Khaleej Times

Bank of Sharjah to manage, arrange Dh2B Sharjah government #sukuk

The Sharjah government has raised Dh2 billion through sukuk to support its economy, corporates, SMEs, individuals and banking sector during the coronavirus crisis. Bank of Sharjah was appointed as sole lead manager and arranger for the issuance. The certificates will pay a profit rate of 1.5 per cent and mature in May 2021. Sharjah also listed $200 million sukuk on Nasdaq Dubai in March 2020. S&P Global Ratings lowered Sharjah's outlook to negative last month and affirmed its long-term rating at BBB, the second-lowest investment grade.

UN chief calls for solidarity in Eid Al Fitr message

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for solidarity and unity in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic in his Eid message. He called for solidarity for a large-scale, coordinated and comprehensive health response, guided by the World Health Organization, with a focus on developing countries and vulnerable people. He called for solidarity in tackling the devastating socio-economic dimensions of the crisis - keeping households afloat and businesses solvent, and prioritising the most affected: women, older people, children, low-wage earners and other vulnerable groups.

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.

Covid-19: World faces 'biblical' famines from pandemic, warns UN food agency chief

The head of the UN food agency warned that besides the coronavirus pandemic the world is on the brink of a hunger pandemic that could lead to multiple famines of biblical proportions within a few months if immediate action isn't taken. World Food Program Executive Director David Beasley said that WFP is providing food to nearly 100 million people on any given day. According to WFP, the 10 countries with the worst food crises in 2019 were Yemen, Congo, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Syria, Sudan, Nigeria and Haiti. Beasley raised the prospect of a hunger pandemic because there is also a real danger that more people could potentially die from the economic impact of Covid-19 than from the virus itself. Lockdowns and economic recession are expected to lead to major income losses for the working poor.

NMC board, management should be held accountable: Al Ghurair

According to Abdulaziz Al Ghurair, chairman of the UAE Banks Federation, the board and management of NMC Healthcare should be held accountable for the financial irregularities. It is estimated that more than 80 local, regional and international banks have exposure to healthcare firm. The UAE banks last week announced nearly Dh10 billion exposure to NMC Healthcare. Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank has the highest exposure to NMC at Dh3 billion. Dubai Islamic Bank and its subsidiary Noor Bank announced Dh2 billion exposure while Emirates NBD and Emirates Islamic Bank disclosed Dh747.34 million exposure. NMC recently revised its debt position to $6.6 billion, well above earlier estimates. London's High Court last week placed hospital operator NMC Health into administration, on the application of Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank.

Philanthropists in UAE donate millions to fight Covid-19

As the UAE is stepping up its fight against the new coronavirus (Covid-19), the Emirati business community is showing its solidarity and support. Abdul Rahim Al Zarooni, chairman of Zarooni Group, has allocated Dh10 million to support medical and preventive supplies in Dubai. Khalaf Al Habtoor, CEO of Al Habtoor Group, has donated 50 state-of-the-art ambulance vehicles and a medically-equipped building to be used for quarantine purposes. Al Futtaim Group has set up a fund of Dh100 million for retailers at its malls in Dubai. The fund will cover up to three months' rent relief for 'eligible' tenants, who run the risk of being caught in business disruption and slowdown. Another Emirati family business group has donated ambulances and medical equipment worth Dh12 million.

Coronavirus in #UAE: Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group donates Dh13 million

Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group has announced donations worth Dh13 million aimed at supporting the healthcare sector and schools in Dubai to support the country amidst the global coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak. The Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group Charity Foundation announced a Dh3 million donation to support the UAE's distance learning initiative at public and non-profit schools in Dubai. The Group also donated Dh10 million to support the Dubai Health Authority's preventive measures against the novel coronavirus. Furthermore, Al Gurg Group has offered tenants of its residential buildings the option of postponing rent payment for three months.

Additional $3.27 billion needed to support polio eradication: Gates Foundation official

According to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, an additional $3.27 billion in support is needed to make polio eradication a reality. Jay Wenger, Director of the Polio Eradication Programme at the Gates Foundation, said that it is vital that the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, GPEI, receives renewed political and financial support. The biennial Reaching the Last Mile Forum convenes global health leaders to share insights on how to eradicate infectious diseases. Held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, this year's forum in Abu Dhabi is themed 'Accelerating the Pace' and hopes to ensure full financing to finish the job. Wenger said the Gates Foundation is proud to partner with the UAE across a number of initiatives to eliminate diseases.

How #cryptocurrency traders are wooing Islamic investors

The global surge of interest in cryptocurrencies extends into the Gulf and Southeast Asia, the main centres of Islamic finance. However, many Islamic scholars argue that cryptocurrencies are not religiously permissible, as they are products of financial engineering and objects of speculation. UAE-based OneGram is issuing a gold-backed cryptocurrency, which is certified as valid by Islamic advisors. Each OneGram cryptocurrency unit is backed by at least a gramme of physical gold stored in a vault. Tens of millions of dollars worth of the currency have been issued so far. About 60% of the planned number of coins remains to be sold. In Malaysia a similar initiative was launched in October. HelloGold launched an initial offer of its gold-backed cryptocurrency and received approval from Amanie Advisors. Among other experiments, UAE-based Halal Chain conducted an initial coin offer in December which is linked to data on Islamically-permissible goods.

Islamic #fintech adoption is set to increase

According to experts, the adoption of Islamic fintech will soon see a global increase as nations focus on financial inclusion across emerging economies. At the 11th edition of Innovation Arabia, Mohamed Roushdy, founder of Fintech Bazaar, revealed that traditional fintech has been existing for long as a service provider supporting financial services, but not customers. When it comes to fintech adoption today, adoption is highest in Asia in emerging economies. China leads the way with 69% adoption, followed by India at 52%. In terms of financial inclusion, Roushdy said the situation looks rather bleak across many Muslim nations. According to the Global Findex Database, 71% of Muslims have no bank account. Professor Nabil Baydoun, vice-chancellor at Mohammed Smart University (HBMSU), said the importance of the Islamic economy is seen as a vital resource and a contributing factor in the transition to the post-oil economy. The 11th edition of the event is being held under the patronage of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai.

DIB lists $1b #sukuk on Nasdaq Dubai

Dubai Islamic Bank (DIB) celebrates the listing of a $1 billion Sukuk on Nasdaq Dubai. The Sukuk is the first benchmark dollar-denominated Sukuk from a GCC issuer in 2018. It is DIB's sixth Sukuk on Nasdaq Dubai, making the bank the largest UAE debt issuer with a total of $5.25 billion. The latest Sukuk carries a profit rate of 3.625% with a five-year tenor. DIB's Group CEO Dr Adnan Chilwan said the master plan developed a decade ago has yielded solid results and the strong demand for the credit continues to grow across a diverse global investor base. He added that Nasdaq Dubai provided high visibility in the marketplace as well as close links to investors in the region and internationally.

#Debt can be a cause, a symptom of serious mental ill-health in #UAE

Nearly 5% of the UAE'S population is struggling with depression and it is expats that are hit the hardest. One of the most common side effects of stress incurred by debt was headaches. A study by The Priory Group found that young adults were suffering significantly from aches and pains caused by debt. The cost of buying or renting property, divorce, commuting and holiday costs, childcare, school fees and the rising cost of living generally can easily overwhelm, leaving people stressed out about money. According to psychologist Tanya Dharamshi, debt can arise from impulse control problems that can result in excessive behaviours, such as shopping, especially when it's online. Because there are creditors involved, money issues can exacerbate the symptoms of depression or anxiety. This may lead to alcohol or drug misuse and further abuse of the impulse control problem. Breaking that vicious circle is a major challenge in recovery.

New round of GCC bank #mergers in the offing

GCC's banking sector is expected to see a new round of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) in the wake of the latest such move initiated by Kuwait Finance House and Ahli United Bank of Bahrain. According to U Capital, at least five M&A deals are in various stages of discussion. The new round of M&A follows the merger between National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD) and First Gulf Bank (FGB) in the UAE, resulting in creation of the regions second biggest bank. Combined assets of four top conventional banks in the region stand at $621 billion whereas the assets of entire Islamic banks in GCC stand at $563 billion as of second quarter 2017. According to banking sources, Masraf Al Rayan, International Bank of Qatar and Barwa Bank are in the due diligence phase. The three-way merger is expected to create the largest Islamic bank in Qatar. Saudi British Bank and Alawwal Bank are also said to be discussing a potential merger that would create the third-largest bank in Saudi Arabia.

New Shariah #standards for Islamic financing, banking launched in Dubai

A set of new Shariah standards for Islamic banking and financing have been launched by the Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI). The launching ceremony was attended by Islamic finance scholars and specialists from across the region. The recently issued Shariah standards include No.(55) Competitions and Prizes Standard, No.(56) Liability of Investment Manager Standard, No.(57) Gold and its Trading Controls Standard and No.(58) Repurchase Standard. These standards are deemed important Shariah reference for the industry, including legislative bodies, regulatory authorities and financial institutions. They are also important to other professional entities such as law firms, accounting and consultancy firms, universities, academic institutions and research centres.

GLOBAL #INVESTING: Why investors should look at Makkah hotels

Land prices in Makkah are higher than in downtown Tokyo or Paris, this ensures that five-star luxury hotel supply growth is the norm. Makkah is also at a macro inflection point since 25,000 three-/four-star rooms were demolished or reclassified by the Saudi authorities. The Saudi government intends to triple Umrah visas to 15 million by 2020 as per the kingdom's Vision 2030 policy. Makkah hotel investing is also attractive because the Makkah's religious tourism market is dominated by tour operators who pre-book rooms en masse and place a premium on new hotels. Makkah is unquestionably the world's most resilient, low-risk, price/demand inelastic, supply constrained, foreign capital inaccessible, secular growth hotel market.

#Pakistan's National Savings Scheme may offer #Islamic #banking services

Pakistan's government-operated National Savings Scheme (NSS) is evaluating whether to offer Islamic banking services. This plan will help depositors put their cash into Islamic Shariah-compliant Ijara sukuk. As soon as that happens, millions of new accounts are expected to be opened, bringing a huge population of medium and small savers into the banking stream. Millions of others who are currently operating accounts in conventional banks may also be snatched away by the NSS. Investments in all types of the NSS go directly to the government of Pakistan, which uses this cash inflow to fill the budgetary gap and to fund its development projects. NSS deposits by people totalled Rs233 billion in 2015-16 and Rs337 billion in 2014-15. In the event of introduction of Ijara sukuk, some of these deposits are likely to be switched to this Islamic mode.

#Pakistani #girl #sold off to #pay #debts

The girl called Jeevti was just 14 when she taken from her family in the night to be married off to a man who says her family owed him $1,000. Her mother, Ameri Kashi Kohli, is sure that her daughter paid the price for a never-ending debt. Ameri says she and her husband borrowed roughly $500 when they first began to work on the land, but she throws up her hands and says the debt was repaid.
It's a familiar story here in southern Pakistan: Small loans balloon into impossible debts, bills multiply, payments are never deducted. In this world, women like Ameri and her young daughter are treated as property: taken as payment for a debt, to settle disputes, or as revenge if a landowner wants to punish his worker. Sometimes parents, burdened by an unforgiving debt, even offer their daughters as payment. The women are like trophies to the men. They choose the prettiest, the young and pliable. Sometimes they take them as second wives to look after their homes. Sometimes they use them as prostitutes to earn money. Sometimes they take them simply because they can.

DWE supports female leaders, strengthens role in corporate #governance

Dubai Women Establishment (DWE) in collaboration with the Institute for Corporate Governance recently held the second session of its training programme entitled "The Principles of Corporate Governance in Government Entities". The session targeted second and third level female leaders to promote the role of Emirati women and support their leadership. Shamsa Saleh, CEO of Dubai Women Establishment stressed the important role of the training in highlighting good corporate governance practices. The training session was attended by representatives of various sectors and featured presentations about a range of governance elements. The session supports the UAE Cabinet's decision to make the representation of women on boards of directors compulsory.

Charities must innovate for maximum social impact

The plenary session 'Philanthropy in the Muslim world: Harnessing the abundance of underutilised capital for social development' was held at the Global Islamic Economy Summit in Dubai. Tayeb Al Rais, secretary-general of the Awqaf and Minors Affairs Foundation, highlighted that Waqf was in decline and overlooked in modern Islamic societies. Clare Woodcraft, CEO of Emirates Foundation, said that foundations could benefit from narrowing their focus. Maysa Jalbout, CEO of the Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education, agreed that focus was key and added that charities and foundations need to be more innovative if they are to maximise impact. Woodcraft said that Western foundations have much to learn from Islamic finance with its focus on ethical investment.

Why #London remains a favourite destination for #GCC buyers

On a pure investment basis, London has a transparent property market. Property tenure is clear cut and underpinned by the legal system. There has long been a trend for overseas buyers to purchase homes or investment properties in central London. Over the past few years, Russian and Asian buyers have become more active, but the interest from the Middle East has never waned. While the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) Wealth Fund has been diversifying its portfolio away from Europe, it still has at least $7 billion directly invested in equities traded on the London Stock Exchange, in which it also holds a 10.3% stake.

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