Arabian Business

Shariah compliant finance is now nearly half of GCC banking market: Moody's

According to Moody’s, Islamic banking has grown in a decade from less than a third of the GCC banking market to account for 45% of the sector. Moody's senior analyst Nitish Bhojnagarwala said that growth in the Islamic finance sector would continue to outstrip that of conventional assets in coming years. In his view, growth will be supported by governments looking for diversification, as well as by continued demand for Islamic products from individuals. Another growth factor will be Islamic insurers' penetration into Southeast Asia and North Africa. Annual sukuk issuances have more than doubled to $100 billion from $42 billion from 2008 until September 2017. Moody's expects a similar level of activity in 2018.

Dubai launches #incubator to boost ethical Islamic start-up firms

Dubai Airport Freezone Authority (DAFZA) has announced the launch of Goodforce Labs, a startup incubator focused on supporting ethical startups in the fields of Islamic economy and Halal industries. Goodforce Labs will select a group of startups and small and medium enterprises and support them towards a $50 million in annual revenues and measurable social impact. Most Islamic economy startups face many problems and struggle to grow and survive. A number of startups have joined the incubator like Growmada, an e-platform for selling handicrafts from developing countries, Waqf 2.0, a cloud-based platform for managing Awqaf, Zileej, a company specializing in disciplined entertainment products and Rabia Z, which designs modest women’s clothing.

Opinion: Global #sukuk market unlikely to repeat 2017 performance

In 2017 the exceptional performance of sukuk was driven by good liquidity conditions, alongside certain countries’ desire to develop their Islamic finance industries. However, the outlook for sukuk in 2018 is more uncertain. According to Mohamed Damak, S&P Global Ratings’ Head of Islamic Finance, tighter global liquidity conditions, mounting geopolitical risks and slow progress on the standardisation of Islamic finance products will continue to hold the market back from its full potential. While sukuk issuance may decrease in 2018, there are a couple of interesting trends. These include the more stringent application of the profit-and-loss-sharing principle supported by several Sharia scholars. The sukuk investor base is broadening, but there is a lack of a specific regulatory framework to protect retail investors.
Dubai Islamic Bank (DIB) has successfully issued a $1bn sukuk with a five-year tenor. It is the first US dollar benchmark sukuk transaction from the GCC in 2018. The issuance emanates from DIB’s $5bn sukuk programme and carries a profit rate of 3.625%. The instrument will carry a dual listing on the Irish Stock Exchange and Nasdaq Dubai.

#Bahraini bank plans aggressive #expansion in #Pakistan

Bahrain-based Ithmaar Bank plans to add more than 100 branches in Pakistan this year through its subsidiary Faysal Bank. Ithmaar's deputy CEO Abdul Hakeem al-Mutawa says banking penetration is less than 20% in Pakistan, so there are good opportunities to grow. Ithmaar Bank's parent company, Ithmaar Holding, listed recently on the Dubai Financial Market. Al-Mutawa believes the company is well established now to approach the capital markets and the bank has no imminent plans to raise funds through a bond or loan. Ithmaar Holding is also exploring the sale of its 25.4% stake in Bahrain's BBK, which has operations in Bahrain, Kuwait, India and Dubai. Al-Mutawa declined to comment on the timeframe for the disposal of the BBK stake.

#UAE-based real estate investment trust completes $210m deals

UAE-based Residential REIT has completed new property transactions worth AED772 million ($210.1 million). The deals were closed with Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, Arcapita and an unnamed large Saudi institution. Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank has contributed 165 residential units located in three buildings in Marina Square on Al Reem Island in Abu Dhabi. Arcapita and the Saudi institution have contributed three buildings with a total of 285 residential units located in Saadiyat Beach Residences on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi. Following the new acquisitions, the Residential REIT's portfolio includes a total of 1,069 units across Abu Dhabi, Ras Al Khaimah and Dubai.

#Saudi Arabia asks banks for proposals to refinance $10bn loan, raise more debt

Saudi Arabia has asked banks for proposals to refinance its $10 billion international syndicated loan. The refinancing of the loan, which was raised in 2016, will include a repricing of the facility and the extension of its maturity to 2023 from 2021. An Islamic finance tranche using a murabaha structure will be added to the loan. Fahad al-Saif, president of the debt management office, said the plans were a step towards Saudi Arabia's ambition of establishing a prominent position in international debt markets as part of its economic reforms. The country's $10 billion syndicated loan in early 2016 was followed later that year by a $17.5 billion debut bond issue, the largest bond ever sold by an emerging market issuer.

#UAE Central Bank warns against #Bitcoin

The UAE Central Bank has warned against Bitcoin, terming it as unofficial and lacking sufficient supervision. According to Governor Mubarak Rashed Al Mansouri, it can be easily used in money laundering and in funding terror activities. Al Mansouri also said the central bank has completed the formation of a committee for developing Islamic Sharia-compliant products in order to support the Islamic finance sector. On the level of the UAE financial exposure to global capital markets, the governor said local markets have a slight exposure as the existing liquid assets now account for 17% of the banking sector's total assets. He added that UAE banks are robust enough to deal with risks as they have sufficient capital on account of the rising level of individual deposits.

#Saudi #insurers soar after decision to allow women to drive

Investors in Saudi Arabia are betting insurance stocks will be key beneficiaries from allowing women to drive. An index composed of 33 insurance stocks rose the most in three months. The Company for Cooperative Insurance, or Tawuniya, increased the most in seven months, other beneficiaries include Al Rajhi Takaful and Walla. The announcement to allow women to drive is one of the most dramatic moves in the government’s bid to open up society. Accroding to Jaap Meijer, head of research at Arqaam Capital, the number of cars in Saudi Arabia is likely to increase at least 20% in the next ten years as a result of the decision. He added that the increase is expected to be gradual. Net loss ratios on female drivers is likely to be lower than for men, as empirical evidence suggests that women are in fact safer drivers than men.

Why #green #Sukuk could be a key growth driver for Islamic finance

Islamic finance is exploring green bonds in order to develop Sharia-compliant financial products to invest in climate change solutions. Green Sukuk are Sharia-compliant investments in renewable energy and other environmental assets. Over $30bn worth of green bonds were issued in the second quarter of 2017. Issuance from emerging markets has jumped from $2.3bn to $9.2bn year-on-year versus 16% a year ago. Malaysia has the opportunity and ambition to be a leader in this space on the premise that Malaysia is already a leader in Islamic finance. Another active player on this front is the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which launched the Green Finance and Investment Support Scheme to promote green projects. Green Sukuk is a good model to finance sustainable infrastructure as well as help bridge the gap between conventional and Islamic finance. The most important challenge for Sukuk is gaining acceptance by international investors due to lack of standardisation and legal enforceability risk. Other challenges of green Sukuk include investor’s awareness, demand for energy supply, government support and demand for energy financing.

Dana Gas bid to void #debt stuns analysts who question motive

The gas producer's decision to declare its own Shariah-compliant bonds unlawful has baffled investors all over the world. Sharjah-based Dana Gas said it no longer considered its two Islamic bonds totalling $700 million issued four years ago as Shariah compliant under UAE law. The move comes after Dana Gas announced plans in May to restructure the debt. The company is owed about $1 billion from Egypt and the self-governed Kurdish region in northern Iraq. Dana Gas plans to replace the current sukuk with four-year bonds paying less than half of the current profit rates and without a conversion feature. The Sharjah Federal Court of First Instance has issued an injunction while it considers Dana Gas’s application. Dana Gas said it won’t pay its next two profit distributions on July 31 and Oct. 31, and that they will be accounted for as part of the new instrument.

#Bahrain’s sovereign wealth fund is back on track

Mahmood Hashim Al Kooheji, the head of Bahrain’s sovereign wealth fund, Mumtalakat, is intent on brokering safe, considered deals that yield long-term growth. The wealth fund is taking an increased interest in the comparatively stable sectors of healthcare, education and industry. As evidence of this strategy, Mumtalakat last year took an undisclosed equity stake in Italian healthcare firm KOS Group. In October 2015, Mumtalakat took a majority stake in UAE-based GEMS Education as part of an investment group that included US private equity firm Blackstone. Al Kooheji expects another deal to be reached next year to launch GEMS schools in Bahrain. He also points out that Mumtalakat announced six new deals in 2016, a significant number for a small fund. According to Al Kooheji, Mumtalakat is now truly diversifed in the GCC, US, UK and Europe and this will continue in the future.

No #mergers likely in #UAE’s Islamic banking industry, says Noor Bank CEO

Noor Bank CEO Hussain Al Qemzi has ruled out possibilities of any possible mergers in the UAE’s Islamic banks. The last merger is between First Gulf Bank and National Bank of Abu Dhabi, expected to complete by end of first quarter 2017. The merged entity is likely to create one of the largest banks in the Middle East and Africa, with assets of $175 billion (AED642bn). Al Qemzi said Islamic banks need innovation to integrate and position themselves to offer value and a better choice for Muslim and non-Muslim customers in order to grow. The CEO said a shortage of Sharia scholars was also impeding growth of the Islamic finance industry with many institutions in the country sharing advisors.

Dubai's Emirates Islamic Bank prices $250m #sukuk tap

Dubai-based Emirates Islamic Bank has priced a $250 million tap of an existing Islamic bond issued in May. The tap was priced at 170 basis points over midswaps, the order book was worth $706 million. The 'new' deal is a copy of an existing bond with the same terms and conditions. Emirates Islamic's tap came off a $750 million five-year sukuk issued on May 23. That deal was priced at 220 bps over midswaps and carried a coupon of 3.542 percent. Chief Executive Jamal bin Ghalaita said the cash would support the bank's long-term growth and development plans. The new offering was arranged by Bank ABC, Dubai Islamic Bank, EMCAP and Standard Chartered.

QNB hackers behind data breach at Sharjah bank

Hackers have leaked files online containing data on thousands of customers of Sharjah-based Investbank UAE. The files were stolen last December when an individual tried to blackmail the bank for $3 million. When the bank refused to pay, the hacker threatened to dump the stolen files online, yet they never appeared. Security expert Mohammad Amin Hasbini warned that the hackers are going to release data from a second attack. According to Softpedia, the hacker group is Bozkurtlar, the same group that claimed responsibility for the Qatar National Bank data breach two weeks ago.

Can Abu Dhabi's new financial free zone compete?

Abu Dhabi’s new financial centre has been running for six months but the corridors still feel quiet. Almost 200 people have been hired to work for Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) since its inception in 2013 but they are nowhere to be seen. Commentators have warned that ADGM’s established neighbour the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) could prevent it from flourishing, and argued it is unwise to locate two financial centres in such close proximity.

Creditor sale brings Dubai's Limitless to brink of debt plan deal

Dubai-based property developer Limitless is set to complete a drawn-out debt restructuring after the final dissenting creditor sold its share of the company's 4.45 billion dirhams ($1.2 billion) debt. New York-based Stonehill Capital Management sold its debt in the state-controlled company, worth around $15 million at face value, to Dubai Islamic Bank, an existing creditor and one of the members of the creditor committee. They declined to say at what price the debt was bought.

Bahrain's Arcapita acquires $100m logistics park in Dubai

Global investment management firm Arcapita has acquired a logistics park in Dubai for a total transaction value of approximately $100 million.The investment comprises nine freehold plots of land in the Al Quoz Industrial area covering an area of approximately 630,000 square feet, located next to Al Khail Road. The site will consist of 10 completed warehousing facilities that will be under a long term master lease with a UAE conglomerate. Martin Tan, Arcapita’s chief investment officer, expects Dubai’s logistics market to experience growth, driven by its geographical location and legislation.

Dubai Islamic Bank lists $500m sukuk on Nasdaq Dubai

Dubai Islamic Bank (DIB) has listed its latest sukuk worth $500 million on Nasdaq Dubai, bringing the bank’s total sukuk listings on the region’s international exchange to $3.25 billion. Following a total of seven sukuk listings this year by regional and international issuers, the total value of sukuk currently listed in Dubai has reached $42.61 billion, the largest amount of any listing centre in the world, underlining the rapid expansion of Dubai as a global capital of the Islamic Economy. Given the challenging market conditions, it was critical to have a strong credit come in and successfully close a deal, said Dr Adnan Chilwan, group CEO, DIB.

Bahrain's Nogaholding secures $570 million Islamic loan

Nogaholding, the holding company for oil and gas assets owned by the government of Bahrain, signed to obtain a five-year, $570 million murabaha financing facility. The Islamic funding will support investment in a number of large oil and gas projects in the kingdom, including the BAPCO Modernisation Programme, a liquefied natural gas import terminal, and the Bahrain Gas Plant Project. The facility is provided by 10 international, regional and local institutions: Arab Banking Corp, Ahli United Bank, Arab Petroleum Investments Corp, Gulf International Bank, National Bank of Bahrain, Qatar Islamic Bank, Kuwait Finance House, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, BNP Paribas and HSBC.

Chairman, board member said to leave Bahrain's First Energy Bank

The chairman of Bahrain-based First Energy Bank, Khadem al-Qubaisi, and board member Mohamed al-Husseiny have reportedly left the bank, with a new chairman to be appointed shortly, after approval by the central bank of Bahrain. Al Qubaisi was one of the most prominent executives in the United Arab Emirates until the UAE energy minister replaced him as managing director of state-owned International Petroleum Investment Co last April. Husseiny was replaced as chief executive of Aabar last year after holding that post since 2010. Unlisted First Energy Bank reported a net loss of $375.2 million for 2015.

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