Bahrain

'$5trln needed annually to achieve Sustainable Development Goals'

According to UN resident co-ordinator and UN Secretary General’s representative in Bahrain Amin El Sharkawi, the world needs financing of about $5 trillion each year to make the necessary progress towards achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Discussions are on to set up a Bahrain-UN trust fund where banks can contribute to projects that focus on education, health coverage, access to energy, social housing and environmental protection. Mr El Sharkawi was speaking on the sidelines of the first General Council for Islamic Banks and Financial Institutions (CIBAFI)-United Nations joint forum themed The Role of Islamic Finance in Achieving Sustainable Development Goals: Opportunities and Challenges. The first day of the forum was concluded with the third session titled Zakat and Waqf as Tools for Financial Inclusion and Shared Prosperity.

Al Salam Bank-Seychelles appoints Chairman

Al Salam Bank-Seychelles (ASBS) has announced the appointment of Alhur Mohammed Al Suwaidi as Chairman of the Board of Directors. Mr. Al Suwaidi currently serves as a member of the Board of Directors and brings over 15 years of experience in investment strategy to the role. Mr. Al Suwaidi also serves with the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, where he has held various positions since 2004. Mr. Al Suwaidi has also served on a number of advisory boards of General Partners. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Chapman University, California, USA.

#Bahrain's GFH Financial Group launches $200 million schools investment arm

GFH Financial Group, the Bahrain-based Islamic investment bank, plans to invest $200 million (Dh734m) in the privately-owned schools sector through its new investment platform, Britus Education. Developed and emerging markets have both seen a surge in private education during the last decade. Britus Education will invest in mid-market schools that can be improved through maximising student capacity, improving academic outcomes and optimising fee structures. According to a report published by Alpen Capital, the total number of students in GCC schools is set to grow at a compound annual rate of 2.3% per year to reach 14.5 million in 2022. Enrolment in private schools is expected to grow at a compound rate of 4.1% per year until 2022, much faster than the 1.3% growth anticipated for public schools.

#China-#Bahrain venture fund targets Middle East tech market

China’s MSA Capital and Al Salam Bank-Bahrain launched a $50 million venture capital fund to invest in sectors such as e-commerce and financial technology in the Middle East. The fund also plans to target big data, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and logistics and networking systems. The $50 million MEC Ventures was raised from seed money, Chinese entrepreneurs and institutional investors and family offices from Gulf Cooperation Council countries. MSA Capital has existing investments in Chinese entrepreneurs who have taken the Chinese model into the MENA region.

National Bank of #Bahrain offers to acquire Bahrain Islamic Bank

The National Bank of Bahrain, which owns a 29% stake in Bahrain Islamic Bank (BisB), has made an offer to acquire the entire Islamic lender. Lower oil prices over the past five years are forcing Gulf lenders to consolidate for scale and to better compete in a crowded market. Subdued credit growth, competition for deposits, higher cost of funds and deteriorating asset quality are driving consolidation in the regional banking sector. In the UAE, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank merged with Union National Bank and the combined entity acquired Al Hilal Bank, creating a banking group with AED 423 billion in assets in May 2019. Similarly, in Saudi Arabia, National Commercial Bank is in the process of merging with Riyad Bank to create the Gulf’s third-largest lender with $193 billion in assets.

Region’s P2P lending platform Beehive funds first SME in #Bahrain

Beehive, the region’s first regulated peer-to-peer lending platform has funded its first SME in Bahrain. The funding was granted to Bahrain-based Mira Packaging Factory, which manufactures disposable cups in addition to other food packaging solutions for the GCC, and the African F&B industry. Mira Packaging Factory has a large customer base in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the regional neighbouring countries. This includes international airlines, global HORECA brands and local coffee concepts. Beehive CEO Craig Moore confirmed Mira Packaging Factory's eligibility for peer-to-peer finance after Beehive’s thorough credit assessment, which determines the company’s ability to repay the loan and provide excellent returns to its global investors.

Boards of Kuwait Finance House and Ahli United Bank agree terms of possible #merger

The boards of Kuwait Finance House and Ahli United Bank agreed on a share swap ratio. AUB said its board approved a final exchange ratio between the two lenders of one KFH share for every 2.325581 AUB shares. A final decision on the deal is subject to approval from shareholders of both banks, central banks and other authorities in Kuwait and Bahrain. The approved ratio is the same as the one announced in January, when the lenders hired HSBC and Credit Suisse as advisers to carry out financial and legal due diligence of each other’s accounts. According to equity analysts Mohamad Al Hajj and Elena Sanchez-Cabezudo, this merger would increase KFH’s expected weight within MSCI Emerging Market Index by 8 basis points and increase expected flows in May 2020 by $370 million. KFH has tried to acquire AUB in the past, but talks stalled over a difference in valuation.

Kuwait Finance House launches open banking

Kuwait Finance House-Bahrain (KFH-Bahrain) has announced going live with advanced open banking infrastructure, which will allow it to partner with innovative fintech firms. The kingdom is one of the earliest global adopters of mandatory open banking, putting it at the vanguard of customer-driven change in financial services. KFH-Bahrain is one of the first banks to integrate a fintech through the launch of its KFH Jazeel banking platform in partnership with Tarabut Gateway, a subsidiary of Almoayed Technologies. According to KFH-Bahrain executive manager Mohammed Fahmi Hamad, open banking will allow bank account holders to consent to sharing details of their accounts and payments history to licensed third-party providers to make more aware financial decisions. In addition to that, customers will soon be able to link their accounts to independent licensed applications.

IIRA reaffirms credit ratings of Al Baraka Banking Grp, upgrades its Fiduciary Score to highest among Islamic financial institutions in region

Islamic International Rating Agency (IIRA) has reaffirmed the international scale credit ratings assigned to Al Baraka Banking Group (ABG) at BBB+ / A3 . IIRA also reaffirmed the national scale ratings of ABG at A+ (bh) / A2 (bh) with a Stable outlook. The Group’s fiduciary score has also been raised to the higher level of “81-85”, the highest among the Islamic Financial Institutions in the region. IIRA recognized the substantial contribution of the Group’s four key subsidiary banks based in Turkey, Jordan, Egypt and Algeria. Moreover, IIRA said that the Group benefits from a wide geographic diversification with most jurisdictions possessing a low economic correlation, thereby improving the overall risk metrics.

Bahrain Islamic Bank Swiftly Ready to Launch Open Banking Services

Bahrain Islamic Bank (BisB) announced the launch of open banking services starting from 1st of July 2019. This is the result of the Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB) and its directive to integrate all retail banks in the Kingdom with FinTech companies. The open banking services features two types of services. The Account Information Service grants customers access to their bank account data from different banks through a single unified platform. The second service entails transfers between different accounts through a single application. According to BisB CEO Hassan Jarrar, Open Banking is a game changer, offering new online payment channels without the need for credit cards or debit cards.

VCBank buys majority stake in Caribou and Fuddruckers

Bahrain's Venture Capital Bank (VCBank) announced its acquisition of a significant stake in the Caribou Coffee and Fuddruckers Restaurant franchises in Bahrain. From its first outlet in Bahrain in 2007, Caribou has grown its network to 22 stores, and is ranked among the top three international coffee shop chains operating in the kingdom.

AUB in push for #merger with KFH

Bahrain’s largest lender Ahli United Bank (AUB) has announced that two investment banks are evaluating a potential merger with Kuwait Finance House (KFH). HSBC and Credit Suisse are currently undertaking necessary valuations studies to assist AUB and to arrive at a fair share exchange ratio. If a merger proceeds, the total assets of the two banks would be $90.57 billion, making it the sixth largest bank in the Gulf. The major shareholders in the two lenders are Kuwait state-owned entities. The Public Institution for Social Security owns 18.59% of AUB, while KFH's largest shareholder is the Kuwaiti sovereign wealth fund, the Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA).

#Bahrain's GFH Financial Group pays off $200m #sukuk

GFH Financial Group has paid the entire amount of its $200 million sukuk, which was originally drawn in 2007. The facility has now been settled with a recent payment of an outstanding amount of $34 million. With this repayment, GFH said it frees up further assets pledged under the sukuk for potential disposal or exit. In 2008, GFH had financing liabilities in excess of $1 billion compared to $125 million today. According to Chairman Jassim Al Seddiqi, with its prudent approach to managing liabilities, strong cash generation and levels of liquidity, GFH continues to be better placed than ever to deliver value and further build its business lines.

Supporting Islamic #fintech’s growth

In this interview Ayman Sejiny, CEO of Ibdar Bank, talks about founding the Bahrain Fintech Bay. Bahrain Fintech Bay (BFB) is working to build a fintech ecosystem that will support industry growth and position Bahrain as a regional fintech hub. Sejiniy believes that the days of 'e-banking' are nearly over and the shift to mainstream digital finance is becoming a reality. Ibdar is an early adopter, transforming its organisation into a fully digitised Islamic Investment Firm for the Global Islamic Digital Economy (GIDE). Ibdar bank provides opportunities in aviation, real estate, Sukuk and investment funds. The bank is also expanding its services to include an array of Investment Advisory services.

#Bahrain's Bank Alkhair sells stake in Turkish investment firm

Bahrain’s Bank Alkhair has sold its majority stake in Turkish investment firm Alkhair Capital, as the lender exits some markets. Bank Alkhair entered the Turkish market a decade ago, acquiring an initial 75% stake in the investment firm. The bank has faced a challenging business environment over the past year and is currently streamlining its business lines. Additionally, the bank sold its stake in Pakistani lender Burj Bank and in 2017 the firm upgraded its business licence in the UAE and expanded its capital markets business in Saudi Arabia in a bid to focus on other markets. Now Bank Alkhair has received approval to transfer its 95.79% stake in Alkhair Capital to Ankara-based A1 Capital. The value of the transaction was not disclosed.

#Kuwait's KFH invites #Bahrain's AUB to begin due diligence

Kuwait Finance House (KFH) invited Bahrain's Ahli United Bank (AUB) to begin a due diligence process for a potential merger. KFH also asked AUB to sign a non-disclosure agreement. If the merger goes ahead, it would be the latest of several recent tie-ups to create bigger and stronger lenders in an over-banked region. If the merger proceeds, the total assets of the two banks would be $90.57 billion, making it the sixth largest bank in the Gulf. The agreement to begin due diligence demonstrates seriousness in the deal process and backing from the lenders' major shareholders. The major shareholders in the two lenders are Kuwait state-owned entities.

#Kuwait bank in #merger talks to create $92bn Islamic lender

Kuwait Finance House (KFH) is seeking to hold talks with Bahrain's Ahli United Bank (AUB) for a potential merger. This would create an Islamic lender with about $92 billion of assets, six months after negotiations broke down. KFH sent a letter inviting Ahli United to sign a memorandum of understanding and a non-disclosure agreement to start valuation studies. The deal may provide a boost to debt-laden Bahrain, as the country struggles to cope with lower oil prices. According to Joice Mathew, the head of equity research at United Securities, the integration of business could be challenging because of the geographical dispersion of their assets and combination of Islamic and conventional banking.

Algosaibi signs grant agreement with Ebdaa Bank

The Algosaibi Holding Group has signed a grant agreement with Ebdaa Bank. This grant of BD100,000 ($263,000) will enhance the bank’s financial solvency and increase its ability to expand borrowers list which currently includes more than 2,500 borrowers. The agreement was signed by Dr Khalid Al Ghazawi, CEO of Ebdaa Bank, and Fawaz Algosaibi, CEO of Algosaibi Holding. As a nonprofit social financing, Ebdaa Bank seeks to help low-income Bahraini make their way to business. Fawaz Algosaibi praised the efforts made by Ebdaa Bank to provide easy financing for low-incomers and for the prudent management practices implemented by the Bank. He expressed his full confidence in the ability of the bank to manage the amount of support and maximize the benefits.

Asset management industry ‘set for growth’

#Bahrain’s assets management industry is set to see continued strong growth in the next five years. Central Bank of Bahrain supervisor Abdulrahman Al Baker said this positive trend can be attributed to the rapid expansion and increasing sophistication of the GCC financial markets. Other factors include the enchanced regulation on asset management and capital markets, the growing wealth of high net worth individuals, as well as the steady economic growth in the region.

Al Salam Bank names group chief executive

Al Salam Bank-Bahrain (ASBB) has appointed Rafik Nayed as chief executive of the group following regulatory approvals. According to ASBB chairman Khaleefa Butti Al Muhairi, Rafik Nayed has a proven international track record in banking and finance as well as the necessary expertise needed for this position.

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