saudi bank.

Islamic banking law to unlock financing potential, foster inclusive growth —BSP

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) welcomes the enactment of a law putting Islamic banks under its regulation and supervision. Republic Act No. 11439 or "Act Providing for the Regulation and Organization of Islamic Banks" was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on August 22. In the Philippines, the potential market for Islamic banking products mainly comprises the Muslims which account for about 10% of the population. The BSP noted that Islamic banking can also be attractive to non-Muslims, particularly investors who may be looking for new asset classes, instruments and products to diversify their portfolios. An Interagency Working Group on Islamic Banking and Finance has been constituted to develop a regulatory framework for Islamic banking.

Global #sukuk issuance to equal $130bln in 2019

According to Moody's Investors Service, the value of global sukuk issuance is expected to increase by 6% to reach $130 billion in 2019. That forecast can be ascribed to the increase in sukuk activity in Saudi Arabia and Malaysia, which manifested by the issuance of $87 billion sukuk in the first six months of 2019. Moody’s senior vice president Nitish Bhojnagarwala expects second-half volumes to moderate to around $43 billion, though Malaysia and Gulf Cooperation Council countries will continue issuing regularly. Key Islamic finance markets are working on adjusting their funding mix to support a long-term growth in sukuk volumes. As awareness towards the risk of climate change increases, the green sukuk market is expected to grow further.

State Bank issues updated Islamic financing facility

The State Bank of #Pakistan issued an updated Islamic financing facility for the renewable energy projects. The financing under Islamic Financing Facility for Renewable Energy (IFRE) is now available to the customers under three categories. Under the first category, the prospective sponsors are setting up power projects with a capacity ranging from more than 1MW and up to 50MW for their own use, or sell electricity to the national grid or combination of both. The State Bank of Pakistan will make Mudarabah investment in general pool of Participating Islamic Financial Institutions (PIFIs) under IFRE. IFRE shall be effective immediately and financing shall be available for projects up-to June 30, 2022.

UNHCR's Refugee #Zakat Fund raises $38.1mln; assists 111,209 families

The UNHCR’s Refugee Zakat Fund has raised $38.1 million in six months and supported 111,209 families (648,476 individuals) across seven countries. The United Nations' refugee agency’s zakat fund is a Sharia-compliant structure that channels zakat funds to the most vulnerable refugees. It is a dedicated non-interest-bearing account in Switzerland. Due to generous contributions from donors across the globe, the fund surpassed the fundraising target of $26 million originally set for 2019. The largest three destination countries comprise Yemen ($13.5 million); Jordan ($0.7 million), and Lebanon ($0.6 million). The remainder of the funds are mostly assigned to help some 670,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and distribution is in progress.

ADIB UK provides Dh120m acquisition funding

Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (ADIB) UK has provided financing for The Bank of London and the Middle East (BLME) to acquire a Dh120 million (£26.95 million) Grade A office building in Edinburgh. The building is now leased to Centrica as their corporate headquarters in Scotland until 2035. The building has received several design awards including the Scottish Design Award for Commercial Interior and the British Council for Offices National and Regional Awards for Commercial Workplace. BLME is a UK Shari’ah compliant bank with a branch in the Dubai International Financial Centre, regulated by the DFSA. Boubyan Bank is BLME’s largest shareholder. BLME sources and co-invests in commercial real estate opportunities alongside professional investors from the Middle East.

Noor Bank collaborates with Unionpay international to launch EMVCo QR-based mobile payment solution

Noor Bank has partnered with UnionPay International to inaugurate the bank’s EMVCo QR-based mobile payment service that allows consumers in the UAE to make instant and secure payments on the go. Customers and merchants across the country can now leverage UnionPay QR code scanning for all their payments. The launch ceremony was attended by Han Wang, General Manager-Middle East of UnionPay International, and John Iossifidis, CEO of Noor Bank. In the UAE, UnionPay is accepted nationwide both on POS terminals and ATM machines, acceptance rate is 100% and more than 60% on POS terminals for the UnionPay card and QuickPass. The new solution is expected to create wider acceptance and increase the number of current QR-code-enabled merchants in the country by end-2019.

#Saudi Arabia warns against dealing in #cryptocurrencies

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Finance has warned against dealing or investing in digital currencies including cryptocurrencies as they are not recognised by legal entities in the Kingdom. The finance ministry stated that digital currencies are outside the scope of the regulatory framework and are not traded by financial institutions in Saudi Arabia, adding that such cryptocurrencies have been associated with fraudulent activities and attract suspicion. The use of Saudi Arabia’s name, national currency or emblem by any entity for digital currencies marketing will be subject to legal actions.

Beijing’s Belt and Road plans could boost the Islamic banking sector

China’s Belt and Road Initiative is expected to spur further development in Islamic finance around the world. Many of the countries along the infrastructure belt are home to predominantly Muslim populations, including Central Asian countries such as Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. The China-headquartered Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank had already signed a memorandum of understanding with the Islamic Development Bank to collaborate on various areas including Islamic finance development. Sukuk issuance had grown strongly in 2017, but Chinese issuers have actually pulled away since then. That’s been attributed to the complexities involved, particularly as standards differ across regulatory regimes with varying interpretations of Sharia compliance. Still, financial links between China and the Middle East continue to grow. The relationships have increasingly moved from just trade partnerships to joint ventures.

#Indonesia raises 8 trln rupiah from Islamic bonds auction, matches target

Indonesia raised 8 trillion rupiah ($561.01 million) in a biweekly Islamic bond auction on Tuesday. According to the financing and risk management office at the finance ministry, the sukuk issuance matched the indicative target. The weighted average yields of project-based sukuk sold on Tuesday were lower compared with yields of comparable sukuk at the previous auction on Aug. 6. Total incoming bids were 21.4 trillion rupiah. ($1 = 14,260.0000 rupiah)

McKinsey Issues Warning Shot Over ‘Ominous’ Signs of an Asian Debt Crisis

Global consulting firm McKinsey is warning that signs of an Asian debt crisis are "ominous". Increased indebtedness, stresses in repaying borrowing, lender vulnerabilities and shadow banking practices are some of the concerns. McKinsey examined the balance sheets of more than 23,000 companies across eleven Asia-Pacific countries, and found firms in most of Asia face "significant stress" in servicing debt obligations. In countries such as China and India, those pressures have risen since 2007, while falling sharply in the U.S. and U.K. during the same period. Since 1997, financial regulators have put in place safeguards to prohibit a repeat of the crisis that engulfed Asian nations. Potential triggers of a crisis that need to be monitored include defaults in repayment of debt, liquidity mismatches, and large fluctuations in exchange rates, according to McKinsey.

Kuwait Finance House launches open banking

Kuwait Finance House-Bahrain (KFH-Bahrain) has announced going live with advanced open banking infrastructure, which will allow it to partner with innovative fintech firms. The kingdom is one of the earliest global adopters of mandatory open banking, putting it at the vanguard of customer-driven change in financial services. KFH-Bahrain is one of the first banks to integrate a fintech through the launch of its KFH Jazeel banking platform in partnership with Tarabut Gateway, a subsidiary of Almoayed Technologies. According to KFH-Bahrain executive manager Mohammed Fahmi Hamad, open banking will allow bank account holders to consent to sharing details of their accounts and payments history to licensed third-party providers to make more aware financial decisions. In addition to that, customers will soon be able to link their accounts to independent licensed applications.

Islamic finance taking shape

In #Ethiopia, Muslim members of the business community are and had been severely underserved by the nation’s financial industry. This seemed to be changing in 2011 with the enactment of the nation’s first interest-free banking directive by the National Bank of Ethiopia. However, the directive only authorized interest-free banking window in the setup of a conventional banking system and not a full-fledged Islamic bank. Exactly six years later, three potential full-fledged Islamic banks have been established. The three have officially started selling shares while unofficially at least two more banks are said to be in the pipeline to take part in the interest-free banking game. This will bring the total number of new entrants to five.

#Saudi peer-to-peer funding platform signs with SRB

Saudi peer-to-peer funding platform Raqamyah has assigned the Shariyah Review Bureau (SRB) to manage the Sharia compliance affairs of its crowd-funding technology. Raqamyah founder Ammar Bakheet said the company was developing faster ways of connecting funders with SME’s and also enact the spectrum of SAMA’s regulations in the Kingdom. Shariyah Review Bureau, founded in 2004 in Saudi Arabia and licensed by Central Bank of Bahrain in 2007 provides Sharia advisory services from setting up Sharia Boards to Sharia certification and Sharia audits. SRB founder Yasser S Dahlawi said the collaboration with Raqamyah makes SRB the preeminent choice of Sharia Advisor for P2P firms seeking to offer crowd-funding opportunities in the Kingdom.

Why is #Singapore so far behind #Malaysia on responsible investing?

On numerous fronts, Singapore outcompetes its regional rival Malaysia. But in terms of the sustainability of their capital markets, Malaysia trumps Singapore in responsible investing. Malaysian asset managers are more confident than their Singaporean counterparts that responsible investments will outperform regular investments. A recent Bloomberg study shows that 67% of Malaysia’s investment community believes that portfolios underpinned by environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors will perform as well as or better than regular investments. In Singapore it is 58%. The survey also found that a quarter of asset managers in Malaysia had developed their own internal ESG scoring models, compared with just 13% in Singapore. Large Malaysian asset owners are signatories to the UN Principles for Responsible Investment, whereas Singapore’s big investors are not.

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