The Malaysian Reserve

#Malaysia remains key source of Islamic debt papers

According to Fitch Ratings, Malaysia remains the main sukuk issuer this year besides countries from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region. The increase in Malaysia’s sukuk market is largely driven by Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) and contributed by local currency corporate issuance. Notable corporate deals included energy service firm Serba Dinamik’s US$300 million (RM1.25 bilion) sukuk, the first dollar high-yield sukuk offering in the Asia-Pacific region. The Malaysian market shows how as the Shariah-compliant investor base grows, the cost of sukuk issuance becomes more competitive relative to conventional bonds. Fitch believes that global volumes normalised rather than declined last year after hitting record levels in 2017. Moving forward, Fitch believes macro-economic and geopolitical conditions will affect sukuk issuance. GCC debt markets are relatively developing but individual sovereign funding decisions can profoundly affect total supply.

Bank Islam top domestic #sukuk #broker in 1H19

Bank Islam Malaysia is the top domestic sukuk broker for the first half of the year (1H), after helping issue US$5.15 billion (RM21.21 billion) worth of sukuk in the market. Bank Islam’s market share of the sukuk issued accounted for 29.03% of the total ringgit-denominated sukuk issued in the 1H. The bank advised on 10 issues for the period. The second-largest issuer in the 1H is Maybank Investment Bank, which was ranked first last year for the same period after having helped issue US$4.1 billion of sukuk. Analysts expect the local sukuk market to remain active driven by capital raising by government and corporates for major construction works such as the East Coast Rail Link, Light Rail Transit Line 3 and Mass Rapid Transit Line 3 projects.

IIFM to wrap up #Sukuk Al Ijarah #standard suite this year

The International Islamic Financial Market (IIFM) expects to finalise capital market related “Sukuk Al Ijarah” standard suite of documentation later this year. The Perpetual Tier 1 and Senior Unsecured Sukuk Al Mudarabah standard suite of documentation is currently ongoing and is expected to be completed by the end of the third quarter of 2019. The standard-setting body also started translation work on its standards and is expected to come out with French versions by early 2020 to cater for French language jurisdictions. It is also looking to develop training material for its standards in collaboration with consultants and training institutes to offer technically oriented workshops to the users.

#Malaysia’s position in the #fintech race

According to the Fintech Malaysia Report 2018, Malaysia had 166 fintech companies operating in the country as at July last year. Payments and e-wallets made up the majority at 19% and 17% of the fintech players respectively, followed by cryptocurrency players (12%) and crowdfunding companies (6%). While Malaysia appears to be well ahead of Vietnam and the Philippines in the fintech race, it’s still nowhere near Indonesia. Mohammad Ridzuan Abdul Aziz, president of the Fintech Association of Malaysia (FAOM), believes that instead of viewing fintech as a race against other countries, the focus should be on collaboration between the key stakeholders. He added that the government also provides a variety of monetary incentives and support programmes for start-ups, and is now recalibrating various agencies to improve awareness and efficiency.

MIDF keeps mum on Al Rajhi #merger talks

Malaysian Industrial Development Finance (MIDF) remains tight-lipped about its negotiations with Al Rajhi Banking and Investment Corp (Al Rajhi Malaysia). Both banking groups announced on Jan 10 this year that Bank Negara Malaysia’s approval had been secured to commence talks on a potential merger. However, both parties failed to reach an agreement past the March deadline. The companies then requested for an extension and were given another three months, up to June 27 this year. A merger of the two banks would result in a combined banking group with RM13.17 billion in assets. The merger with Al Rajhi Malaysia will allow MIDF to become an Islamic financial institution as it currently does not have an Islamic banking licence. MIDF brought in RM76.86 million in revenue and RM12.11 million in net profit for 1Q19.

SC sees good year ahead for #sukuk

Malaysia could see more Islamic capital market funds raised this year as sukuk activity has picked up in the first quarter of 2019. According to Securities Commission Malaysia (SC) deputy CEO Datuk Zainal Izlan Zainal Abidin, sukuk issuances are picking up over last year’s level. The government recently announced the revival of the East Coast Rail Link and the Bandar Malaysia projects, brightening investor sentiment which has been dampened lately. According to SC data, Malaysia’s Islamic capital market was valued at RM1.88 trillion or 61% of the nation’s overall capital market as at end-2018, down from RM1.9 trillion the year prior. Malaysia is the world’s largest sukuk issuer, having accounted for 51.6% of global outstanding sukuk as at endJune 2018.

Bank Islam continues to focus on affordable housing segment

Bank Islam Malaysia expects its home financing business model will continue to help the bank to grow and boost its assets. Malaysia’s oldest Islamic lender has been growing organically over the years, despite the crowded market. Bank Islam CEO Mohd Muazzam Mohamed said the bank is already adopting the right model to support this affordable segment. He added that the Islamic bank will continue with its current business model which is in line with the governments’ directive. Bank Islam has already allocated RM300 million to be utilised until 2021 as part of its digitalisation directive. Mohd Muazzam said the bank aims to increase its financing for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) by RM200 million in 2019. The bank also plans to increase its investment fund to RM800 million under its Al-Awfar product, which has been refreshed since its establishment in 2009.

BNM introduces Rahn policy document

Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) has issued the Rahn policy document which is aimed at strengthening the practice among Islamic financial institutions to offer services that are end-to-end Shariah-compliant. BNM stated that the subject matter of the Rahn contract shall be collateral that is recognised by Shariah and Shariah-compliant liability or obligation owing to the pledgee. It added that the collateral must be owned either by the obligor, a third party, or the obligor and a third party. BNM said the collateral shall be immediately possessed by the pledgee upon entering into the Rahn contract unless a pledgee approves a delay in possession. A Rahn contract is applicable with contracts including qard, murabahah, tawarruq, baiinah, istisna, ijarah, kafalah, mudarabah, musyarakah, wakalah bi al-istithmar, and wad as well as takaful coverage.

BIMB Invest eyes RM100m for Shariah-ESG #fund within 1 year

BIMB Invest is expected to achieve a subscription of RM100 million of its BIMB-Arabesque ValueCAP Malaysia Shariah-ESG Equity Fund within a year. The fund was launched together with Arabesque Asset Management and ValueCAP and approved by the Securities Commission Malaysia. As the fund is mainly targeted at corporate and institutional investors, BIMB Invest is hoping to get the likes of pension funds, insurance and takaful firms on board. The fund will invest in about 100 local listed companies that are Shariah-compliant as well as in line with ESG practices. It will analyse the ESG factors of each company using Arabesque’s proprietary methodology, the Arabesque S-Ray, which daily assesses the performance of companies.

Green #sukuk creates ripples on prominent environmental concerns

According to Securities Commission Malaysia (SC) deputy CEO Datuk Zainal Izlan Zainal Abidin, the world will need up to US$90 trillion (RM360 trillion) worth of investments for infrastructure by 2030. This presents a significant opportunity for green finance and green sukuk to be part of the mainstream investment for the financing solutions. In July 2017, SC, Bank Negara Malaysia and the World Bank Group established the country’s first green sukuk. Green sukuk has become the trend that has received support from investors and regulators on a global scale. NewParadigm Capital Markets Managing Director Charanjeev Singh says more green sukuk issuances are expected to take up the Islamic finance space as Malaysia continues to be the catalyst for Islamic bonds. So far, the focus has been big government-owned companies. The next level of development would be to facilitate the middle- market or the mid-sized companies, and not necessarily the government- owned or government-linked, but the A or AA ratings.

Lack of scale, lower returns in Islamic finance need addressing

According to Sultan Nazrin, Islamic finance needs to address the lack of scale, volatility in Islamic equity markets and lower returns for Islamic investing. In his keynote speech at the Franklin Templeton 2018 Islamic Forum in Kuala Lumpur, he highlighted four key areas that need to be addressed. While the overall sukuk market has posted growth in recent years, the resilience of Islamic equities and funds cannot be taken for granted as most of them lack scale. Another issue to be addressed is the greater volatility seen lately in global Islamic-listed equity markets. Sultan Nazrin said that an unparalleled benchmark for governance must be established that balances financial and ethical considerations. He added that innovation represents a challenge and an opportunity for the industry, thus Islamic finance must embrace the modern era of disruption, with a continued strong focus on product innovation.

Islamic finance — focus on capital market development

The Islamic finance sector is a subset of the overall domestic financial sector. Governments face pretty much the same contingent liabilities with Islamic banks as they do with conventional ones. Some 73% of total Islamic finance assets are within Islamic banks. Takaful accounts for a mere 2%, while the remainder 25% constitute assets within capital market instruments such as sukuk, mutual funds and others. Thus, within the Islamic finance space, banking is at least three times the size of capital markets. Policymakers would be well advised to seek not just to grow Islamic finance, but focus on the capital markets component. This is not just good from a macroeconomic vulnerability viewpoint, but is also more in keeping with the Shariah philosophy of risk sharing.

#Malaysia remains lead in Islamic finance

Malaysia has great potential to broaden its market share and strengthen its leadership in Islamic finance. According to the latest report by the Malaysia International Islamic Financial Centre, Asia’s Islamic financial assets amounted to US$528.7 billion (RM2.05 trillion), or 26% of the world’s Shariah-compliant financial assets as at end-2017. Malaysia continued to be the main driver for both sukuk outstanding and issuance for the year, with a market share of 51% and 36.2% respectively as at end-2017. The country also led in the Islamic wealth management industry with US$28.3 billion (36.5% global share). It also ranked first in terms of number of funds with a total of 394 funds and 27.9% global share, followed by Pakistan with 147 funds and Indonesia with 143. In the banking sector, Malaysia ranked third globally after Iran and Saudi Arabia with a total Islamic banking assets of US$204.4 billion as at end-2017.

Syed Alwi is Agrobank’s new CEO

Agrobank has appointed Syed Alwi Mohamed Sultan as its new president and CEO. The appointment has received approval from Bank Negara Malaysia and the Ministry of Finance. Previously, he had held several senior management positions with various banks such as Bank Muamalat Malaysia, BNP Paribas, Standard Chartered Saadiq, The Islamic Bank of Asia and HL Bank Singapore. Syed Alwi has a bachelor’s degree in Accounting and a first-class master of business administration in Islamic finance from the International Islamic University of Malaysia. Agrobank became a full-fledged Islamic bank in 2015. It provides Shariah-compliant banking products and funding to cater for the halal food industry and agriculture-related activities.

MBSB rebrands AFB as MBSB Bank

Malaysia Building Society Bhd (MBSB) has rebranded its recently acquired Asian Finance Bank Bhd (AFB) as MBSB Bank. MBSB Bank's CEO Datuk Seri Ahmad Zaini Othman said the bank would provide Shariah-compliant products and services, such as consumer banking, business banking and trade financing. He added that the bank would also focus on developing its financial technology capabilities to attract more customers. The lender has already embarked on several digitisation initiatives, including big data projects started in June 2017. MBSB Bank plans to launch its fintech capabilities for wealth management and trade facilities by the third quarter of this year, and to have Internet banking facilities ready by end-2018. MBSB finalised its acquisition of AFB in February for RM644.95 million with the latter becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of MBSB. With the transfer of all MBSB’s Shariah-compliant assets and liabilities to AFB, MBSB Bank is the second-largest full-fledged Islamic bank in the country.

Time for Islamic finance to move away from replicating debt contracts

2017 was in many ways a dichotomous year for the global economy. The US, Western Europe and industrial Asia had all seen strong growth. While developed countries have had a good year, the Muslim world, by both economic and political measures, appeared to have had a fairly miserable 2017. With a few exceptions like, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Turkey, the traditional powerhouses, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries have had quite a dismal year. Looking ahead to 2018, the geopolitical problems of 2017 will not simply disappear this year, the many underlying causes of the last global recession remain unresolved. The hope for the restructuring of the financial sector never really happened. The tough regulatory initiatives then proposed, have also been pushed back. For its own rejuvenation and to truly contribute to the Muslim world, Islamic finance needs to move away from merely replicating debt contracts to risk-sharing contracts.

#Green #sukuk set for exciting time

The green bond industry has achieved phenomenal growth since its beginning in 2007. Today, leading corporations in various sectors tap into green bonds to raise funding. Toyota revolutionised the green bond market by introducing the auto industry’s first-ever AssetBacked Green Bond in 2014. In May 2016, the London Taxi Co issued a US$400 million (RM1.56 billion) green bond to finance projects, enabling the production of zero-emission-capable vehicles. The first green sukuk was issued in July 2017 by Tadau Energy, with an issuance of RM250 million Green SRI Sukuk to finance a large-scale solar project. Subsequently in October 2017, Quantum Solar Park Malaysia issued its green SRI sukuk worth RM1 billion to finance the construction of three large-scale solar photovoltaic plants. The green sukuk market is expected to grow further in 2018 and beyond. However, the sukuk industry will have to face a twofold challenge. Firstly to convince the issuers to adopt the Shariah-compliant route, secondly to achieve critical mass for the green sukuk market in order to achieve optimal costs of issuance and enable a liquid secondary market trading.

#Takaful #Malaysia to leverage on #digitalisation after high returns

Takaful Malaysia aims to expand its market share in the general takaful business after recording higher turnover and earnings for its 2017 fiscal year. The company increased its revenue by 6.5% to RM2.14 billion year-on-year due to the higher sales in the family and general takaful businesses. Group CEO Datuk Seri Mohamed Hassan Md Kamil said the company maintained its lead position in the family takaful segment and the fire and motor classes’ gross contribution shot 20% up from FY16 to close at RM591 million. He added that Takaful Malaysia is also in the middle of enhancing its digital capabilities. Significant investment has been made in tools, applications and new technologies to improve operational efficiencies and enhance the customer experience. The takaful operator surpassed the RM200 million mark for the first time since its inception in 1984, growing at a compounded annual growth rate of 27%.

Bank Islam launches social finance platform, Sadaqa House

Bank Islam Malaysia has recently launched its social finance initiative, Sadaqa House. It aims to provide products and services to collect sadaqah, waqf and hibah. The public can contribute to realising social finance projects for sectors such as healthcare, education and entrepreneurship through the bank’s digital crowdfunding partnership with Ethis Ventures and GlobalSadaqa.com. Bank Islam CEO Khairul Kamarudin said the bank was utilising technology in its Shariah solutions to deliver a service that is aligned with the current digital trend. Also, contributors can ensure the funds contributed are being channelled accordingly and track the progress of the chosen project. Ethis Ventures founder Umar Munshi said the platform was not limited to Muslims and Malaysians. Any amount of money can be donated by the public into the Sadaqa House fund account, while Bank Islam will match the raised fund at the rate of 1:1 to a maximum of RM500,000.

Diyanet against Bitcoin

Diyanet, the Turkish religious authority has ruled that bitcoin is not in accordance with Islam at this point of time.

“Buying and selling virtual currencies is not compatible with religion at this time. Because of the fact that their valuation is open to speculation, they can be easily used in illegal activities like money laundering and they are not under the state’s audit and surveillance,” according to Diyanet, as quoted by local newspapers. Noteworthy it said is also that the digital currencies are not under a central authority or under guarantee of a state or financial institution.

A recently released 55-page research paper by Faraz Adam of Amanah Finance Consultancy on the topic, it was concluded that bitcoin is “not ideal as a long-term investment, and neither should the Islamic finance industry consider its use in exchange, unless there is a specific need, until a regulated and transparent framework is established”.

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