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#Pakistan sets rules for banks wanting to be fully sharia compliant

Pakistan's central bank has issued guidelines for banks that want to be fully-fledged sharia compliant, setting a three-year time frame for applicants to complete the process. The rules aim to accelerate the growth of Islamic banking in the country. Eligible applicants must have existing Islamic finance operations and the conversion process must start within six months of approval. After the conversion of conventional branches, the applicant can then apply for a fully-fledged Islamic banking license. Such conversions are rare in Islamic finance but are seen as a way to increase the scale of the bank and widen its reach into under-served rural areas. Islamic banking in Pakistan currently includes five fully-fledged Islamic banks and 16 conventional banks offering Islamic financial products. As of March, they held assets worth 1.9 trillion rupees ($17.9 billion), a 16% increase from a year earlier and 11.7% of total banking assets. However, their capitalization and profitability ratios remain below the industry average.

Dana gas saga far from over

Last month, Dana Gas tried to impose on investors a restructuring of the payment of its two outstanding sukuk tranches totalling US$700 million. The company got an injunction in the High Court in London restraining sukuk holders from taking any hostile action against Dana. The overriding concern is that if the High Court in London rules against Dana Gas, the matter goes to trial and Dana Gas wins, it would set an appalling precedent that can undermine the integrity of sukuk as a fundraising instrument. Syariah advisories agree that the only solution would be the introduction of a world sukuk standard supported by local laws, an Apex Sukuk Standard, which would give legal and syariah certainty. Any dispute could either be subject to arbitration or recourse to law. Dana Gas re-scheduled yet another conference call with sukuk holders to discuss the matter. The High Court in London scheduled a hearing for September. This saga is far from over.

UAE's Dana Gas aims to propose new #sukuk terms in coming weeks

According to Dana Gas CEO Patrick Allman-Ward, the company aims to communicate proposed terms of a restructured sukuk issue in coming weeks. He spoke to sukuk holders in a conference call, but there was no question and answer session and no immediate response from creditors. In mid-June, Dana stunned creditors by announcing it would halt payments on its four-year sukuk because they no longer complied with changing interpretations of the Sharia code. Dana said it would exchange the sukuk for new Islamic instruments with lower profit rates than the existing paper. Investors and bankers are concerned that other sukuk issuers could imitate Dana in refusing to redeem paper on the grounds that it has lost its sharia-compliance. CEO Allman-Ward insisted that Dana's arguments did not apply to other, lawful sukuk formats. Dana's existing paper features profit rates of 7 and 9%. The new sukuk would provide profit distributions at less than half the rates. Sukuk holders are contesting the plan in courts in London and the emirate of Sharjah.

Le combat de la ville de Nice contre une enseigne de «finance islamique»

Alors qu'une société souhaitait installer des enseignes lumineuses avec la mention "finance islamique", le tribunal administratif de Nice a validé le refus de la mairie. Un nouveau dossier communautaire à gérer pour la ville, un an après l'affaire des burkinis. Le dossier pourrait raviver les tensions. Le tribunal administratif de Nice a débouté aujourd'hui jeudi 6 juillet la société Noorassur de sa requête contre la mairie de Nice, et a validé le refus par la mairie que la société appose deux enseignes lumineuses. Le juge a estimé que la décision de la mairie ne pouvait être regardée comme portant atteinte. Dans un communiqué, Christian Estrosi s'est félicité de la décision du tribunal. Du côté de la société Noorassur, l'ordonnance rendue en référé ne clôt pas l'affaire.

Amid Dana debacle, Islamic finance seeks safeguards against illegality claims

The Islamic finance industry is seeking ways to safeguard deals against challenges to their religious permissibility. Sharjah-based Dana Gas declared it would not make payments on $700 million of sukuk because Islamic finance standards had changed since the instruments were issued. This raised concern across the Islamic finance industry that more companies could avoid redeeming sukuk by adopting the same argument as Dana. To try to avoid similar cases in future, investors may demand more detailed and restrictive language in sukuk documentation. Such language already exists for some sukuk, but it is not used consistently and is not standardised. Investors may also screen the groups of scholars who provide sharia endorsements for sukuk. The newly formed high sharia authority for Islamic banking and finance is expected to set rules and a general framework for Islamic finance governance in the United Arab Emirates.

London court to hear Dana Gas #sukuk case in September

London's High Court plans to hold a full hearing in September on efforts by Abu Dhabi-listed Dana Gas to restructure $700 million of its outstanding sukuk. Dana Gas declared the bonds invalid last month, saying they were no longer compliant with changing interpretations of the Sharia law. The judge upheld an interim High Court injunction blocking holders of the bonds from enforcing claims related to the securities against Dana Gas. However, he imposed restrictions on asset sales by Dana and its ability to raise more debt or pay dividends. The case has worried the Islamic finance industry as it has raised the prospect that other firms could justify not honouring obligations by claiming sharia-based financial standards had changed.

Market-leading Sharia #savings #accounts: should you consider them?

A number of Sharia savings products are beating competitors and are playing their part in kick-starting small rate increases. Currently in the fixed bond market, Sharia savings accounts top every single category. As well as top returns, they also appeal to the more ethical saver or investor as the money is invested, not lent out. According to James Blower, managing director of Savings Guru, Sharia-compliant savings have developed their niche very well and will grow in popularity. He says there are three reasons why Al Rayan is one of the most successful Islamic banks in the UK. It has a low minimum entry level, wide range of options for customers to deal with it and it rebranded from Islamic Bank of Britain to Al Rayan Bank. An interesting point to note is that 86% of Al Rayan customers are non-Muslim. In the UK Al Rayan, BLME and Milestone are all regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and are members of the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) which protects deposits of up to £85,000.

ICD and Saturna launch #sustainable Islamic #fund

The Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD) and Saturna have announced the launch of the ICD Global Sustainable Fund. The fund is designed for investors who seek to align their investment goals with social values. The launch of the fund enhances Malaysia’s position as the marketplace of innovation. ICD serves as one of the Fund’s seed investors and advisor, while Saturna is the Fund’s investment manager. The Fund will invest at least 80% of its net assets in equities of global issuers that demonstrate sustainable characteristics. The firm uses a proprietary ESG rating system to identify issuers with sustainable characteristics. Investors can buy the Fund with no sales charge, paying only low administrative fees and transparent distribution fees.

Most #S&P and Dow Jones Islamic #Indices Outperform Conventional Benchmarks in 2017

Michael Orzano, head of equity indices, S&P Dow Jones Indices: Most S&P and Dow Jones Islamic Indices Outperform Conventional #Benchmarks in 2017

Most S&P and Dow Jones Shariah-compliant benchmarks outperformed their conventional counterparts year-to-date through June 28, 2017 as Financials – which are largely absent from Islamic indices – have lagged the broader market, and Information Technology and Health Care – which tend to be overweight in Islamic Indices – have been the two top performing sectors so far this year.

Global equity markets added to strong Q1 gains as the Dow Jones Islamic Market World and S&P Global BMI Shariah Indices gained 13.6% and 13.3%, respectively for the year. Each index outperformed the conventional S&P Global Broad Market Index (BMI) by about 2.5%. In the U.S., the S&P 500 Shariah gained 10.4% for the year, outperforming the S&P 500 by 1.4%. Regional Dow Jones Islamic Market benchmarks for Asia-Pacific, Europe and Emerging Markets all beat their conventional counterparts by meaningful margins as well.

Asia-Pacific, Europe and Emerging Markets Lead Global Equity Markets Higher

CIMB Islamic CEO says Dana Gas’ case is a dud, won’t hurt market

According to Mohamed Rafe Mohamed Haneef, CEO of CIMB Islamic Bank, Dana Gas’s case will leave the global Islamic finance industry relatively unaffected. Dana Gas said it no longer considered its two securities due in October as compliant with Islamic principles under UAE law. Unlike Malaysia, most Arab countries have no centralised Shariah boards to approve deal structures. In Haneef's opinion, Dana Gas’s case will probably be dismissed, as the sukuk agreement is subject to laws in both the United Arab Emirates and the U.K. A U.K. court is due to issue a ruling on Dana Gas' attempt to extend an injunction preventing sukuk holders from taking action regarding the debt. The company has proposed restructuring the notes on terms that are less advantageous to investors and plans to explain the legal action on a conference call with investors on July 6.

#Saudi #insurer Enaya to offer Sharia-compliant policies

Health insurer Saudi Enaya has joined hands with Shariyah Review Bureau, a global Sharia Advisory firm, to offer Sharia-compliant value creating policies. CEO Lee Shurey stated that offering Sharia compliant products provides a tremendous opportunity to strengthen Enaya’s position in the region. The company had already identified Islamic cooperative insurance as a major potential more than three years ago. Enaya's HR director Moneer Brembali said that the insurer has undertaken several initiatives over the years and this agreement with SRB is another demonstration of their commitment to customers. He added that SRB’s Sharia Review Certification and Audit experience will complement the company's knowledge. SRB is a Sharia Advisor which currently serves 24% of the Saudi Cooperative Insurance market in the kingdom. It also has an established record of innovation to expand and improve leading insurance practices.

Cover Story: #Disrupting Islamic finance

For many years, the global Islamic finance has been seen as a laggard in digital innovation, but now Islamic finance players are catching up with their conventional peers. According to Zeeshan Uppal, co-founder of crowdfunding company Yielders, fintech has opened up opportunities for Islamic finance to catch up because it allows scalability, which is in line with shariah law. Ibrahim Mohammed, the founder of OneGram, says that blockchain technology can create digital banks or P2P lending platforms that adhere to Islamic principles, and many other asset classes can be made shariah-compliant. Umar Munshi, founder of EthisCrowd, finds the slow innovation in Islamic finance perplexing as there is an urgent need for financial inclusivity. He expects to see more players in the takafultech, crowdfunding and P2P financing, payment and remittance, and smart contract space next year. According to EY’s Banking in Emerging Markets GCC FinTech Play 2017 report, Fintech can propel Islamic banks into the mainstream space in 20 promising markets by 2021, up from five markets today, and effectively add 150 million new Islamic banking customers.

ANALYSIS: Can GCC Islamic banks escape the oil-price cycle?

More and more stakeholders concede that the Shari’ah-authorized way of banking has hit a glass ceiling. They acknowledge that Islamic banking and financial services have largely failed to innovate at the speed they were expected to. It is also admitted that Islamic finance is caught in an oil-price cycle, definitely in the Gulf and wider Middle East region. Global rating agency, Standard & Poor’s, estimates that Islamic banks in the GCC are expected to face a tough year ahead. According to S&P Head of Islamic Finance, Mohamed Damak, GCC Islamic banks’ asset quality indicators will deteriorate in the second half of this year and in 2018. Very few Islamic banks have set aside significant amounts of profit-equalization reserves. As for oil price, both Islamic and conventional banks are affected and must adopt a new strategy that is not highly dependent of energy prices. For that a diversification of the economy is needed, which doesn’t seem to be happening anytime soon.

UAE's Dana Gas will try again to hold call on #sukuk restructuring

Dana Gas has rescheduled a telephone call with sukuk holders to this Thursday at 4 p.m. The call would outline the company's proposal to restructure its outstanding $700 million of sukuk. Dana is claiming it must exchange the instruments because they are no longer lawful following changes in Islamic finance. The company had originally scheduled the call for June 21, but on that day it decided to postpone the call. Dana said it made several approaches to an ad hoc committee of creditors to arrange a call but each invitation was declined.

Fitch Rates Bank Jambi's First #Sukuk Issuance 'A(idn)'

Fitch Ratings Indonesia has assigned a National Long-Term Rating of 'A(idn)' to PT Bank Pembangunan Daerah Jambi's proposed Sukuk issuance. The proposed issuance is the bank's first sukuk with a total amount of IDR 120 billion and a maturity of three years from the issuance date. 'A' National Ratings denote expectations of low default risk relative to other issuers or obligations in the same country. Bank Jambi's rating reflects Fitch's view that the bank is important to the regional government of Jambi province on Sumatra island. Bank Jambi is owned by the government of Jambi province and by the governments of various municipalities. Although Bank Jambi is a small bank in the Indonesian banking industry, it has a strong franchise and has an important role in supporting development in the region.

Shariah-compliant, gold-backed #digi-coins could change Islamic finance

The launch of the first-ever Islamic finance-compatible cryptocurrency could be a game changer for the entire Islamic banking industry. OneGram calls itself the world’s first Shariah-compliant cryptocurrency whose value is backed by actual gold reserves. The company started selling a total stock of 12.4mn digital tokens on May 21 that are backed by one gram of gold each. The Initial Coin Offering programme aims to raise around $500mn. At its sister company GoldGuard, OneGram will store the physical gold in a vault inside the Dubai Airport Free Zone. OneGram’s founder and CEO, Mohammed Ibrahim Khan, says he felt inspired by Bitcoin whose use is subdued in the Arab world. He added that OneGram has Shariah scholars on its board who ensure that the company is fully compliant with Islamic finance requirements. According to Mohammed, large-scale funds of more than $200mn have been committed by Dubai-based Tabarak Investment Capital. The sale of the OneGram coins is going on until September 22 this year and no more coins will be ever issued from then.

World’s Largest Islamic Bank Successfully Completes Ripple #Blockchain Trial

Saudi Arabia’s largest bank recently completed its first cross-border transfer using Ripple technology. Having Al Rajhi Bank on board is a major validation for the blockchain service provider. Money was transferred between Al Rajhi Bank offices across Saudi Arabia and Jordan. The transfer took mere seconds to complete and reduced fees to a bare minimum. Completing this trial will help Saudi Arabia digitize the customer banking experience even further. More specifically, digitizing the banking experience will allow for faster and cheaper transactions. Al Rajhi Bank runs over 200 remittance centers across the country. The whole Kingdom of Saudi Arabia may soon see mass adoption of Ripple’s ecosystem.

Interview with Ahmed Abdul Rahim, Chief Executive Officer of Ithmaar Bank

In this interview, Ahmed Abdul Rahim talks about Ithmaar Bank’s recent performance, the global Islamic banking industry and the increasing use of technology in banking. Ithmaar Bank is now entirely focused on retail banking and is considered one of the biggest Islamic retail banks in Bahrain. The waiting period at the branches has been reduced and the customer is provided various delivery channels for services like call center, Internet banking, EasyPay and mobile banking. EasyPay is the first-of-its-kind mobile-payment service in Bahrain. The service enables customers to shop simply by tapping their mobile phones at the checkout counters of participating merchants. As a pioneering Islamic retail bank, Ithmaar ensures that all its products and services are compliant with Islamic Sharia rules and that business is conducted accordingly.

Satyajit Das: Banking problems redux

There are over $3 trillion in stressed loan assets globally and the World Bank estimates that the current ratio of non-performing loans (NPLs) to total gross loans is around the 2009 levels of 4.2%. European banks have around euro 1.2 trillion of problem loans. Banking systems in many other advanced economies also face increasing risks. NPL problems are also apparent in India, China and Brazil. Solution of banking crises requires strong earnings, capital infusions, isolation of bad loans and industry reforms. But the ability of banks to earn their way out of the crisis to allow losses to be written off is limited. Banking problems represent a major source of continued economic instability. In modern economies, the financial system acts as a reservoir of bad debts, which can create financial crises. A new such episode may be beginning.

Dana debacle highlights need for unified Islamic finance regulator

A recent report from Standard & Poor’s said that Islamic financial assets had accelerated toward the end of 2016, but that such progress was unsustainable in the long term. The agency pointed out too that a lack of standardization was a barrier to creating a truly global industry based in the Middle East. The Islamic economy would continue to grow but at much lower rates than in the boom years from 2007 onward. It is against this background that recent events at Dana Gas should be seen. In 2013, the company issued sukuk totaling $700 million. Dana, which does a lot of its business in Egypt and Iraq, had problems getting paid in those countries. Earlier this month, Dana said it had received new legal advice which meant its sukuk were no longer to be considered Shariah-compliant. The Dana debacle confirms the belief that what is really needed is a much more standardized regulatory approach in the Islamic finance market.

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