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Bitcoin Mania versus Tulip Mania?

Dear Reader,

regular readers may remember my critic on bitcoin from an Islamic perspective missing intrinsic value. The former blog entry you find here: http://www.islamicfinance.de/?q=node/7840 - almost two years ago.

So far bitcoin just went up higher and higher, with wild fluctuations but nevertheless.

It reminds on how bubbles work, think about the tulip mania in 1637 a nice piece of economic history. A single tulip bulb was traded and bought on credit. Check the Wiki page on it:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tulip_mania

As bitcoin has even less value than a tulip except for payment purposes, it is the payment functionality, which can lead to destruction. What happens if a new alternative currency is becoming en vogue, which has a better usability and faster transaction time? In my view this is most likely trigger to burst the bubble.

FT Alphaville covers now the difficulties coming up with bitcoin's increasing transaction numbers causing inconvenience in using the digital currency:

https://ftalphaville.ft.com/2017/05/17/2188961/the-currency-of-the-futur...

#Oman tightens price on $2bn #sukuk amid rush of orders

Oman's $2bn sukuk sale lured orders for more than three times the issue size. The sultanate set final terms on its seven year sukuk at 235 basis points over the mid-swap rate, from initial guidance of about 270 basis points. Landesbank Berlin Investor Lutz Roehmeyer said there was a good demand and now a rush to get an allocation with accepting even less yield. Alizz islamic bank, Citigroup, Dubai Islamic Bank, Gulf International Bank, HSBC Holdings, JPMorgan Chase and Standard Chartered are managing the deal. The country's last foray into international debt markets was a $5bn three part offering of dollar bonds in March.

#Kuwait's Noor to Weigh Stake Sale of #Pakistan's Meezan Bank

#Kuwait’s Noor Financial Investment is considering the sale of its 49% stake in Pakistan’s largest Islamic lender Meezan Bank. The stake has a market value of about $396 million at the current market price, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Noor Financial hired advisers to assess opportunities, but it has not tasked the consultants with either increasing or decreasing its stake in Meezan Bank. Shares in Noor Financial gained 5.9% by 12:30 p.m. in Safat, Kuwait, the highest since April 16. Meezan advanced 3.6% in Karachi trading to a record high.

#Oman starts marketing seven-year US dollar #sukuk

The Sultanate of Oman has started marketing a seven-year US dollar benchmark-sized sukuk offering at 270bp area over mid-swaps. Books are open for pricing via Alizz Islamic Bank, Citigroup, Dubai Islamic Bank, Gulf International Bank, HSBC, JP Morgan and Standard Chartered. The sovereign had signalled the possibility of an additional 12-year sukuk in its mandate. Expected issue ratings are Baa1 by Moody's and BBB by Fitch.

BRIEF-Kuwait Finance House denies any decision to merge with Ahli United Bank

Kuwait Finance House denies any decision to merge with Ahli United Bank. Kuwait Finance House is currently studying many other strategic alternatives to enlarge its profitability and marketshare among local and regional banks.

#Oman To Sell $2 billion In Islamic #Bonds To Close Oil Crisis Budget Deficit

Low oil revenues are prompting the government of Oman to sell $2 billion in Islamic bonds to raise funds for the national budget. The hole in Oman’s national budget will measure 12% of gross domestic product (GDP) this year, though forecasts predict the shortfall will decrease in coming years. Oman is also considering forging public-private partnerships to balance the cost burdens of nationalized industries. The country announced earlier that it would sell stakes in state-owned oil and gas downstream companies, but no concrete action has been taken. S&P Global Ratings lowered the monarchy’s credit rating from BBB- to BB+. As a response, finance minister Darwish Al Balushi said that Oman was confident of its economy and the country's reserves were still in a comfortable position.

Dana Gas receives partial payment of $50m from #Egypt

Dana Gas has received an initial payment of $50 million (Dh184 million) from the Egyptian government as partial payment of its outstanding receivables. This payment represents 18% of Dana Gas Egypt’s total overdue receivables of $283 billion (Dh1.038 billion) as of the end of first quarter 2017. Dana Gas, which pumps most of its gas at fields in Egypt and Iraq, is seeking to recover payments from both countries for overdue bills. The company was owed $1 billion from Egypt and the self-governed Kurdish region in northern Iraq. CEO Patrick Allman-Ward had previously said that the company will not make any new investments in Egypt due to delay in receiving payments. In the first quarter 2017, Dana Gas reported gross revenues of $118 million and net profit of $11 million. Overall group production was 69,900 barrels of oil equivalent per day, 16% higher compared to first quarter of 2016.

ICD and KIMB signed a MoU to cooperate in Islamic #Microfinance

The Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD) and Al Kuraimi Islamic Microfinance Bank (KIMB) have entered into a Joint Strategic Collaboration to implement Islamic Microfinance Institutions. The memorandum was signed by the CEO of ICD, Mr Khaled Al Aboodi and the CEO of KIMB, Mr. Yousuf Al Kuraimi. The collaboration will focus on the implementation of Islamic Microfinance Institutions and Banks. KIMB will make equity investments conditioned upon ICD and its affiliates co-investing alongside. Special focus is on the provision of required technical and advisory services by ICD for the global expansion and diversification of KIMB’s current operations beyond Yemen.

ICD Signs MOU with the City Bank Limited to Strengthen Collaboration

The Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with City Bank Bangladesh in order to strengthen their collaboration. The signing ceremony was held at the 42nd Annual Meeting of the IDB Group in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The MOU was signed by the CEO of ICD, Mr Khaled Al Aboodi and Mr Sheikh Mohammed Maroof, Deputy Managing Director and Mr Mohammad Mahbubur Rahman, Chief Financial Officer of City Bank. The collaboration will encompass the areas of Term Finance, Public Private Partnership transactions, Lines of Finance and other areas. The signing ceremony was also attended by Mr Farid Masmoudi, Director of ICD, Mr Mahbub Jamil, Head of Structured Finance of City Bank and other high officials of both institutions.

Middle East WEF to focus on building jobs for young people

The World Economic Forum’s Middle East and North Africa meeting takes place this year at the Dead Sea in Jordan. The meeting’s formal programme has the theme: Enabling a Generational Transformation, and is based on three interrelated pillars: two long term and one urgent. The first long term pillar focuses on how to enable innovation and youth empowerment by using new technologies like bio-tech, nano-tech and artificial intelligence. These new technologies will continue to develop, so training people in these areas will be a long-term solution in creating new jobs for young people. The second pillar is about finding a framework for an inclusive economic transformation. The third and more urgent pillar is the search for how to best cope with the vast humanitarian crisis in the region. The common thread in all three strands is an optimism that anarchy and sectarian chaos can be defeated.

#Qatar Islamic Bank's dollar #sukuk books top $1 billion -lead

Order books for Qatar Islamic Bank's planned dollar five-year sukuk have topped $1 billion. The senior unsecured deal is part of a $3 billion sukuk programme. It will be of benchmark size, which conventionally means upwards of $500 million. Initial price guidance for the Islamic bond was 145-155 basis points over mid-swaps. Citi, Emirates NBD Capital, HSBC, Noor Bank, QInvest and Standard Chartered Bank have been appointed to lead the transaction.

ICD, stakeholders tackle opportunities, challenges

On the occasion of the Islamic Development Bank Group 42nd annual meeting, the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD) organized a side event entitled ICD Clients Day. During the event, ICD seized the opportunity to meet with potential clients and stakeholders from private sectors. In addition, ICD presented its achievements in 2016 and awarded its Best Clients for 2016, namely Coris Bank International, Vitamed Medical Diagnostic Center and Al-Qadi Specialty Hospital. ICD general manager Khaled Al-Aboodi opened the session welcoming all the participants. Later on, Thomson Reuters presented the last edition of the Islamic Finance Development report. The event was a chance to share knowledge, to assess new opportunities and to network with the decision-makers, industry leaders and experts.

Alizz islamic bank launches Tharwa Wealth Management

Alizz islamic bank recently celebrated the launch of the Tharwa Wealth Management Segment. Tharwa offers an array of financial services led by a team of seasoned relationship managers. Tharwa customers benefit from a selection of exclusive privileges including access to special discounts on travel, accommodation, restaurants, entertainment and various VIP services. Furthermore, Tharwa customers can enjoy the privacy of the Tharwa lounges in conducting their banking transactions, as well as the MasterCard World Credit Card. Tharwa customers also have the flexibility to manage their money through the Izdihar sweep savings account, which adheres to the Islamic principle of unrestricted Mudarabah.

Qatari investors focus on #US #property market

Qatari investors are increasingly looking for opportunites in the booming US propery market. Just Real Estate (JRE) has recently launched its new US portfolio, while QInvest announced its US mulitifamily residential-focused real estate fund Magnolia Real Estate Fund. The fund completed its first acquisition of an outstanding asset in Colorado, US. QInvest has been investing in Western Europe, UK and US for the past 5-6 years. JRE recently added two upscale addresses in Miami and New York City to its ever-growing portfolio of luxury developments in Qatar. Qatar, as a country, is becoming a big player in the New York City’s real estate market, with unconfirmed reports showing Qatar Investment Authority ranking the city's ninth-largest commercial property owner.

No big surge in bank #mergers expected in the #GCC

According to analysts, GCC’s banking sector is not expected to see a big surge in mergers and acquisitions. National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD) and First Gulf Bank (FGB) in the UAE recently merged to create the largest bank in the UAE. Masraf Al Rayan, International Bank of Qatar and Barwa Bank are in the due diligence phase of a planned three-way merger that would create the largest Islamic bank in Qatar. Saudi British Bank and Alawwal Bank are discussing a potential merger that would create the third-largest bank in Saudi Arabia. Despite market conditions and numerous rumours, a big surge in mergers is unlikely due to structural impediments. Some countries have only a small number of local banks, which limits competition. This means that profitability has remained solid despite the macroeconomic pressures. Thus, there is no compelling reason for a big number of regional banks to rush into merger deals.

Islamic Development Bank launches Innovation #Forum to empower youth

The week-long Innovation Forum hosted by the Islamic Development Bank brought together international experts as well as youth to discuss ways to foster an innovation culture. Experts agree that the major challenges of the IDB member countries include cultural barriers, lack of adequate investment in research and development and a low rate of graduates in scientific fields. Dr. Mimics Begivic, innovation specialist at the UNDP Regional Center for Europe and CIS, said that youth unemployment is a stubborn problem faced by countries that has both a direct and indirect cost on governments. Dr. Nabeel Koshak, president of Baha University, said that there remains a gap in funding to support SMEs in the Islamic world. In Saudi Arabia, the last five years have seen a boost in innovation. Dr. Koshak said the major obstacles for Saudi SMEs are the regulations, followed by competing and entering the market.

$100m fund launched in #Bahrain to help #SMEs growth

A $100 million fund has been launched in Bahrain to invest in the country's small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The initiative has been unveiled by the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD) in partnership with Ibdar Bank and Labour Fund Tamkeen. The Bahrain SME Fund is a Shariah compliant mezzanine private equity fund which will target SMEs with high growth potential in consumer, industrial, ICT, education and healthcare sectors. Khalid Al Aboudi, CEO of the ICD, said that SME support is at the centre of ICD’s strategy as they seek to facilitate further prosperity in Islamic countries. Ahmed Al-Rayes, CIO of Ibdar Bank, added that the creation of this fund is aligned with the Bank’s mission to support Bahrain’s economic diversification through private sector growth.

#UAE’s Dana Gas begins refinancing talks on $700 mln #sukuk

United Arab Emirates' energy producer Dana Gas has started refinancing discussions with the holders of its $700 million sukuk maturing in October 2017. The company has faced a cash shortage in the last period and is now planning to restructure its dollar sukuk which was issued in May 2013. Dana Gas CEO Patrick Allman-Ward refused to comment. The energy producer in April repaid an outstanding $60 million loan for its Zora gas field project in the UAE to avoid a breach on the facility. Dana is owed receivables of about $1 billion from Egypt and the Kurdistan Regional Government. Its cash balance as of the end of March was $298 million, slightly below $302 million as of the end of last year. To focus on cash preservation, the company reduced its operational and capital spending in the first quarter.

#Tax provisions related to Islamic finance transactions

The Central Bank of #Oman and the Capital Market Authority allow Islamic financial institutions to follow the standards issued by the Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI). AAIOFI’s financial accounting standards differ from International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). The differences between AAOIFI and IFRS standards have necessitated specific tax provisions for Islamic Finance Transactions (IFTs). To achieve this, a new chapter has been inserted in the income tax law of 2009. The chapter provides a framework to determine the tax liabilities of parties to an IFT. According to the new tax chapter, income includes any sum received in lieu of interest. The tax provisions also clarify that any partnerships designed solely to comply with Sharia will be disregarded. The latest tax law states that the financial statements can be prepared based on IFRS or any other similar standards approved by the Secretary General of Taxation (SGT). Institutions who have prepared their financial statements based on AAOIFI standards will have to reconcile their tax returns with the SGT.

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