Central Asia

UK seeking renewed ban on Iran’s Bank Mellat

The British government is seeking to renew sanctions against Iran's Bank Mellat regardless of a court ruling branding the ban as unlawful. Britain's Treasury is now attempting to intervene in the European Union Council's appeal against a decision by the EU General Court in January to quash sanctions imposed against the Iranian bank. This comes after reports that Bank Mellat intends to make a legal claim of 500 million pounds against the UK government for loss of business caused by US-engineered illegal sanctions on Tehran between 2009 and 2013. Earlier on June, Britain’s Supreme Court also overturned a ruling against Bank Mellat over its alleged links to Tehran's nuclear energy program, saying the British government was wrong to have imposed sanctions on the bank.

Islamic Development Bank disburses $32.6 million to eradicate polio

The Islamic Development Bank recently allocated $32.6 million to stop children in Pakistan from suffering paralysis or death at the heads of polio. The disbursement was the first of the $227 million the IDB approved for polio eradication efforts in Pakistan. The disbursement was made through the WHO on August 3. The contribution will be used to help train and support more than 200,000 health workers and volunteers to immunize 33 million children in Pakistan with the oral polio vaccine. The money will also be used to improve immunization services for other vaccine-preventable diseases and to strengthen disease surveillance throughout Pakistan.The WHO expressed its appreciation to the IDB and the OIC as important partners in the growing global effort to eradicate polio.

Iranian Bank Seeks U.K. Damages After Ruling

Iran's Bank Mellat is claiming GBP500 million ($782 million) from the U.K. Treasury after a London court ruled against a British decision to sanction the bank. In June, the U.K.'s highest court ruled against sanctions that had been imposed on Bank Mellat as a result of its alleged links to Tehran's nuclear program. The London ruling follows a similar decision in favor of Bank Mellat at a European Union court. But it won't lead to an end to restrictions against the bank for now because EU sanctions remain in place on Mellat. The U.K. sanctioned Mellat in 2009, banning its operations in the country and freezing its assets after it was accused of facilitating Iran's nuclear program. The measure was expanded to the rest of the European Union the following year.

Almaty to be center of Islamic finance by 2015

According to Mr. Darkhan Nurpeissov, Vice Chairman of the Agency regulating the Regional Financial Center of Almaty (RFCA), Almaty is to be transformed into a global center of Islamic finance by 2015-2020. By 2012-2015 it is planned to put in place infrastructure for the Islamic financial industry to turn Almaty into a full-fledged center of Islamic finance. Legal foundation has already been laid. Almaty is home to the first Islamic bank in Kazakhstan. A second Islamic bank is to enter the market shortly. Besides, an Islamic insurance company and a brokerage, a handful of consultancies and funds have been launched. However, according to Mr. Nurpeissov, the population is not fully aware of Islamic finance. Kazakhstan is going to take over the chairmanship of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in June.

IDB gives Pakistan 250m euro

Pakistan will reportedly receive 250 million Euros from the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) in the ongoing month of August, which is part of 750 million Euros loan. Similarly, the country will also avail the trade facility of $150 million for import of fertilizer and Petroleum products this month. The Islamic Development Bank had agreed to the loan and the trade facility in a meeting between the President of the Islamic Development Bank, Dr. Ahmed Muhammad Ali, and Pakistan’s Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar in Jeddah last week. Pakistan will also receive $500 million from Asian Development Bank and $500 million from World Bank in the second half (January-June) of the ongoing financial year 2013-14. Moreover, Pakistan is expecting to receive $3.4 billion from IMF during the current financial year. The loans will help building the foreign exchange reserves, which are currently around $10.25 billion.

1st cooperative insurance firm launched

Cooperative Insurance Company is the first firm established in the form of a public joint stock cooperative in line with the general policies of Article 44 of Iran's Constitution, which seeks large-scale privatization, and promotion of cooperative sector. A majority of the shares of Cooperative Insurance Company belong to companies and associations affiliated to the cooperatives sector. Cooperative Insurance Company is to conduct insurance activities in the fields of life insurance and other types of insurance services under the supervision of the Central Insurance of Iran. The managing director of the company, Akbar Najafi, explained that the major goal of Cooperative Insurance Company is to address insurance needs and render services in the cooperatives sector. Since the cooperatives have been established with public assets, they need more financial and legal support compared to other sectors in order to materialize their goals.

IDB agrees to provide 750m euros loan

The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) has agreed to extend a loan facility of 750 million euros to Pakistan. The first tranche of the loan will be released before mid of the current month. The IDB will also provide a trade facility of $150 million for import of fertiliser and petroleum products. Besides, the IDB president informed the finance minister that Islamic Development Bank was keen to work with Pakistan for the eradication of polio in the country. The President of Islamic Development Bank, Dr Ahmed Mohammad Ali, assured the finance minster Mohammad Ishaq Dar, of the full cooperation and support of IDB for Pakistan.

Burj Bank Limited

Burj Bank Limited was formerly known as Dawood Islamic Bank Limited (DIBL). The bank officially commenced operations in April 2007 and was renamed Burj Bank Ltd. in July 2011. Burj Bank has a diversified range of Shariah compliant funded and non-funded products and services aimed at facilitating both individual and corporate customers. Besides, the bank also offers investment and corporate advisory services. Burj Bank was quoted the best Islamic bank by world financial magazine in 2013. After incurring losses for three consecutive years since CY09, CY12 was the year when the bank made an after tax profit of Rs 84.6 million. In 2012, Burj Bank become a dominant player in fleet financing business and is regarded as a top player in this segment. Industry insiders strongly urge the development of an active Islamic money market via short-term sovereign instruments and secondary market via Islamic repo agreements.

United Kingdom: Measures Restricting The Access Of An Iranian Bank To The UK Financial Market Found To Be Disproportionate And Unlawful

Iranian Bank Mellat appealed against a decision upholding measures taken by the Treasury to restrict its access to the UK financial market. The Treasury had directed that all persons operating in the UK financial sector were prohibited from having any commercial dealings with the Appellant or its UK subsidiaries. The Appellant argued the Treasury had failed to give adequate reasons for its decision. The High Court and Court of Appeal both dismissed the appeal, however the Supreme Court allowed it. One of the central issues raised was that the lower courts found that the justification for the order was not a problem specific to the Appellant, but a problem with Iranian banks in general. However, the order made no attempt to impose restrictions on other Iranian banks. In that regard, the measure was arbitrary, irrational and disproportionate. The order was also found to be invalid on various procedural grounds.

Pakistan launches media campaign to boost Islamic finance

Pakistan's central bank has launched a mass media campaign to raise awareness and acceptance of Islamic finance among consumers in the country. It was developed alongside local Islamic banks, and is expected help the industry reach ambitious targets including a doubling of its branch network in five years and a 15 per cent share of the banking system. The campaign is part of an overhaul of Islamic finance activities in Pakistan, which also includes the establishment of a country-level Sharia board and new rules for Sharia-compliant financial products within the central bank's five-year plan for Pakistan's Islamic banking sector. The country's Islamic banking industry includes five fully-fledged Islamic banks and five takaful (Islamic insurance) firms, with an additional 12 conventional banks offering services through Islamic windows.

Islamic Finance Industry Development Challenge

The shift in global banking is not a trend, and the challenge for all of us is to bridge the gap in financial practice and seize the opportunities that lie ahead, bringing ethics back into finance.

Thomson Reuters and Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (ADIB) are partnering to launch the world’s first Ethical Finance Innovation Challenge and Awards (EFICA). In the dawn of a new economic world, these awards are designed to inspire and recognise a fresh way of thinking by promoting some of the most dynamic, innovative ideas and solutions around integrity and growth.

Pushing for social investment in the Palestinian Territories

In May, John Kerry, the US secretary of state, announced a US$4 billion plan to kick-start Israel-Palestinian Territories peace talks. Sir Ronald Cohen has been arguing exactly that since 2003. He has direct experience of the suffering and dislocation conflict can cause in the Middle East because he and his family became penniless refugees from their home in Cairo after the Suez conflict. In Jordan, apart from Mr Kerry's initiative, there was another example of a strategy towards peace in a business framework with the "breaking the impasse" plan, aimed at getting Israeli and Arab business leaders in the region working together. Sir Ronald was involved in that from its inception. His plans have had significant beneficial outcomes in local projects to reduce prisoner recidivism, tackle homelessness and illiteracy. Most recently he was the chairman of Big Society Capital, the United Kingdom's first social investment bank.

Pakistan adopts AAOIFI standards for investment sukuk

Pakistan's central bank has adopted the "investment sukuk" guidelines of the Bahrain-based Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI). Issuers will have to comply with this global standard for sukuk, or face penalties. The action could help Pakistani issues attract investment by foreign institutions from the Gulf and elsewhere. Around the world, the industry commonly refers to AAOIFI standards but they are mostly used as guidelines rather than manadatory rules. Pakistan's regulators are rolling out new rules in an effort to increase Islamic banks' share of the total banking sector to 15 percent by 2017. In May, the country's securities commission established a sharia advisory board to oversee Islamic financial instruments, while last year it announced rules for sukuk, takaful (Islamic insurance) and Islamic deposits.

JCR-VIS Reaffirms Entity Rating of Burj Bank Limited

JCR-VIS Credit Rating Company has reaffirmed the entity ratings of Burj Bank at ‘A/A-1’. Outlook on the ratings is ‘Stable’. Ratings take into account the financial profile of Islamic Corporation for Development of the Private sector (ICD), one of the major shareholders of the bank. The recent approval by shareholders to increase the bank's paid up capital (free of losses) to Rs. 6b is likely to create room for growth in core business activities, which is constrained by the high level of Capital Adequacy Ratio required to be maintained by the State Bank of Pakistan. With a CAR of 22.5% at end-Dec’12 and net NPLs in relation to tier-1 capital also within manageable limits, the bank continues to depict sound risk absorption capacity. Burj has set up 25 new branches during FY12 to increase the total outreach to 75 branches by year-end. A further 25 branches are planned to be set up during the ongoing year.

Hult Prize Competition for Student teams worldwide to solve food crisis

Over the past three years, the Hult Prize has taken on some of the planet's toughest challenges. These have included Education, Energy, Housing, and Water. For the 2013 Prize, President Clinton has personally selected the challenge: the Global Food Crisis.

A detailed case study, narrated by President Bill Clinton, will be released to all selected participants in early January to set the framework for this year's challenge. Competitors will then be asked to develop social enterprises that answer the President's Challenge.

The global food crisis can be approached through multiple lenses, such as: distribution, manufacturing, production, technology and many others. Each, represents an opportunity for innovation. Nearly 1 Billion people in the World are Hungry, that is over 1 out of every 4 children. Ironically, our global economy produces enough food each year to feed everyone, however more than one-third of the food generated for human consumption continues to be lost or wasted.

Pakistani lender plans Mideast expansion

Pakistan-headquartered Bank of Khyber (BoK) plans to open branches in the Middle East, as part of an expansion drive to capture the fast growing investment opportunities and facilitate the expatriate Pakistanis belonging to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). The lender would offer both Islamic and conventional banking services in the lucrative market of Middle East, according to the bank's acting managing director, Javed Hashmat. No further details were provided.

Emaan Islamic Banking officially launched

Emaan Islamic Banking, a division of Silkbank Limited, has been launched and is now available in 10 branches in 8 cities including Karachi, Lahore, Faisalabad and Islamabad. M. A. Mannan, Executive Director at Silkbank, said that currently, the Islamic Banking Division offers a complete suite of liability based products and services including Current Account, Savings Account, Term Deposit (01 Month to 05 Years), Online Banking, 24/7 Phone Banking, Internet Banking, Visa Debit Card, Utility Bills Payment Service and Corporate Banking solutions including Musharka, Murabaha, Diminishing Musharka and Import Murabaha. Silkbank plans to open more Emaan Islamic Banking branches throughout the country and offer more products, both in Retail and Consumer Banking in Pakistan.

MICROCAPITAL BRIEF: Islamic Development Bank (ISDB), Government of Punjab Provide $195m for Microfinance Facility in Pakistan

The Islamic Development Bank (ISDB) will disburse a loan of PKR 14.6 billion (USD 146 million) with a 0.5 percent interest rate per year to the Punjab provincial government of Pakistan. The money will be used for a microfinance facility that will provide interest-free loans to small enterprises in the province, which is home to approximately 90 million people. The Punjab government plans to provide an additional grant of PKR 5 billion (USD 49.9 million) to support the facility. The project reportedly is modeled after the Akhuwat Scheme, it will offer loans of the same size, and like the Akhuwat Scheme, this new facility will not accept deposits. As of July 2013, Akhuwat reported to the US-based nonprofit Microfinance Information Exchange (MIX) a gross loan portfolio of USD 15.1 million, approximately 140,000 active borrowers and operations in 162 branches across Pakistan.

MICROFINANCE EVENT: Microfinance Summit Pakistan 2013, July 8-10, Islamabad, Pakistan

The event "Microfinance Summit Pakistan 2013" will be held in Islamabad, Pakistan on July 8-10, 2013. This event focuses on topics relating to financial inclusion, microfinance investment vehicles, branchless banking, microinsurance, market segmentation, distribution channels for reaching poor people, and microfinance regulation and policy in Pakistan. It will be co-hosted by the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF) and the Pakistan Microfinance Network (PMN). Although there is no cost to attend this event, registration is required. More information ist available on the event website http://www.mfs2013.com/.

Masses moot urged to promote Islamic financial system in Pakistan

Bankers, businessmen and economic experts urged masses to adopt Sharia-based banking and insurance in their need of daily lives and businesses. Speaking at the Second Islamic Financial Expo and Conference (IFEC) held at local hotel on Thursday, they enlightened participants about the potential of Islamic banking, hereafter underlining the need of awareness and penetration of Islamic banking and Takaful services across the country. Islamic banks are very active in introducing different products to the customers which not only meet their demands at commercial and domestic levels but also fulfill Sharia principles. However, there are loopholes in the Islamic banking industry which must be addressed mutually by banks, regulator and the government.

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