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Higher Shari’ah Authority at CBUAE hosts 2nd meeting of Centralised Shari’ah Authorities

The Higher Shari’ah Authority at the Central Bank of the UAE, CBUAE, has hosted the 2nd meeting of the Centralised Shari’ah Authorities to discuss the economic implications of the COVID-19 pandemic. The meeting was held via a video conference and was attended by more than 40 participants from the members. The meeting discussed the Shari’ah parameters set to strengthen the economic and financial support scheme adopted by the governments and regulatory authorities in their respective countries. The attendees also discussed several matters with regards to challenges and Shari’ah treatments.

Ziina launches #UAE's first social P2P payments solution

Ziina, the UAE's first licensed social peer-to-peer (P2P) payment application, has raised a pre-seed round of $850,000. The application will help the UAE bank account holders to use their smartphones to send and receive money as easily as sending a text message. Ziina is the latest addition to the Middle East's fintech ecosystem and is capitalising on the region's rapid adoption of fintech friendly regulation. Ziina's cofounders are Faisal Toukan, CEO, Sarah Toukan, Chief Product Officer, and Andrew Gold, VP Engineering. They are joined by a strong advisory board including serial entrepreneur Samih Toukan, and Emre Tok. The founding team recently launched the start-up's operations out of Dubai's In5 tech start-up incubator.

#Qatar Islamic Bank offers family shield ‘takaful’ policy

Qatar Islamic Bank (QIB) launched its family shield takaful policy, designed to provide nationals and residents financial security during unforeseen circumstances. The product is tailor-made to mitigate financial liabilities of the family of the insured, in case of unforeseen events like death or disability. For QR75 per month, customers can purchase a family shield term takaful plan through the QIB mobile app and get takaful coverage for QR250,000. QIB continues to make all financial products and services available digitally. It offers customers the possibility to perform all daily banking needs through its mobile app at any time, from anywhere, without the need to visit a branch.

The legacy of Saudi tycoon Saleh Kamel

Saudi billionaire Saleh Kamel died on Monday and has been buried in Makkah, but his legacy is sure to endure. Even at the age of 79, despite suffering from age-related health issues, Kamel remained active and busy. After graduating, he worked at the Saudi Ministry of Finance. After 10 years with the ministry, Kamel moved to the private sector. He founded his flagship Dallah Al-Baraka Holding Company in 1969 in Riyadh. He expanded the Group's acitivity to include financial and banking services, health care, manufacturing, real estate, tourism, trading and more. Dallah Al-Baraka Group also has the honor of being chosen to clean and sterilize the Two Holy Mosques. Kamel was also a well-known investor in the media and satellite television production. He established Arab Radio and Television and formed a partnership with the Arab MBC channel. Dubbed "the father of contemporary Islamic finance", he received Malaysia’s Royal Award for Islamic Finance in November 2010. The tycoon’s wealth was estimated to be about $2.3 billion. Kamel aspired to creating jobs. He believed that all people should have dignity and that all lives are precious and deserve to be honored.

Saudi Islamic banks’ financial metrics sound, says Fitch Ratings

According to Fitch Ratings, Saudi Islamic banks’ financial metrics deteriorated mildly in 2019 but remained sound. As for conventional banks, the rating agency noted that the impaired financing ratios continued to increase in 2019. Islamic banks have lower impaired financing ratios and financing impairment charges than conventional banks due to their lower proportion of corporate banking. Islamic banks’ profitability remained above conventional banks’ in 2019. Strong deposit growth at Islamic banks in 2019 allowed their financing/deposits ratio to drop below their conventional peers’. Saudi Islamic banks remain well capitalised, with an average Common Equity Tier 1 ratio of 17.8% at end-2019. According to Fitch, if the current economic disruption continues, weaker asset quality and profitability are likely to put pressure on capital.

Dubai Islamic Bank donates AED16 million to Zakat Fund projects

The Dubai Islamic Bank donated AED16 million to the Zakat Fund. Abdullah Aqeeda Al Muhairi, Secretary-General of the Zakat Fund, praised the bank for its donation as well as for its positive humanitarian and charitable role in improving the life of needy people. He also called on Islamic banks and institutions to follow the initiative of the Dubai Islamic Bank to provide zakat money to deserving groups and help the Zakat Fund achieve its goals.

Pandemic may force GCC banks to cut dividends, drive future M&A

Banks in the Arabian Gulf could be forced to scrap 2020 dividends as profits plunge in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The region's lenders are unlikely to require additional capital should loan defaults soar, despite facing headwinds related to the impact of COVID-19 and lower oil prices. According to S&P Global Ratings, the 23 banks in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have assets totaling $1.5 trillion at 2019-end and can absorb up to $36 billion in extra provisions before their capital bases start to erode. S&P sees that a significant deterioration in the finances of some banks could spur a second wave of consolidation among Gulf lenders. However, bank analysts are more skeptical, citing a lack of plausible potential takeover targets in Gulf countries except for the UAE, which is still overbanked.

#Saudi Arabia raises $1.53bln in local sukuk -statement

Saudi Arabia has raised 5.755 billion riyals ($1.53 billion) in sukuk. The first tranche of the sukuk issue is 3.8 billion riyals, and the total tranche size is 6.549 billion, maturing in 2025. The second tranche has a size of 1.95 billion riyals, and a total tranche size of 10.296 billion, maturing in 2030.

First sharia crypto exchange opens in #UAE

A new sharia-compliant crypto exchange has announced plans to launch in the UAE. Sustain Exchange hopes to offer sharia-complaint and ethical services to give Muslims a space in which to invest in the crypto market. An initial coin offering is planned for June and security tokens issued during the offering will serve as the key to accessing the exchange’s services. Sustain Exchange will introduce an independent sharia advisory to maintain compliance with sharia principles. To this end it has appointed an Islamic fintech scholar to its board, Mifti Faraz, director of Amanah Finance Consultancy.

Gulf banks could see second wave of mergers after pandemic dust settles

The impact of the novel coronavirus on the global economy is growing and continues to shock the markets. S&P Global Ratings acknowledges a high degree of uncertainty about the rate of spread and peak of the COVID-19 outbreak. It comes as no surprise that the pandemic will halt the growth of GCC Islamic and conventional banks this year as they focus on preserving asset quality rather than business expansion. The delay of Expo 2020 for Dubai and potential cancelation of the pilgrimage season for Saudi Arabia, may result in a stronger impact on the regional economies. When the dust settles and the full effect of current conditions on banks’ financials is visible, there could be a second wave of mergers and acquisitions in the region.

NMC CFO and family left UAE on Indian repatriation flight: reports

NMC Health is at the centre of a multi-billion dollar fraud investigation, but its chief financial officer (CFO) Suresh Krishnamoorthy has left the UAE and returned to India. Krishnamoorthy stepped down as CFO in 2017 when Prasanth Manghat took over as the NMC CEO, but was reinstated in February this year when the company's financial troubles came to light. Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB), which has $981 million worth of exposure in the healthcare provider, successfully applied to UK courts to have the company placed into administration and NMC has subsequently been removed from the London Stock Exchange.

Gulf bonds prove resilience amid virus-induced adversity

As investors dealt with volatility across most of its prized asset classes, Gulf bonds are emerging resilient after yet another crisis. The region’s debt markets did witness instances of sharp sell-off in the last few weeks, but analysts still see them ending the year strong. According to capital markets expert Anita Yadav, this year total new bond issuances will likely surpass the record $101 billion raised in 2019. So far this year, the GCC bond markets have stayed resilient, having in recent weeks only sold off 60% of emerging market debt and roughly 50% of high-yield debt. Net debt of sovereigns in the region still remains relatively low and credit ratings are relatively high compared with that of other emerging market countries.

GCC banks face 'earnings shock' from lower oil price, Covid-19

GCC banks will see significantly reduced revenue as they face an earnings shock from the oil price drop and Covid-19 pandemic. S&P Global Ratings credit analyst Mohamed Damak says the coronavirus will take a toll on important sectors such as real estate, hospitality, and consumer-related, but these will be relatively short lived and he forecasts a gradual recovery in nonoil activity from third-quarter 2020. In his view, if the recovery takes longer than expected, GCC banks could feel greater pressure. In March, S&P revised its outlooks of some UAE banks including First Abu Dhabi Bank, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, Mashreqbank, Sharjah Islamic Bank and National Bank of Fujairah to negative. Most central banks in the GCC have already come up with stimulus packages to help the banking system withstand the economic fallout. The Central Bank of the UAE on Sunday doubled the size of its stimulus package to Dh256 billion.

#Bahrain's Al Baraka Bank looks for acquisitions as coronavirus pandemic hits valuations

Bahrain's Al Baraka Banking Group plans to expand into India, China and Indonesia as the coronavirus pandemic pushes valuations down. The pandemic, which has tipped the global economy into a recession, slated to be the deepest since the Great Depression, has dented lending. Al Baraka Banking Group plans to setup a small commercial bank in China focusing on trade financing to capitalise on growing commercial ties. In Indonesia, the lender has already explored the possibility of taking a stake in Bank Muamalat three years ago and will continue to look for further opportunities. Al Baraka currently operates in Sudan, Turkey, South Africa, Algeria, Pakistan, Syria, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon.

Unified legislative framework for Islamic finance launched

Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum announced the launch of a new initiative to create a unified global legal and legislative framework for the Islamic finance sector. The framework is set to enable the Islamic economy to expand its reach and responds to calls for greater standardisation within the sector. A memorandum of understanding has already been signed between Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre (DIEDC) and the Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI). Furthermore, Norton Rose Fulbright has been recently appointed to provide legal advice in drafting the code for the global framework.

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.

#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.

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