Bahrain

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.

As #Sukuk Disputes Simmer, Islamic Scholars Ponder Legal Risks

Senior scholars in Islamic finance are exploring ways to prevent legal disputes with new rules aiming to clarify responsibilities. The discussions are part of the annual sharia conference of the Bahrain-based Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI). AAOIFI has developed a comprehensive sharia standard for sukuk that is being finalised, with work underway on three accounting standards and a governance standard. According to Said Bouheraoua, director of the Malaysia-based International Sharia Research Academy for Islamic finance, Dana Gas and other cases highlight the potential need to legislate work of scholars and penalties for breaches. At present, only the central bank of Malaysia has stipulated such fines, although this requires proving breaches occurred in 'bad faith' making penalties difficult to apply.

Ebdaa Bank backs #microfinance proposal for GCC charity projects

Ebdaa Bank has agreed to a proposal to microfinance charity projects to achieve their objectives to support low-income families. Ebdaa Bank CEO Dr Waleed Al Ghazawi welcomed officials from Almajdouie Group and stressed the need for the GCC to adopt microfinance due to its benefit for charity donations. The Almajdouie Group is visiting Bahrain to share ideas about their sustainable charity projects. The group’s new project is called "Basta", which has already launched six booths in Saudi Arabia, distributed in Dammam and Al Khobar. The project aims to support kiosks to develop their projects.

Islamic Scholars Debate Validity of #Cryptocurrencies

The world's top Islamic finance scholars are scrutinizing the validity of cryptocurrencies. The discussions are part of the annual sharia conference of the Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI) being held in Bahrain this week. The key question for scholars is whether cryptocurrencies fall under the so-called "ribawi" category, which includes commodities like gold and silver. AAOIFI primarily issues accounting and sharia standards for Islamic finance institutions, but there is no current indication on cryptocurrencies. Scholar deliberations, however, could clarify what types of cryptocurrencies are religiously acceptable and influence future product development.

Coincidental documents reveal Iranian Guard smuggled billions via Bahraini bank

Iranian owners of a Bahraini bank complained about Bahrain to an international arbitration court in the Netherlands. Bahrain responded with documents proving that $7 billion was smuggled through suspicious accounts with the consent and knowledge of the bank’s management. Future Bank was closed in 2015, but documents prove Iran’s secret assistance in evading international sanctions and smuggling billions of dollars over more than a decade. Bahraini officials criticized Future Bank for allowing the cleric Isa Qassim to make cash deposits totaling millions of dollars over several years, and directing some of the money to a charity linked to terrorism. Audits revealed then that in hundreds of cases, bank transfers were accompanied by specific instructions to avoid references to Iran or Iranian banking codes.

#Bahrain Counts on #Fintech, #Saudi Ties to Revive Indebted Economy

Bahrain FinTech Bay is part of the kingdom's drive to revive its reputation as the Middle East's top banking and business center. After the plunge of oil prices in 2014, state revenues fell, credit ratings fell and debt soared. Large debts still pose a risk as interest rates rise, but Bahrain is starting to see initial signs of recovery. PayTabs, a Saudi company specializing in online payment solutions, will set up a base in Bahrain FinTech Bay in May. Tap Payments, a mobile payment company founded in Kuwait, moved to Fintech Bay last month. CEO Ali Abulhasan said Bahrain had regulatory advantages when compared to other Gulf Cooperation Countries. Foreign investment from 71 companies was $733 million last year, up from $281 million and 40 companies in 2016. This contributed to an average annual GDP growth of more than 3.5%. Central bank governor Rasheed Mohammed al-Maraj said that growth could accelerate further, as strong oil prices have bounced to around $65 a barrel from below $50 in mid-2017.

GFH joins as a founding partner in #Bahrain’s #fintech hub

GFH Financial Group said its recent partnership with Bahrain Fintech Bay (BFB) as a founding partner will drive innovation and create opportunities for growth. The partnership reflects GFH’s strategy to strengthen the integration of Fintech in the region. According to GFH Financial Group's CEO Hisham Alrayes, GFH provides new entrants access to a sophisticated network and gives advice on how to reach regional and international capital and markets.

#Bahrain Islamic Bank partners up with the largest dedicated #FinTech hub in the MENA region

Bahrain Islamic Bank (BISB) has announced its partnership with the Bahrain FinTech Bay (BFB). As the first dedicated FinTech hub and corporate incubator in the Middle East and Africa region, it will be located in the Arcapita building overlooking Bahrain Bay. The venue comprises state-of-the-art facilities, co-working spaces and a variety of other shared infrastructure. BISB CEO Hassan Amin Jarrar said that with the strong support provided by the Government and the Central Bank of Bahrain Bahrain FinTech Bay would further strengthen the Kingdom’s financial position. Bahrain FinTech Bay aims to develop and accelerate financial technology in the region by creating a platform to fuel the growth of the industry.

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