UK

ACCA hosts Dr Amjad, founder of Islamic micro finance

Dr Muhammad Amjad Saqib, the founder of the Islamic micro finance company, Akhuwat, met with Alan Hatfield, executive director for strategy and development at ACCA London headquarters. In Pakistan, micro finance is proving popular amongst the growing SME sector. The country’s SME development authority calculates that nearly 90% of companies are SMEs, most of them operating in the informal sector, so the demand for micro finance is also growing. Akhuwat has opened over 850 branches in 486 cities/towns across Pakistan, enabling over 3.5 Million families to become self-reliant by extending interest-free loans worth more than £400 million. Dr Saqib's latest initiative is called Akhuwat University, which will provide higher education without any tuition fee to support the upward social mobility in the country.

#Saudi Arabia's Arbah Capital buys Glasgow's Sauchiehall building

Saudi Arabia-based Arbah Capital has acquired the Sauchiehall building in Glasgow, UK, valued at $76m (SAR285m), through a sharia'a-compliant investment structure. Arbah Capital stated that the acquisition represented a core long term investment and would help attain value at a time of uncertainty in the UK. The investment firm added that the Sauchiehall building aligned with its main strategy to focus on acquisitions of distinctive assets. The mixed-use property is a 2.87ha LG+G+6F structure, and features a multi-storey car park as well. Arbah Capital's CEO Mahmood Al Kooheji says this purchase enhances Arbah’s strategic alliances and relationships which further supports its position as an international gateway into the investment market.

London VC Hambro Perks to invest in 'two to three' Islamic startups

The UK hosted its first halal startup pitch event in mid-June, when five prominent Islamic SMEs met with investors to showcase their wares. Prominent Islamic SMEs at the 'Smart Capital Startup Pitches' event included VIP halal travel firm Serendipity Tailormade, Muslim lifestyle platform Salam Planet and halal e-commerce site OneAgrix. The event was hosted by London-based venture capital firm Hambro Perks, who plans to invest this year in "two or three" of the start-ups that featured at the pitch event. Hambro Perks managing director Ali Qaiser said rapidly growing populations in emerging markets offer ripe regions for halal technology products and services. The company made its first investment when it funded British Muslim dating app MuzMatch. Qaiser expects halal tourism to take off. He also expects to see massive growth in the 'gamification' of Islamic lifestyles, such as apps to help prayer rituals and maps for Hajj pilgrimage.

College launches degrees in Islamic finance

Dundee’s Al-Maktoum College of Higher Education is collaborating with the University of Dundee to offer qualifications in MSc Islamic Finance, MSc Islamic Banking and Finance and MSc Islamic Banking, Finance and International Business. Dr Salah Alhammadi, assistant professor in Islamic economics at Al-Maktoum College, said Islamic finance has been adopted in Muslim majority countries as well as non-Muslim countries. The London Stock Exchange recently claimed that the UK is leading western countries in Islamic Finance. Designed for students who have completed an undergraduate degree and are now looking to specialise, the programmes are suitable for those with a background in finance and business but also anyone new to the subject.

The #UK can be a world leader in Islamic finance

According to Al Rayan Bank CFO Amir Firdaus, Islamic finance is reinforcing the UK’s position as a global financial hub. London is the leading centre for Islamic finance outside the Muslim world, with assets of UK-based institutions that offer Islamic finance services totalling more than $5bn. More than 20 banks in the UK offer Islamic services, and five of these banks are fully Sharia-compliant, including Al Rayan Bank. Al Rayan currently provides Islamic financial products to more than 85,000 customers in the UK. Last year, Al Rayan became the first bank in the world to issue a public sterling sukuk in a non-Muslim country. The London-listed £250m securitisation was rated AAA by Standard & Poor’s and Aaa by Moody’s Investors Service and was significantly oversubscribed. The appeal of Islamic finance is growing steadily, more than a third of Al Rayan Bank’s customers are currently believed to be non-Muslim.

Inside one of the finest pieces in today's Sotheby’s Arts of the Islamic world #auction

In May, Sotheby’s holds its latest Arts of the Islamic World auction. The auction includes a number of rare Qur’ans, including one exemplary fine and rare miniature Qur’an on vellum, estimated to sell at GBP 70,000-90,000. The miniature manuscript is an extremely rare and early example of Eastern Kufic script written in a vertical format on vellum. The size of the manuscript made for a considerable degree of difficulty, due to its intricacy and design.
The Qu’ran also has other rare features. Written in a special news script, it also adds dots to the script, which is rare for manuscripts of this kind, allowing the text to be read easier if the reader doesn’t know the Qu’ran by heart.

Islamic artworks go under the hammer at Sotheby’s

Some of the best examples of artwork from the Islamic world will go under the hammer at Sotheby’s on May 1. The auction includes a portrait of the great Ottoman Sultan, Suleyman the Magnificent, a landmark portrait valued at around 250,000 - 350,000 British pounds ($323,000 - $452,000). A rare example of an Iznik “Golden Horn” dish dating back to the 1530s is the most valuable piece in the collection and it is looking for a buyer for an amount between 300,000 and 500,000 pounds ($387,000 - $645,000). The collection holds many other pieces of artworks from India to Morocco and from Europe to Central Asia. The auction on May 1 will also be open to bids over the Internet.

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Bricklane receives Shariah accreditation for its residential property investment #funds

Bricklane’s funds have been certified as compliant by the Shariah Committee of Minarah Consulting chaired by Sheikh Faizal Manjoo. Through Bricklane’s online platform, individuals can invest flexibly in geographically focussed funds that buy and let residential properties, one focussed on London, and another on the Regional Capitals of Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham. Available through ISAs and SIPPs, and with Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) tax status, it is the most tax-efficient way to invest in UK residential property. Performance for the Bricklane funds has been strong in both absolute and relative terms, with the Regional Capitals fund returning 8.7% to investors in its first year, and its London fund returning 10% at its first anniversary in July 2018.

Wahed Invest launches #UK’s first easy access digital Halal investment platform

Wahed Invest has launched the UK’s first Halal online investment platform that is authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority. This way savers from all income brackets can easily invest in a globally diversified portfolio of ethically responsible stocks, Islamic bonds and gold. The platform, which is already available in the USA across all 50 states, allows users to open an account in minutes with a minimum investment of £100. For the first time, mainstream investors can gain access to products not traditionally available to retail investors, such as Sukuk. In order to ensure all returns are Halal, Wahed has a full-time Ethical Review Board. The Ethical Board is chaired by Sheikh Taha Abdul Basser alongside Sheikh Humza Maqbool Chaudhry and Sheikh Musa Furber.

Sadiq Khan backs #crowdfunding campaign for pro bono advice app

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has backed a campaign to raise money to boost free legal services to disadvantaged people. The money is being raised on a crowdfunding site for an application that could be made accessible through advice centres and even food banks. According to Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, the former president of the Law Society, £25,000 has been raised for the project so far and £2,000 more is needed to launch the six-month pilot this September.

Savings Status Quo Challenged As 79% Of Shariah-Compliant Accounts Now Beat The Market

Gatehouse Bank surveyed eight different types of account: easy access, 1, 2, 3 and 5 Year Fixed Term and 30, 60 and 90 Day Notice accounts. It found average returns on Shariah-compliant savings products trumped their mainstream counterparts on all account types bar one, easy access. Overall, the average rate on Shariah-compliant products was 1.54% while the average for mainstream accounts was 1.29%, a difference of 0.25%. All but three of the 14 Shariah-compliant accounts surveyed beat the market average. Shariah-compliant savings accounts in the UK are growing in popularity, amongst both Muslim and non-Muslim savers. According to Gatehouse Bank CEO Charles Haresnape, what we’re seeing is the emergence of a genuine challenge to the UK savings establishment.

MOVES-#Britain's largest Islamic bank Al Rayan appoints new COO

Birmingham-based Al Rayan Bank appointed Paul McMillan as chief operating officer as part of the bank’s expansion efforts. McMillan, a former chief executive of mortgage servicing firm Acenden, takes over the role from the bank’s previous COO Venkat Chandrasekar. Al Rayan is one of the five standalone Islamic banks in Britain and is owned by Qatar’s Masraf Al Rayan.

Growing Islamic finance firms lobby British government for #tax relief

Islamic finance firms are lobbying the British government for tax reforms, arguing that the treatment of some shariah-compliant structures is hindering their growth. Islamic financial transactions often require multiple title transfers of underlying assets, which can trigger double or even triple tax charges. More than 20 firms offer Islamic financial products in Britain. According to Samir Alamad, head of product development at Al Rayan Bank, capital gains taxes are affecting Islamic banks and their customers. He added that taxes on investment property and commercial finance also need clarification. Islamic banks are expanding, but there are concerns that future changes could also have an impact on the sector. The government’s 2017 budget has proposed changes starting from 2019 to the tax status of nonresident investors and the way they are taxed on real estate disposals.

Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank Funds $32.2 Million Deal Of A #UK Property

Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (ADIB) UK, has arranged a Sharia’a-compliant transaction to finance the acquisition of Lateral House, located in Leeds, UK. The deal involves a sum of $32.2 million on behalf of an Abu Dhabi-based private banking client. Earlier this year the bank arranged the acquisition of The Hub, located at the Aztec West Business Park, Bristol, for $43.4 million on behalf of a private Saudi based client. Lateral House is a modern Grade A office building providing 95,317 square feet of net lettable commercial office space. ADIB was the first UAE-based bank providing Islamic financial services to be licensed to operate in the UK. Today, it is just one of six banks in the UK providing Sharia-compliant services.

#UK Mosque Opens #Crypto #Donations in National First 'Bitcoin Ramadan'

A UK mosque has broken with opinion and opted to accept cryptocurrency donations for this year’s Ramadan period. The Shacklewell Lane Mosque in East London partnered with local Blockchain startup Combo Innovation to set up a Bitcoin and Ethereum wallet for the Ramadan practice of Zakat. The UK’s only Turkish-owned mosque is going against the rulings of various Islamic scholars and the Turkish government, who previously determined cryptocurrency to be "incompatible" with Islam. The mosque hopes to raise around £10,000 ($13,300) for repairs to the building. So far, its Bitcoin address has received funds worth around $2000.

UK taxation needs to accommodate Shariah compliant #real estate refinancing

For well over a decade, the UK has been amending its tax laws for Islamic finance. The goal is to ensure that Islamic finance transactions are not taxed more heavily, or more lightly, than their conventional finance equivalents. In a diminishing musharaka transaction a property is being sold twice, once by the individual to the bank and then by the bank back to the individual. Countries that charge tax on transfers of real estate will typically do so for both sales. Furthermore, the individual has sold for $750,000 a property that cost him $100,000, so if the country taxes gains arising on the sale of property, the individual can expect to be taxed on the $650,000 gain. In the United Kingdom, the real estate transfer tax charges were eliminated. However, the capital gains tax charge triggered by the sale remains in the case of sales to Islamic banks. The UK’s Chartered Institute of Taxation has now proposed that the gain on the Islamic financing transaction described above should not be taxed.

Al Baraka Banking Group and the Bank of London & The Middle East (BLME) sign a Memorandum of Understanding to enhance their collaborations and product offerings.

Al Baraka Banking Group (ABG) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Bank of London & The Middle East (BLME). The MoU was signed by Mohammed El Qaq, Senior Vice President & Head of Commercial Banking of Al Baraka Banking Group and Andrew Ball, Head of Wealth Management of BLME. The MoU provides both parties with opportunities to collaborate and gives BLME the chance to provide Al Baraka clients with investment opportunities in UK real estate. According to ABG President Adnan Ahmed Yousif, the MOU will enable the bank to enhance its product offerings and capitalize on its geographic diversification and wide client base. Al Baraka currently has a strong presence in Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Sudan, Bahrain, Pakistan, South Africa, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Morocco, including two representative offices in Indonesia and Libya.

AXA partners with Cobalt Underwriting for Sharia-compliant policy

AXA Insurance has teamed up with Cobalt Underwriting to create a new Shariah-compliant insurance product for the real estate sector. As part of the partnership, AXA directly manages the trading and underwriting of the product. Cobalt employs in-house Shariah scholars who provide each client with Shariah compliance certification. The new product is part of AXA’s wider strategy to bring new products to under-served sections of the insurance market. Ryan Birbeck, head of real estate specialty at AXA Insurance, said that the addition of a Shariah-compliant insurance policy was an obvious move as overseas investment continues to flow into the UK real estate sector.

London’s #takaful standards seeking Shariah scholars’ approval by year-end for 2019 roll-out – industry association

London’s draft standards for transaction of Islamic commercial insurance are seeking Shariah scholars’ approval this year for roll-out next year. The Islamic Insurance Association of London (IIAL), which counts Lloyd’s of London as a founding member, has sought Shariah and legal opinion for the standards framework it has developed. The planned roll-out of IIAL’s takaful standards will more or less coincide with the UK’s departure from the European Union on March 29 next year. According to IIAL secretary-general Jon Guy, lots of managing general agents (MGAs) will target UK retail takaful because they will have the ability to access Shariah-compliant capital. Once the syndicates have gone through the regulatory and administrative setup, they will be very keen at looking at how they can deploy it.

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