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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.

Gulf bonds prove resilience amid virus-induced adversity

Gulf bonds are emerging resilient after yet another crisis. In the last few weeks the pandemic-induced investor worries soared and oil prices plummeted, but analysts still see them ending the year strong. According to capital markets expert Anita Yadav, total new bond issuances in 2020 will likely surpass the record $101 billion raised in 2019. So far this year, the GCC bond markets have comparatively stayed resilient, having in recent weeks only sold off 60% of emerging market debt and roughly 50% of high-yield debt. Year-to-date GCC issuers have priced more than $47 billion of USD denominated bonds in international markets, nearly matching the $47.8 billion raised during the same period last year.

Saudi Arabia raises $1.48bln in local #sukuk -statement

Saudi Arabia has raised 5.55 billion riyals in sukuk. The first tranche of the sukuk issue has a size of 1.3 billion riyals, and a total tranche size of 2.523 billion riyals, maturing in 2027. The second tranche has a size of 4.25 billion riyals, and a total tranche size of 8.238 billion riyals, maturing in 2035.

UK court's intervention is worst-case scenario, says NMC Health chairman

According to hospital operator NMC Health and its Executive Chairman Faisal Belhoul, getting placed in administration by a UK court order would be the "worst-case scenario" for the company’s future. The threat of coming under administration is a live one after Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank had filed a request with a UK court for NMC to be placed under a joint administration. ADCB – which has an exposure of Dh3.6 billion to NMC and affiliates - filed its request in a UK court because NMC Health is listed on London Stock Exchange. According to Belhoul, international institutional investors are keen to take an exposure in NMC despite its current predicament.

Gulf Islamic Investments’ Acquisition of Class A New York Office Building

Gulf Islamic Investments (GII) has announced the acquisition of 140 & 150 Grand Street Plaza, an office building in White Plains, Westchester County, New York, USA on behalf of its investors. Located just 30 minutes away from Manhattan, the Class A office building seats within the urban center of White Plains. The Property is strategically located within one block of the Federal, Supreme, District and County courthouses making it the preferred destination for government-affiliated and law-related tenants. GII is a UAE-based financial services company regulated by the Emirates Securities and Commodities Authority (ESCA). GII was advised by a cross border Orrick team led by Düsseldorf-based M&A and private equity partner Oliver Duys.

Ramadan during coronavirus may seem disheartening but it's the ideal time for reflection

It is going to be a very different Ramadan this year due to the Covid-19 global pandemic and the social isolation laws. Ramadan in 2020 means no communal gatherings in mosques for "tarawih" night prayers, no large "iftar" dinners with family and friends at sunset to break the day’s fast, and restrictions on celebrating Eid, the biggest social holiday for Muslims signalling the end of Ramadan. Self-discipline when it comes to physical acts of worship is a part of the heritage of Islam. However, the true essence of Ramadan has been diluted through the generations. The focus of Ramadan can move away from food preparation and "eating at sunset", to self-improvement and self-discipline.

Bahrain Islamic Bank launches Tejoori Instant Finance

Bahrain Islamic Bank (BisB) launched the Tejoori Instant Finance service allowing customers to obtain instant finance within 5 minutes. According to BisB Chief Retail Banking, Dalal Al Qais, customers can get instant finance on amounts ranging between BD 200 and BD 2,000, which will be credited to their Saving or Current Account in less than 5 minutes. Customers will be required to pay upfront fees that vary between BD30 and BD70, depending on the required amount. They can choose a minimum tenor of three months up to a maximum tenor of 12 months to repay the amount with no profits. The monthly instalment will be deducted directly from the customer’s Tejoori account.

Islamic Development Bank to help #Pakistan fight coronavirus

The Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) Thursday offered financial support to Pakistan amid the lockdown due to coronavirus pandemic. In a video call, IsDB President Dr Bandar MH Hajjar assured Federal Minister for Economic Affairs Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar of the bank’s support for Pakistan. Hajjar informed that the IsDB Group has approved the $2.3 billion package for the IsDB member countries to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar appreciated the special priority given to Pakistan. The minister also underlined the needs of the member countries and applauded Bank’s response.

Norton Rose Fulbright acts for HSBC on unique USD 1 billion Islamic financing

International law firm Norton Rose Fulbright (NRF) has been called on to advise HSBC and Tokyo-headquartered Mizuho Bank, on an Islamic financing facility worth USD 1 billion. The cross-border financing, which had to be compliant with Shariah law, is the first of its kind to align to the new requirements set by the United Arab Emirates Central Bank. The finance facility’s creation necessitated a deep understanding of the new rules surrounding commodity murabaha financing structures, which called on NRF’s Dubai-based banking team, representing the initial arrangers, book-runners and coordinators.

Islamic Development Bank prepares $2.3b package for member countries

The Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) Group has approved a $2.3 billion package for its member countries to mitigate and recover from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. IsDB President Dr Bandar M H Hajjar said that this will be achieved through a holistic approach aimed to accommodate priorities beyond the immediate and emergency response. Dr Hajjar assured the bank’s full support for the people and the government of Pakistan to mitigate the negative impacts of Covid-19. Pakistan's Minister for Economic Affairs Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar informed that International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC) has been directed to immediately finalise $500 million for import of oil and an amount of $150 million has been allocated to alleviate the pandemic impact.

Middle East investors target $5.3bn London commercial property spend in 2020

According to Knight Frank, Middle East investors are set to increase commercial real estate investment in London this year. Investors from the region are forecast to spend £4.1 billion ($5.3 billion) in the UK capital this year, up by £100 million compared to 2019. China remains by far the biggest potential investor in London, with £12.7 billion of capital ready to buy assets in 2020, followed by Singapore. Knight Frank’s annual London Report reveals that in 2019 London investment activity fell 15% to £13.9 billion, down from £16.8 billion in 2018, as Brexit uncertainty and a shortage of available assets constrained the number of deals.

RAM Ratings: #Takaful industry’s strong capitalisation sufficient to withstand headwinds

RAM Ratings Services has maintained its "stable" outlook on the Malaysian takaful industry for 2020 despite the economic slowdown. Its Financial Institution Ratings co-head Sophia Lee said the industry’s strong capitalisation is sufficient to withstand headwinds. In 2019, the family takaful’s new business contributions grew 25% to RM6.2 billion, an additional 13% from 2018, mainly driven by the MySalam initiative, the national health protection scheme. Excluding MySalam, growth was still commendable at an estimated 16%, anchored by credit-related takaful products and the employee benefits. Similarly, the general takaful industry expanded by a strong 20% in 2019, led primarily by the motor business.

#Indonesia’s national Islamic economy committee budget slashed, plans suspended as gov't focuses on COVID-19

Indonesia’s National Sharia Economy and Finance Committee (KNEKS) will suspend non-urgent programs this year after its budget was slashed by a third as the government allocates resources to fight COVID-19. The committee will conduct a series of webinars focused on the impact of COVID-19 on the Islamic economy. KNEKS will also engage Indonesians to participate more in Islamic social finance by promoting Shariah-compliant fintechs such as LinkAja Syariah. Indonesia’s government has set aside 405.1 trillion rupiah ($24.65 billion) out of the state budget as a support and stimulus package to help the economy. It has re-allocated and re-focused 95.5 trillion rupiah from ministries and other government institutions as part of efforts to fund the package.

Covid-19: World faces 'biblical' famines from pandemic, warns UN food agency chief

The head of the UN food agency warned that besides the coronavirus pandemic the world is on the brink of a hunger pandemic that could lead to multiple famines of biblical proportions within a few months if immediate action isn't taken. World Food Program Executive Director David Beasley said that WFP is providing food to nearly 100 million people on any given day. According to WFP, the 10 countries with the worst food crises in 2019 were Yemen, Congo, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Syria, Sudan, Nigeria and Haiti. Beasley raised the prospect of a hunger pandemic because there is also a real danger that more people could potentially die from the economic impact of Covid-19 than from the virus itself. Lockdowns and economic recession are expected to lead to major income losses for the working poor.

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