Central Asia

Adamjee Life to enter Islamic insurance market next year

Adamjee Life is going to enter the Islamic insurance market by March next year, company CEO Fredrik de Beer announced in a recent interview. “We will complete the business plan to seek the board’s approval by the end of October. We are hoping to launch Takaful products by the end of the first quarter of 2015,” Beer said.
Adamjee Life follows Jubilee Life Insurance and EFU Life Assurance that have already announced their plans to enter the Shariah-compliant segment of life insurance. Pakistan’s insurance industry has seen quite some activity lately, as both life and non-life entities have shown interest in setting up Islamic window operation

Mega bank merger credit negative for CIMB Islamic Bank

The proposed merger between CIMB Group Holdings Bhd, RHB Capital Bhd (RHBCap) and Malaysia Building Society Bhd (MBSB) would be credit negative for CIMB Islamic Bank Bhd, according to Moody’s Investors Service. Moody’s vice-president Eugene Tarzimanov noted that the merger would see CIMB Islamic Bank’s asset size triple as a result of acquiring RHB Bank’s and MBSB’s Islamic operations.

Pakistans Jubilee Insurance plans Islamic insurance business

Jubilee General Insurance Co will seek shareholder approval to offer Islamic insurance Takaful to enter the sector after conventional firms were allowed to offer sharia-compliant products earlier this year. Other firms entering the market include United Insurance Company of Pakistan and EFU Group, Pakistan's largest insurer, which plans Takaful windows for both its life and general businesses.

EU Sanctions lifted - Iranian Bank seeks indemnity

Kourosh Parvizian, the governor of Sina Bank, welcomes the move of the British Treasury's to repeal of an asset freeze on the bank. It says that other European countries are expected to make the same decision, according to Iran's IRNA news agency.

Al Baraka Bank issues first subordinated sukuk

The Pakistani unit of Bahrain's Al Baraka Banking Group has raised 2 billion rupees ($19.5 million) via the country's first issuance of subordinated sukuk, or Islamic bonds. The seven-year private placement is the first to be issued by an Islamic bank in Pakistan, according to Abdullah Ghaffar, head of investment banking at Al Baraka Bank Pakistan.

Due to the phasing in of Basel III global banking standards around the globe, several Islamic banks have issued subordinated instruments in order to raise capital, including those in Turkey, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Bank scandal inquiry reopened by Afghan President

Ashraf Ghani, Afghanistan's new president has re-opened an inquiry about the theft of almost $1bn from the Kabul Bank, which had cause much turmoil and is said to be one of the largest banking failures in the word. Thereby he fulfils his campaign promise to fighting corruption as a priority and to combatting corruption comprehensively.
The bank's founder Sher Khan Fernod and the former chief executive, Haji Khalil Ferozi, were jailed for five years for taking $810m of the $935m.

Al Hilal Bank Awaits New Legislation for Islamic Finance

Almaty-based Al Hilal Islamic Bank may expand into neighbouring markets as legislation in the Central Asian countries changes. Islamic finance is gaining popularity in the region, but Al Hilal is currently the only sharia-compliant lender in Kazakhstan. The Abu Dhabi government wholly owns Al Hilal's parent company and according to its chief executive, Prasad Abraham, the bank is considering increasing its geographical presence as part of its 2015 business plan.

Pakistan: Orix Leasing to tap Islamic finance market

Orix Leasing Pakistan Limited (OLPL) plans to tap the high growth Islamic finance market. The company has entered into a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Standard Chartered Bank (Pakistan) Limited (SCBPL) with regard to a prospective merger/amalgamation of Standard Chartered Leasing Limited (SCLL), a subsidiary of SCBPL with and into OLPL or acquisition of SCBPL’s 86.45 per cent equity stake in SCLL. The MoU further provides the acquisition of SCBPL’s 100pc stake in Standard Chartered Services of Pakistan (Private) Limited and acquisition of SCBPL’s 20pc stake in Standard Chartered Modaraba. There is no certainty that the MoU would result in a binding transaction.

Qatar planning to set up first Islamic bank in Tajikistan

Qatar has expressed its willingness to set up an Islamic bank in Tajikistan, which would be the first Shariah-based financial institution in the Central Asian country. The establishment of a full-fledged Islamic bank under Qatari-Tajikistan partnership was discussed when Ezdan Holding chairman Sheikh Dr Khalid bin Thani bin Abdullah al-Thani called on Tajikistan President Emomalii Rahmon in the country's capital Dushanbe last week. Sheikh Dr Khalid said the Qatari business community was viewing the Tajikistan market with great interest and willing to invest in the country, besides sharing its knowledge and expertise with local businessmen in different sectors, particularly Islamic banking. He termed as "extremely positive", the Tajikistan government's decision to enact necessary legislation required for Islamic banking.

Azerbaijani leasing company draws additional funds for Islamic leasing

Azerbaijani company Joint Leasing will conclude the first corporate Islamic leasing agreement next week. The company is considering the opportunity of attracting additional resources as part of the Islamic leasing project. At present, there is an opportunity to attract additional funds. In principle, leasing is a tool of Islamic finance. Ijara is among the tools used in Islamic finance.

SECP evolving efficient Islamic financial system

SECP is striving to establish a comprehensive Islamic financial system to cater for the needs of people, which are not inclined to use conventional financial products. The decision of SECP to permit conventional insurance companies to launch Takaful operations will result in rapid development of this sector. However, the development of an Islamic financial system needs to include Islamic banking industry, Takaful industry and Islamic capital and money markets with strong linkages, interdependence and synergies. Although Takaful has been in the market for long, it has yet to make significant inroads as the concept is clouded by unfamiliar terms and principles for commoners resulting in hesitancy. In absence of a viable Islamic capital market the adequate supply of quality financial instruments could be a difficulty.

Shariah Gets Hotter as Kazakhs Revive Islamic Bank Plan

Kazakhstan is reviving plans to develop Islamic finance and is “fine-tuning” legislation for Shariah-compliant banking, central bank Chairman Kairat Kelimbetov said. Some lenders are seeking to convert into Islamic banks, he said. The drive by Kazakhstan comes two years after its debut sukuk, which was denominated in Malaysian ringgit. Abu Dhabi’s Al Hilal Bank opened a branch in Kazakhstan in 2010, and remains the only Islamic lender in the oil-rich nation. However, Al Hilal Islamic experienced difficulties in generating business because of a lack of understanding of Shariah-compliant products by customers. Moreover, Kazakhstan will face legislative hurdles as it seeks to promote the industry and the nation is experiencing the early stages of development.

Getting The Deal Through – Islamic Finance & Markets 2015: Uzbekistan

Until recently the banking and financial services sector and business in Uzbekistan have had limited exposure to and understanding of Islamic finance. The key laws such as the Civil Code, the Tax Code and laws on banking and investment do not refer to Islamic finance or to Islamic finance instruments. It is therefore important that Islamic finance and Islamic banking instruments are first recognised as a legislative concept before any regulatory mechanisms are put in place. Foreign banks including Islamic banks may open representative offices or set up subsidiary outlets in Uzbekistan provided they comply with minimum criteria and qualify under requirements imposed by the CBU in accordance with the Regulation on the Procedure for Registration and Licensing of Banking Operations.

Iran banks pressed to retreat from asset speculation

Iran has eight state-run and 19 “privately owned” banks – although these are frequently subject to interference from the state, with their shares bought by entities affiliated to power centres, which then influence banking policies and exploit funds - all of which have invested heavily in the ownership and management of commercial entities outside the banking sector. The central bank, state-run Bank Melli and privately owned banks of Ansar, Saderat, Mellat, Pasargad and Parsian refused to comment. Pasargad and Parsian are considered the leading private banks in non-banking operations.

Shariah-compliant: Country’s insurance market set for takaful boost

Pakistan’s insurance sector is set for a boost in competition after the industry regulator allowed conventional firms to offer takaful earlier this year. The regulator, the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), has now granted two takaful licenses and has up to 10 applications currently being finalised. 20 to 25 new takaful window operators are expected in the market within one year. The regulator sees greater opportunity in life insurance although commercial lines of business could also find appeal in rural markets where the demand for products like crop, agricultural, livestock insurance is increasing. Such an increase in activity could face challenges, in particular a lack of experienced staff as well as the need for Islamic re-insurance products to help manage excess risk.

Treasury hits Iran with new, wide-ranging sanctions

The Obama administration unveiled a host of new sanctions Friday against more than 30 companies and individuals doing business in or with Iran, seeking to thwart that nation’s nuclear ambitions, its support for organizations the United States deems as terrorist groups and mute its support for the embattled regime of Syrian leader Bashar Assad. The sanctions come at a period where the United States needs Iran’s help in trying to defeat the Islamic State (ISIS). Friday’s additions to the list include more banks, providers of equipment to Iran’s state oil company, banks that help to funnel U.S. currency to Iran’s central bank and transport-related businesses that have helped the Syrian and Iranian governments.

Al Baraka Bank to participate in socio-economic development

Al Baraka Bank Pakistan aims to play an active role in social and economic development, by way of contributing to secure the welfare, balance and solidarity of financially and socially challenged segments. Setting the ethical standards for a sustainable society A Group of Volunteers from Al Baraka Bank spent a day, celebrating the Independence Day, with the Children at The Citizens Foundation (TCF) School. Concluding the ceremony, Gift hampers were distributed amongst the attending children. Al Baraka is a sponsor of The Citizen’s Foundation (TCF) Schools. Development of Education sector, through various activities and funding is one of the primary concerns of Al Baraka, in the longer run.

Our polio funds will run out in two months: Pakistan

Pakistan's health ministry has said that if new funds are not arranged for the delayed anti-polio campaign, it is likely to halt after two months. The Economic Coordination Council (ECC) was supposed to approve funds for the campaign in the second week of August, but it has not been allocated owing to a political crisis. The Islamic Development Bank, Japan and other organisations were to provide a loan of $326 million, with the interest on the amount to be paid by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. A total of 115 polio cases has been registered in Pakistan this year. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), only 39 polio cases were registered last year.

Islamic finance can foster social cohesion in Afghanistan

The attempts to offer conventional financial products in Afghanistan are perceived as yet another foreign attempt to challenge basic tenets of the Afghan society. This perception - shared not only in the countryside but also by sectors of urban society - is fuelling resentment and distrust among people. As a consequence, the already meager financing in the rural areas, where 75% of the population lives, is drying up and almost non-existent. This is undermining any meaningful economic and social take-off. Within this landscape, Islamic finance and takaful represent a necessary tool to address the population's discomfort with the conventional approach, ease cultural tensions and creatively mend social relations.

Solid steps afoot to promote Islamic banking

Currently, Pakistan ranks ninth globally terms of development of the Islamic financial services industry but some recent purposeful steps would prove to be a game changer, said Mian Shahid, Chairman United International Group (UIG). Now, the conventional insurance companies in Pakistan are set to make major inroads into the Islamic insurance business with the active support of regulators, he added. The potential of Takaful in the Muslim world is still largely unexploited, he said, adding that its premiums are expected to reach $20 billion by 2017. Saudi Arabia, UAE and Malaysia enjoy the lion’s share on account of their advanced Islamic finance sector while Pakistan would need more simplified regulatory frameworks to propel the industry’s expansion, the insurance veteran observed.

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