Central Asia

#Debate #continues in #India about #Islamic #finance

It seemed as if the path had been cleared for the introduction of Islamic finance in India after the country’s central bank made a proposal to launch Islamic banking windows at conventional banks. With two crucial effects awaiting: Firstly, greater financial inclusion of unbanked Indians, not necessarily only around 170mn Muslims, but also those interested in ethical banking, and, secondly, an increased influx of investments from Muslim regions, namely the Gulf, into India.
However, the proposal got rebuffed in December by the Indian finance ministry which, in a surprising declaration, argued that Islamic banking was “not relevant” any more in achieving the objectives of financial inclusion as the government had already introduced other programmes for all citizens towards that end.

India’ Minister of State for Finance Santosh Kumar Gangwar also said that a number of legal changes would become necessary even if limited Islamic finance products were to be introduced, which would result in “numerous legal hurdles.”

#Innovation in #Islamic #finance

Although Malaysia is a leader in Islamic finance research, very few of the research papers published have translated into feasible innovations, until recently. To help push the sector forward and bring the research and ideas to fruition, International Centre for Education in Islamic Finance, with the support of Bank Negara Malaysia, the Association of Islamic Banking Institutions Malaysia and the Malaysian Takaful Association, recently held the Islamic Finance InnoFest 2016. For this festival, INCEIF accepted idea submissions from all over the world, including Japan, Australia and Pakistan, to promote inclusiveness.

“We believe that to really push for innovation, we cannot be stuck in a silo. That is why it is not limited to only Malaysians,” says Associate Professor Dr Baharom Abdul Hamid, director at INCEIF’s Centre of Research and Publication and InnoFest chairman.

#Sukuk #loan mix for #Felda’s #Indonesian #Eagle High stake buy

The Federal Land Development Authority is set to raise funds for its 37% stake acquisition in PT Eagle High Plantations Tbk via a mix of loans and sukuk issuance.
Sources familiar with the matter said that 50% of the acquisition figure of RM 2.26 bil would be financed through a loan with a major European banking group. The remaining funds will be raised through a sukuk issuance.
“The sukuk issuance could be announced as early as late January. The debt will be serviced by the cashflow generated by Felda Investment Corp’s (FIC) assets,” said a source. It is probable that the sukuk would come with an explicit government guarantee, given that Felda is a government-backed agency. This is because most institutional funds – which are the likeliest parties to subscribe to the sukuk – can only purchase high-rated bonds as part of their investment mandate. A guarantee would ensure that the bonds are rated at or close to the top investment grade.

#Meezan #Bank to identify #future #Islamic #finance #opportunities in CPEC

Meezan Bank, Pakistan’s first and largest Islamic bank has recently signed an MoU with Al-Sadiq Consulting Ltd, China’s first Islamic Finance consulting Company to explore opportunities for Islamic finance in China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The agreement focuses on the ever-increasing economic participation between Pakistan and China and the opportunities that may be derived from improved Islamic banking channels between the two countries.
The MoU was signed by Mr. Irfan Siddiqui, President & CEO – Meezan Bank and Mr. Ibrahim Ding, Managing Director and Senior Partner – Al-Sadiq Consulting at Meezan Bank’s Head Office, Karachi. A
Meezan Bank has also expressed interest in providing financial, advisory and Shariah-related services to such and similar projects and transactions in collaboration with Al-Sadiq Consultancy. Mr. Irfan Siddiqui, President & CEO – Meezan Bank welcomed the enthusiasm of the Chinese experts/delegate and said, “We are extremely confident that our new partnership with Al-Sadiq Consulting Ltd, China’s first Islamic finance consultancy company will successfully be able to drive more advantages for Islamic finance in the near future.

#MICROCAPITAL BRIEF: #IDBank #Dragon #Capital to Develop Sharia-compliant #Investment “Silk-way Growth Fund” for SMEs in #Kazakhstan

The Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD), a development finance institution of the Saudi Arabia-based Islamic Development Bank (IDB), and Dragon Capital Partners, the venture capital and private equity arm of Ukraine-based Dragon Capital Group, recently announced the intention to develop the Silk-way Growth Fund, a Sharia-compliant investment fund benefitting “high growth” small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) involved in manufacturing in Kazakhstan. The fund is slated to address the “financing gap created due to difficulty of accessing capital at sustainable market rates and the banking sub-sector’s lack of confidence in SME entrepreneurs.” According to ICD, SMEs make up 96 percent of all businesses in Kazakhstan and 25 percent of the country’s GDP.
ICD will act as fund advisor to Silk-way as part of its SME Platform, an initiative aimed at building Sharia-compliant investment management capacities in ICD’s 52 member countries, and it will consider investing capital in the fund as plans for the fund are finalized.

#CBB #plans to #shut #down #Future #Bank

The Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB) has announced plans to close down Future Bank, a joint venture between two Iranian lenders – Bank Saderat and Bank Melli – and Bahrain’s Ahli United Bank, said a report. The CBB said it intends to submit a petition to the competent court for compulsory liquidation of the Bahrain-based retail bank, reported the Gulf Daily News, our sister publication.

#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.

#Iran to chair Islamic finance body IFSB in 2017

Iran's central bank will take chairmanship of the Islamic Financial Services Board (IFSB) for the year 2017. Shut out of the global system by sanctions, Iranian banks are eager to resume business with foreign lenders with deals ranging from funding infrastructure to insuring foreign trade. The IFSB Council said late on Wednesday it had appointed Iran's central bank governor Valiollah Seif as chairman, with Bangladesh Bank governor Fazle Kabir as deputy chairman. Iran's entire banking system follows Islamic principles, there are 34 Islamic banks that held total assets of 14,451 trillion rials ($448 billion) as of March. This represents around a third of total Islamic banking assets globally, although Iran's version of Islamic finance can differ with what is observed in other Muslim-majority countries.

#Bahran's Bank Alkhair sells its stake in #Pakistan's Burj Bank

Bahrain-based Bank Alkhair has obtained approval from the State Bank of Pakistan to sell its stake in Pakistan’s Burj Bank to Al Baraka Pakistan Limited (ABPL). This transaction follows the announcement on 5 September 2016 about the merger of Pakistan’s Burj Bank and ABPL, creating an institution with assets totaling more than $1.1 billion. Ayman Sejiny, Group CEO of Bank Alkhair said the bank was pleased to sell its stake in Pakistan’s Burj Bank to Al Baraka Pakistan Limited. Bank Alkhair has completed several landmark transactions since its inception, including the establishment of t’azur, a regional Takaful company and the acquisition of Bahrain Financing Company, the oldest foreign exchange and remittance houses in the GCC.

Mutual #funds and Islamic funds have huge potential in #Pakistan: Saqib Saleem

In this interview CEO of MCB-Arif Habib Savings and Investments (MCBAH) Saqib Saleem gives advice to new individual investors who want to save a portion of their money. He recommends increasing purchasing power over a period of time and seeking reliable investment advice. For this reason, MCBAH has 14 types of mutual funds, two voluntary pension schemes and different investments plans in its product portfolio. The mutual funds industry in Pakistan is still in its infancy stage standing at mere 1.6% of GDP. Saleem believes that an increase in awareness and introduction of innovative products to reach out to general public will provide an impetus to growth. As the Pakistani economy is entering the growth phase, he expects young investors to enter the market and increase their investment profile.

#Iran, #Venezuela launch joint development bank

Iran and Venezuela inaugurated a joint bank to finance their development projects. The opening ceremony took place in Tehran during a visit by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. The Tehran based Iran-Venezuela Joint Bank has an initial capital base of 200 million dollars, with each nation providing half of the funds. The Export Development Bank of Iran, which is under sanctions from the US Treasury, was tasked with creating the joint bank. The joint bank will work within Iran’s banking regulations and its activities will be overseen by the Islamic republic’s Central Bank. The board of directors comprises four Iranians and four Venezuelans. A joint investment fund will also be launched in Venezuela.

Unicorn invests further Rs1bn in Dawood Islamic Bank

Dawood Islamic Bank Limited (DIBL) has received Rs1 billion (US$12.9 million) investment from Bahrain-based Unicorn Investment Bank Limited. Unicorn already had a 22.2% equity stake in DIBL prior to the current investment. Unicorn Managing Director Aamir Khan said that the decision to invest in Dawood Islamic Bank is based on excellent opportunities that are available in the Islamic banking sector of Pakistan. DIBL Chairman Rafique Dawood said the investment by Unicorn would further boost the bank's ability to provide support to trade and industry through its various Riba-free banking products. DIBL has a network of 21 branches spread over the major cities of Pakistan including Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Faisalabad, Multan, Sialkot, Iqbalabad and Joharabad.

#Iran, #Russia explore setting up Islamic bank: report

Russia and Iran are exploring the establishment of an Islamic bank as the two countries expand their economic cooperation. According to Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak, the banks are exploring the mechanism, but the related decision has not been made yet. State-linked Russian lenders Vnesheconombank, Sberbank and Tatfondbank have been developing Islamic financial products of their own over the past year. Iran is keen to diversify funding options for its companies. At present, most financing in Iran is sourced from domestic lenders with only a small portion sourced from foreign sources and the debt capital markets.

Saudi's Islamic Development Bank to offer $500 mn #loan for #TAPI project

The Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) had agreed to provide USD 500 million loan to part-finance the USD 15 billion Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) natural gas pipeline project.
IsDB has expressed interest in financing the project not just on Turkmenistan's territory, but in Afghanistan and Pakistan, too. The TAPI pipeline will have a capacity to carry 90 million standard cubic metres a day gas for 30 years. The project had been planned to become operational in 2018, but it is unlikely to see the light of day before 2022. The four nations to the project in April this year had signed an investment agreement in Ashgabad. The technical study of the TAPI project, done by Penspen, has estimated that it will take over six years to complete from the start of the FEED process.

#Meezan Bank, #ISRA sign #MoU to promote #Islamic #financing

Meezan Bank, Pakistan's first and largest Islamic bank, has recently signed a multi-faceted Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the International Shari'ah Research Academy for Islamic Finance (ISRA), aimed at jointly expanding the role of Islamic finance through collaborations on various aspects of this field.
This comprehensive MoU further sets out a clear roadmap for research into the domains of Shariah and Islamic finance that should be facilitated by exchange of best practices in research and training. Meezan Bank would also be providing joint services with respect to arrangement of seminars, conferences, workshops and short-term courses.
While commenting on this agreement, Irfan Siddiqui said: "This MoU recognises the critical need for addressing the Islamic finance challenges through collaborations and partnerships in order to meet the heightened demand for Islamic banking products and services. The Meezan Bank is committed to develop and promote Shariah-compliant finance industry and we are quite hopeful that this agreement would enhance opportunities through increased exposure and knowledge sharing."

The rise of the #Sukuk

The financial crisis of 2008-09 shifted the world's focus towards greater accountability, enhancement in transparency, improvement in governance and a strict limit on leveraging. This has persuaded the world to look towards Islamic finance as a viable financial alternate. The asset-backed nature of Islamic financial transactions, in addition to the prohibition on speculative activities make it a more stable system than its conventional counterpart. Sukuk is being used by many developing countries as a tool of fiscal policy for economic development. Projects like roads, railways, airports and hospitals etc, are particularly appropriate for Sukuk financing. The Pakistani government has issued total 18 domestic Sukuk and three international Sukuk. The financing of infrastructure developmental projects can be achieved through issuance of Sukuk.

Government incentives boost Islamic banks

#Pakistan's Islamic banks are introducing new products and adjusting policies to take advantage of government incentives designed to boost growth in the industry. Shariah-compliant banks in the country held 11.4% of total banking assets in June, which is well below levels of around 25% seen in Gulf Arab states. To change this, the government introduced a 2% tax rebate for shariah-compliant manufacturing firms in July to encourage them to eliminate interest-bearing debt from their balance sheets. Abdullah Ghaffar, head of investment banking at Al Baraka Bank Pakistan, said he detected signs of an increase in demand for Islamic financing. According to Syed Abubakr, sharia board member of Emaan Islamic Banking, there is some demand for new products from conventional banks planning to convert their operations into fully-fledged Islamic banks.

Fast growth of Islamic Finance industry calls for robust Shariah governance

Standard & Poor’s believes that in view of the fast growth of the Islamic finance industry robust Sharia governance structures are very important. While this model has provided an additional layer of control, actions requested by internal auditors are typically not disclosed to the public. So far only the authorities in Oman and Pakistan have asked Islamic banks to submit themselves to an external Sharia audit. The Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI) and the Islamic Financial Services Board (IFSB) have already made significant strides in this area. However, S&P believes the current governance framework shows room for improvement. Only a handful of Islamic banks disclose their profit and loss sharing formulas, profit equalisation reserves, or investment risk reserves.

#Iran establishes correspondent relations with foreign banks

Iran has established correspondent relationships with 230 foreign banks since January 16, following the implementation of the nuclear deal. In addition, Iran's Ministry of Economic Affairs and Finance reported that the Export Development Bank of Iran (EDBI) has begun brokerage relations with numerous banks around the world. This includes 64 banks in 20 European countries, 36 banks in 17 Asian states, four banks in Africa as well as one bank in Latin America. However, the Islamic Republic complains that it still does not have access to global financial markets. Many international banks still shy away from financing trade deals and processing transactions for fear of US penalties.

Financial #inclusion push: Govt, RBI mull launching sharia-compliant Islamic banking here

The Reserve Bank of #India (RBI) has proposed opening of "Islamic window" in conventional banks for "gradual" introduction of Sharia-compliant or interest-free banking in the country. Both the Centre and RBI are exploring the possibility of introduction of Islamic banking for long to ensure financial inclusion. The central bank's proposal is based on examination of legal, technical and regulatory issues regarding feasibility of introducing Islamic banking in India on the basis of recommendation of the Inter Departmental Group (IDG). RBI has also prepared a technical analysis report which has been sent to the Finance Ministry.

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