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Reconciling #cryptocurrency in Islamic finance

Over the last few years, the market capitalisation of cryptocurrencies has reached a near $400 billion with over 1500 currencies been created. Among them, bitcoin has been the most popular with a market capitalisation of over $150 billion. Currently, there are divergent opinions regarding the Islamic understanding of bitcoin among Shari’ah scholars. A section of Shari’ah scholars believe that bitcoin is purely speculative, while others believe that it is a digital asset and not money. There are also some who completely differ and opine that bitcoin is currency. According to Dr. Arindam Banerjee, Associate Professor at Amity University, at the current stage crypto is not suited as a means of exchange in Islamic banking and financial institutions.

Mortgages set to boost lending at #Saudi banking giant Al Rajhi

A jump in mortgages and a recovery in Saudi Arabia’s economy may help Al Rajhi Bank to reverse a decline in lending. According to CEO Steve Bertamini, higher government spending and faster economic growth amid higher oil prices should help the revival. Home loans have risen as much as 6% this year and there are 450,000 Saudis eligible to purchase a home under one of the government programs. Saudi Arabia’s new housing project announced in February includes an 18 billion riyal ($4.8 billion) loan-guarantee program to boost access to funding and 12.5 billion riyals to support down-payments. Al Rajhi Bank in July reported an 18% rise in second-quarter profit to 2.57 billion riyals. According to Bloomberg economists, Saudi Arabia’s economic expansion will accelerate to 1.6% this year from 0.9% in 2017.

#Saudi refinance firm mulls #Sukuk issuance to fund mortgage drive

The Saudi Real Estate Refinance Company (SRC) plans to begin issuing sukuk in late September or early October 2018. SRC aims to refinance 20% of Saudi Arabia's primary home loans market, which authorities hope to expand to SAR 500 billion by 2020. Currently Saudi Arabia’s primary home loans stands at SAR 290 billion. Fabrice Susini, CEO of Saudi Real Estate Refinance Company, said that the company will now begin issuing Sukuk to raise money, first in Saudi riyals but eventually in foreign currencies. The company was founded in 2017 by the Public Investment Fund (PIF) and has so far operated with financing from the sovereign wealth fund and short-term deals with banks.

AAOIFI adoption set to standardise #UAE Islamic finance

The Central Bank of the UAE announced that the country's Islamic finance industry will be required to comply with AAOIFI Shariah standards from September 1. Islamic finance products in the UAE have historically adhered to AAOIFI standards, but the formal move to adopt AAOIFI standards will benefit the Islamic finance industry not only in the UAE. According to Dar Al Sharia CEO Mian Nazir, this move will facilitate standardisation of the Islamic finance industry across markets. These regulations are expected to grow consumer confidence and benefit the sukuk market as well. Dar Al Sharia is holding workshops to help relevant stakeholders, from internal Shariah control committee members to lawyers, develop an understanding of AAOIFI’s Shariah standards.

Dana Gas issues new #sukuk, drawing earlier dispute to a close

Dana Gas has completed refinancing its $700 million sukuk which has been sized down to $530m. The issuance of the debt instrument had been completed and listed on the Euronext Dublin, previously known as the Irish Stock Exchange. Dana has paid $235m in redemptions, profit payments and early participation fees bringing an end to its long legal battle. Dana Gas CEO Patrick Allman-Ward said the new sukuk represented a fair consensual deal for all sukuk holders. The new sukuk will have a three-year life, maturing in October 2020, with a new profit rate of 4% per annum. Legal proceedings in courts in the UK and UAE have been brought to an end by all parties. Last month, Dana Gas received about $44m in dividends from Kurdistan Region of Iraq for the first half of the year and expected its output from operations there to rise by 25% in the third quarter.

Noor exits $6mln stake in #Pakistan’s Meezan Bank

Noor Financial Investment announced selling 9 million shares or 0.85% of its equity ownership in Meezan Bank, Pakistan's first and largest Islamic bank. The equity transaction is valued at $5.57 million or KWD 1.68 million. Following this exit transaction, Noor currently owns 39.53% equity in Meezan Bank. The financial impact of this transaction will be a profit of KWD 293,000 that will be registered in Noor's income statements of the third quarter of 2018, in addition to an increase of KWD 648,000 in the shareholders' equity rights. In mid-July, Noor announced selling 27.23 million shares or 2.56% of its equity in Meezan Bank at a value of $15.76 million or KWD 4.77 million.

Jaiz to commence disbursement of $20m SMEs #fund

The Managing Director of Jaiz Bank Hassan Usman has said the bank would soon begin the disbursement of the $20m facility for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). The bank had in March signed the agreement with the Islamic Corporation for the Development of Private Sector to finance SMEs with $20m (N6.1bn). Usman said the bank would soon begin the disbursement, adding that the fund would be disbursed before the end of the year. He said the bank had commenced a five year strategic plan to provide better services to its customers. For example, the bank had increased its visibility in Lagos by opening more branches and plans to extend to other regions of the country as well.

#Pakistan likely to borrow $4bn loan from Islamic Development Bank: report

Pakistan plans to borrow over $4 billion from the Islamic Development Bank to bolster the country's low level of foreign currency reserves. A senior advisor in Islamabad said the paperwork is all in place. Finance minister-in-waiting Asad Umar has previously said that Pakistan must decide by the end of September if it would go to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to bail out its economy. He reiterated his stance that Pakistan was examining other options as well as the IMF, including loans from friendly countries or remittances from overseas Pakistanis.

Saudi-based ITFC, Federated Investors to launch $300 mln trade finance #fund

The Saudi-based International Islamic Trade Finance Corp (ITFC) plans to launch a $300 million fund alongside U.S. fund manager Federated Investors. The sharia-compliant fund is expected to launch later this year and would invest in energy-related structured trade, supply chain financing and project finance assets of sovereign entities. The fund will be managed by ITFC with input from Federated Investors. The two firms have worked together on Islamic trade finance transactions since 2014.

Cagamas issues RM825m 1-year bond and #sukuk

The National Mortgage Corp of Malaysia (Cagamas) has issued a RM825 million 1-year bond and sukuk comprising RM800 million Conventional Medium Term Notes (CMTN) and RM25 million Islamic Medium Term Notes (IMTN). Proceeds will be used to fund the purchase of mortgage and Islamic home loans. With this move the aggregate primary issuance by Cagamas has reached RM9.3 billion for 2018, marking a 24% increase in the company's primary supply as compared to 2017's year-to-date total of RM7.5 billion. Cagamas CEO Datuk Chung Chee Leong said the CMTN issue was concluded via reopening of an existing bond tranche which marked the company's second reopening exercise for the year.

Looming economic crisis: #Sukuk, dollar-denominated bonds to be launched, says Asad

Pakistan is considering to launch dollar-denominated bond and Sukuk bond to tap a favorable response from expatriates in order to tackle the looming economic crisis. Finance minister Asad Umar said the coming government will have to take tough decisions in the first six weeks after coming into power. Asad promised to grant independence to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics in order to get reliable official data on various sectors of the economy. He pledged to take action on it in the first 100 days of government. The situation has touched such an alarming position as the current account deficit used to be in the range of $2 billion on per annum basis, which now peaked to $2 billion on monthly basis.

Awqaf And Minors Affairs Foundation Adopts #Endowments Investment Policy 2018-2021

The Awqaf and Minors Affairs Foundation (AMAF) has adopted a three-year Endowments Investment Policy. The board meeting was attended by senior board members who reviewed the achievements of AMAF’s newly appointed Charity Work Committee, Investment Committee, and Endowment Development Committee. In addition, it also reviewed the executive regulations of the Dubai Waqf Law No. 14 of 2017 (Dubai Waqf Law) and Dubai Law No. 9 of 2007 establishing Awqaf and Minors Affairs Foundation. The Charity Work Committee presented the financial budget for charitable work in 2018, which has exceeded AED74 million to date. Philanthropic projects during the Year of Zayed included the voucher initiative for needy families worth AED700,000, the AED150,000 Umrah initiative, and the AED450,000 Fund for Cancer Patients. AMAF also joined the project of "Modon Al Khair" to contribute AED500,000 towards the construction of homes for low-income people.

#Kazakhstan: Will Astana’s financial gamble pay off?

With the official opening of the Astana International Financial Center (AIFC), Kazakhstan aims to become the region’s main financial hub. The aspiration is for the center to draw $40 billion in finance by 2025 and in the process rebrand oil-rich Kazakhstan as a financial hotspot. However, at the moment it is very much a work in progress. The stock exchange is not yet trading. According to AIFC chief executive Kairat Kelimbetov, the center will operate according to English common law. A court staffed with English barristers and an arbitration center will be available for dispute resolution. But the sobering reality is that of the 49 companies registered at the AIFC, most are no-names. The mightiest player registered at the AIFC is the China Development Bank, a fact that signals a welcome vote of confidence from Beijing.

Common Shariah norms for Islamic finance still remain a tricky issue

Shariah governance and regulations in Islamic finance remain a diverse topic despite countless initiatives to set a common international framework. There are different approaches towards establishing unified standards. Another issue is that Islamic scholars are often of different opinion on a subject, owing to different interpretations of Islamic laws. In countries with more liberal interpretations of Shariah rules such as Malaysia or Turkey, economic factors will be given more weight at the cost of Shariah principles, which can lead to a conflict of interest. Countries with comprehensive guidelines on Shariah banking are Sudan, Indonesia and Malaysia. Oman, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nigeria also have regulatory bodies and common guidelines. The UAE, Kuwait and Qatar are practising self-regulation of Islamic financial institutions. All this makes a common regulatory structure on Shariah compliance an extremely tricky issue.

#Saudi Arabia’s first #sukuk issuance through primary dealers positive for Islamic capital market development

Saudi Arabia announced the completion of its first sukuk issuance under the primary dealers program. The Saudi government has been a regular issuer of Islamic bonds since the Ministry of Finance established a Saudi riyal-denominated sukuk program last year. In the new primary-dealer system, the Saudi debt management office appointed five local banks to act as primary dealers for local government securities, namely National Commercial Bank, Samba Financial Group, Saudi British Bank, Bank Al-Jazira and Alinma Bank. The appointed primary dealers purchase sukuk sold at auction directly from the government and later place these securities in the secondary market for final investors, acting as market makers for government securities. The government expects that the primary-dealers scheme will develop the local government sukuk market and the debt capital markets in Saudi Arabia.

Islamic Banks' Assets Surge To AED565 Billion In H1 2018

Assets of Islamic banks operating in the UAE amounted to AED565 billion by the end of H1 2018, a 6.7% growth of AED35.5 billion over the corresponding period in 2017. The assets of Islamic banks account for 20.55% of total bank assets in UAE, valued at AED2.749 trillion, by the end of June 2018. The value of credit provided by Islamic Banks during the first half of the year surged to AED367 billion, a growth of 5% against the same period in 2017. Loans and credit facilities provided by Islamic banks made up 22.6% of total loans. Deposits held by Islamic banks amounted to AED392.4 billion, making up 23.3% of total deposits held by UAE banks, estimated at around AED1.7 trillion by the end of June.

Sadiq Khan backs #crowdfunding campaign for pro bono advice app

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has backed a campaign to raise money to boost free legal services to disadvantaged people. The money is being raised on a crowdfunding site for an application that could be made accessible through advice centres and even food banks. According to Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, the former president of the Law Society, £25,000 has been raised for the project so far and £2,000 more is needed to launch the six-month pilot this September.

Physical Gold #Fund SP announces Shariah compliance

Physical Gold Fund SP (PGF) has been endorsed as Shariah-compliant by Amanie Advisors. Amanie Advisors issued the fatwa in accordance with the Shariah Standard on Gold set by the Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI) and developed in cooperation with the World Gold Council. According to Alex Stanczyk, managing director of Physical Gold Fund SP, this fund is unique in the Mena region and is a perfect fit for the values expected by Islamic investors.

BRIEF-#Qatar Islamic #Insurance Receives C.Bank Nod To Change Name

Qatar Islamic Insurance Company received central bank approval to change its name to Group Islamic Insurance Company. The company also received approval from the central bank to establish a real estate company owned 100 percent by the group.

Albaraka Türk launches mobile-only banking service for Europe's Muslim community

Turkey's Albaraka Türk is targeting Europe's Muslim community with the launch of an interest-free digital banking app. "Insha" is initially being rolled out in Germany ahead of a Europe-wide expansion. It features a document-free account opening process and comes complete with a debit card. In addition to financial products, the app offers a range of Islamic-friendly services including a Zakat Calculator and a "Nearest Mosque" locator. Meliksah Utku, general manager at Albaraka Türk, says that the insha project marks the first step in the bank’s strategic entry into the European market.

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