Central Asia

#Iran’s debt market emerges as key to economic future

The rising issuance of sukuk and Treasury bills in the past three years in Iran is seen as evidence of the success and allure of the Iranian debt market. Perhaps the most important factor contributing to the sales of bonds has been the lack of funds to private contractors and creditors. The Iranian government's budget for the public sector is allowed to issue a significant amount of debt securities. Although this helps state-run organizations sponsor infrastructure projects, it might bring about risk of default for future governments. An analysis of budget figures shows that the government is always forced to settle the past matured securities with the issuance of new ones. Government commitments are accumulated and rolled over to later years. The administration is due to pay its outstanding debt obligations, totaling $7 billion and can issue about $10 billion worth of sukuk.

Interview: Bank Melli #Iran Upbeat on Int’l #Expansion

According to Mohammad Reza Hosseinzadeh, CEO of Bank Melli Iran (BMI), the European Union has made its decision to work with Iran. The banker noted that BMI has managed to establish correspondent banking relations with 135 banks of 30 countries, half of them European. What is more, Bank Melli and its branches in Hamburg and Paris have connected to TARGET 2, the Eurozone's real-time transfer system. In terms of expansion, Hosseinzadeh said negotiations are well underway with one of the biggest banks of the Persian Gulf state for BMI to establish a branch there, but refused to name the bank. BMI is also on course to open a branch in Pakistan, most likely during the next fiscal year, starting March 21, 2018.

Iranian Banks, #Fintechs Shine in #Iran Transaction #Exhibition

Banks, fintechs, financial solution vendors and startups were present in full force at the Third Iran Transaction Exhibition (ITE). The exhibition was inaugurated by Mohammad Morad Bayat, chief executive of FABA, a government-owned center for promotion of electronic banking. He said that 56 startup companies have taken part in this year’s event and that fintechs are not banks' enemies, as the future will be one of cooperation between the two. The Iranian Parliament also had a representative in the exhibition, who said the government has assigned a whole chapter specifically to electronic banking. Various payment systems, banking solutions, real-estate financial services and insurance facilitators were showcased at the exhibition.

TASIS appointed as Shariah Advisor for Tata Group Shariah Mutual #Funds

Taqwaa Advisory and Shariah Investment Solutions (TASIS) has been appointed as Shariah Advisor for Tata Group Shariah Mutual Funds. They include Tata Ethical Fund (TEF), which is a domestic fund and Tata Indian Shariah Equity Fund (TISEF), which is an offshore fund. TASIS claimed that TEF was the only Shariah compliant fund in which charitable trusts are allowed to invest without attracting tax. Under the current agreement, TASIS is supposed to ensure that the investment and operations of TEF and TISEF are Shariah compliant. In India there is low awareness about investment in securities. The availability of options such as TEF would help this section of the society to become part of the mainstream financial system and hence contribute to the goal of financial inclusion.

NAB to investigate #merger of KASB bank into BankIslami

#Pakistan's National Accountability Bureau (NAB) initiated an inquiry into the alleged misuse of authority by SBP officials at the amalgamation of KASB Bank into BankIslami. According to the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), a smear campaign was run in the media against them. SBP added that the onesided views presented in the media led to misjudgment about the authority of SBP as a guardian of the financial sector. All stakeholders of the defunct KASB Bank were well aware of the poor financial conditions of the bank. The State Bank gave ample time to the sponsors of KASB Bank to inject further capital into the bank. Besides capital shortfall, the bank and its sponsors engaged in fraudulent practices and were siphoning off more than Rs 3 billion from the bank. SBP stated that none of its officials misused authority nor were involved in any kind of corrupt practices.

An #Iranian Bank Has Invested over 26 million Dollars on #Startups

Iranian banks have decided to get more engaged with the country’s startup scene. According to Alireza Daliri, Deputy Director of Iran’s Vice-Presidency for Science and Technology, Bank Melli Iran has invested around over 26 million dollars in the country’s startup market. Daliri added that the Vice-Presidency had offered the banks to either establish their own accelerators or invest on large successful and on-going projects. Eventually, the banks decided to go with the latter. Daliri added that the Vice-Presidency has started negotiations with a number of Iranian banks such as Saderat, Sepah, Export Development Bank, Tourism Bank, Post Bank and Refah, but it is difficult to persuade them. Iran’s startup scene has witnessed exponential growth in the recent years. The number of knowledge-based firms in the country has increased from 52 in March 2014 to 2732 until October 2016, but lack of funding is still a major issue.

SECP introduces draft of Sharia Advisors #Regulations 2017

To enhance the credibility of Islamic financial services sector, the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) introduced a draft of Sharia Advisors Regulations 2017. The new regulations are expected to professionalise Shariah advisory services. Companies would only be able to engage the advisors who would be on the SECP’s panel of Shariah advisors. To join this panel, advisors need to meet proper criteria and abide by a code of conduct that emphasises independence and objectivity. The draft of Shariah Advisors Regulations 2017 is available on the SECP’s website and is now open to the public for consultation.

Silk Bank to grow in Islamic banking

#Pakistan's Silk Bank plans to expand its Islamic banking business amid growing demand for Shariah-compliant financial products in the country. The State Bank of Pakistan has given approval to the bank for opening of 20 Islamic and 15 conventional branches this year. Silk Bank CEO Shaukat Tarin said the bank was going to reduce the size of corporate banking, but increase consumer and SME segments. The bank’s consumer banking portfolio continued to grow, while its non-performing loans fell by Rs10 billion in January-June 2017. The bank also made its commitment to revive the mortgage business in the current low interest rate environment. Shuja Alvi, head of investment at Silk Bank, said the bank continued to make heavy investments. Since acquisition, the sponsors have invested Rs430 billion in the bank through multiple funding.

Deposits of Islamic banks grow 10pc

The State Bank of #Pakistan (SBP) issued the Islamic Banking Bulletin for April-June. It reveals that deposits of the Islamic banking industry increased by Rs156 billion or 10% quarter-on-quarter to Rs1,720bn. Deposits of the overall banking industry grew 6.5% over the same period. The share of Islamic banks’ deposits in overall banking industry’s deposits increased to 13.7% at the end of June from 13.2% a quarter ago. This growth helped Islamic banks improve their asset base. The share of Islamic banks’ assets in overall banking assets was 11.6pc at the end of June. Investments also improved thanks to sukuk worth Rs71bn that the government issued in June. Net investments of the Islamic banking industry increased Rs48bn or 9.9% in April-June to Rs537bn. SME financing increased to 3.2% and the share of agricultural financing stood at 0.4% at the end of June.

Rise of #Islamic #finance meets #human #capital #gap

The strongly growing popularity of Islamic banking and Islamic finance and its increasing global spread has led to a considerable undersupply of talent in this sector. Both the Middle East and Southeast Asia, but also new regions currently adapting to the alternative finance system such as in Africa and Central Asia are effected.

Estimations are that there is a shortfall of between 8,000 and 10,000 in main Islamic finance fields in Gulf Cooperation Council countries alone, plus more in peripheral sectors such as law and regulatory affairs, financial technology, insurance and others. Altogether, as the industry continues to grow, at least 56,000 people will be needed to serve the Islamic financial sector in the coming years, according to the Finance Accreditation Agency of Malaysia.
“Islamic banking assets in six core markets – Qatar, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, the UAE and Turkey – are estimated to reach a combined asset volume of $1.8tn by 2019,” says Dr. Amat Taap Manshor, the FAA’s CEO. “But the human capital meant to support the industry is still in its infancy, and shortages will be felt most acutely in the capital market sector,” he added.

Al Baraka Bank issues Rs1,500m tier-II #Sukuk

Al Baraka Bank Pakistan Limited (ABPL) has announced the successful issuance of its A rated privately placed tier-II Modaraba Sukuk. The Rs 1,500 million Sukuk issue was subscribed by a diversified investor base, in total, a number of 12 institutional investors participated in the issue. The Sukuk has a 7 years tenor, is redeemable at maturity and has a Call Option which is exercisable after 5 years with SBP’s consent. ABPL’s first tier II Sukuk issue of Rs 2,000 million was launched in 2014, as the first of its kind transaction in Pakistan. Speaking on the occasion, Shafqaat Ahmed, CEO of Al Baraka Bank Pakistan, expressed his thanks to all the investors for showing their continued confidence in the bank. He also appreciated the support and guidance extended by the State Bank of Pakistan.

Central Bank of #Iran Assigns #Sukuk Trading to Capital Market

The Central Bank of Iran has stepped in and put a stop to the trading of the so-called Sakhab bonds. Sakhab is one of the many types of debt securities issued by the Irani government meant to clear its debts to contractors. It matures in a year and is priced at 1 million rials ($26.1) per bond. It could only be traded in certain branches of Bank Melli Iran. The new Minister of Economic Affairs and Finance, Masoud Karbasian, vowed to stand against the issuance of any bond issued by the government outside the capital market. The government issued 120 trillion rials ($3.13 billion) of Sakhab bonds late March and handed over the secondary trading to the banks. The opaque condition of secondary trading prompted the growth of a black market. Market experts have long raised concerns about a deepening gap between the equity and debt markets and further channeling capital toward low-risk, high-return bonds.

Zaman-Bank becomes #Kazakhstan’s second Islamic Bank

Kazakhstan’s previously commercial Zaman-Bank became an official Islamic bank on Aug. 17. The license from the National Bank of Kazakhstan allows the bank to tap into the Islamic banking sector and makes Zaman-Bank the second Islamic bank in the country. Al Hilal Bank, operating since 2010, had been the country’s only Islamic bank so far. Zaman-Bank is planning to focus on retail banking and small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The bank already offers a range of deposit options, including wakala and mudaraba. Head of the Islamic Finance Development Unit, Timur Rustemov, said the bank converted to an Islamic bank, because this sector is still open in Kazakhstan, especially consumer banking. He added that the bank plans to offer Islamic auto finance, Islamic mortgage and a range of products and services for SMEs.

How can Islamic finance benefit #Azerbaijan?

Islamic finance is still a nascent industry in Azerbaijan, even though the country’s large Muslim population indicates great potential demand for its services. The key hurdle that limits any meaningful expansion of Islamic finance in the country is the absence of a comprehensive regulatory framework. It is therefore important to develop a full-fledged legal framework that is specifically tailored for monitoring, guiding, and supervising the Islamic banking system. Islamic finance, as an ethical form of finance, can do an enormous amount of good. Islamic finance forges a closer link between real economic activity that creates value and financial activity that facilitates it. Islamic finance can attract investors from GCC and Asia to Azerbaijan. However, the country continues to face multiple challenges, such as a lack of public awareness and a talent shortage in Islamic finance. Still, favorable regulation remains the key to Islamic finance growth in Azerbaijan.

Islamic Development Bank pledges continuous support to Polio Programme

Pakistan's Polio Eradication Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq said the country was highly indebted to the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) for its support and acknowledges the critical support of the bank for Polio eradication. The senator was talking to an IDB delegation visiting the National Emergency Operation Centre (NEOC). The IDB delegation was led by Dr Sadik Mohammad Teyeb, senior health specialist of the bank from Jeddah and Inamullah Khan, Country Representative of the Bank in Pakistan. The current epidemiology in the country is quite promising with only 3 Polio cases reported in 2017 compared to 14 reported by 7th August in 2016. The most significant progress has been made in the core reservoirs of Karachi and Khyber-Peshawar which have not reported any Polio case since January and February 2016.

#Investors #prefer #Shariah-compliant pension #products

The private pension fund industry grew by over 32% during 2016-2017, and the total assets of the industry crossed Rs25 billion. This growth of the industry has primarily resulted from an increase in participation by general investors and better performance of the stock market.
Thereby investors preferred Shariah-compliant pension products over conventional products. Out of Rs25 billion assets of pension funds, over Rs16 rupees comprise of Shariah-compliant securities.
In 2007 private pension funds were introduced. Currently there are 19 pension funds operating in the market, out of which 10 are Shariah compliant and 9 are conventional. These funds are managed by 10 fund managers. The pension funds provide participants investment options in terms of securities and commodities.
Participants can choose retirement age between 60 to 70 years. On retirement, they can withdraw up to 50% of the accumulated balance in lump sum and the remaining 50% in installments, as pension.

Without reforms, #Iranian banking crisis looms

In Iran, concerns are growing that banks may be facing the fate of credit and financial institutions (CFIs) that are on the verge of collapse. The Central Bank of Iran (CBI) is under rising pressure from the parliament to immediately regulate these nonbank credit institutions, as an increasing number of depositors protest delays. Now, there are fears that banks could be next. To avoid this scenario, pundits are suggesting that the CBI be granted more autonomy by the parliament so that it will take more serious disciplinary measures. The administration of President Hassan Rouhani has been trying to pass the bill in the parliament, but certain influential bodies have blocked the legislation. The huge government debt is putting excessive pressure on the banking system, but the Iranian public still trusts banks, even as many CFIs have collapsed.

#Kazakhstan, #Malaysia plant seeds for green Islamic finance

Astana International Financial Center (AIFC) has gained the support of technology financier Malaysia Debt Ventures (MDV) to develop both green and Islamic finance in Kazakhstan. Under a newly agreed MoU, AIFC and MDV will work closely with each other to share best practices, expertise and knowledge in these two areas. Apart from sharing knowledge, both parties will also explore financing green projects using Islamic financing tools. While not fully operational yet, AIFC is keeping busy by setting the groundwork. Green finance received a huge boost earlier in January when the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development agreed to launch the Green Financial System for Kazakhstan project, financed by Finland. With eyes on a comprehensive green financial system, engaging MDV could culminate in a variety of Islamic financial products for sustainable eco-friendly projects including green Sukuk.

#Pakistan sets rules for banks wanting to be fully sharia compliant

Pakistan's central bank has issued guidelines for banks that want to be fully-fledged sharia compliant, setting a three-year time frame for applicants to complete the process. The rules aim to accelerate the growth of Islamic banking in the country. Eligible applicants must have existing Islamic finance operations and the conversion process must start within six months of approval. After the conversion of conventional branches, the applicant can then apply for a fully-fledged Islamic banking license. Such conversions are rare in Islamic finance but are seen as a way to increase the scale of the bank and widen its reach into under-served rural areas. Islamic banking in Pakistan currently includes five fully-fledged Islamic banks and 16 conventional banks offering Islamic financial products. As of March, they held assets worth 1.9 trillion rupees ($17.9 billion), a 16% increase from a year earlier and 11.7% of total banking assets. However, their capitalization and profitability ratios remain below the industry average.

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