Islamic Banking

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Without reforms, #Iranian banking crisis looms

In Iran, concerns are growing that banks may be facing the fate of credit and financial institutions (CFIs) that are on the verge of collapse. The Central Bank of Iran (CBI) is under rising pressure from the parliament to immediately regulate these nonbank credit institutions, as an increasing number of depositors protest delays. Now, there are fears that banks could be next. To avoid this scenario, pundits are suggesting that the CBI be granted more autonomy by the parliament so that it will take more serious disciplinary measures. The administration of President Hassan Rouhani has been trying to pass the bill in the parliament, but certain influential bodies have blocked the legislation. The huge government debt is putting excessive pressure on the banking system, but the Iranian public still trusts banks, even as many CFIs have collapsed.

Maroc- En attendant le #takaful, le financement de l'immobilier par les banques islamiques sera une prise de risque

Deux banques islamiques ou ''participatives'' ont démarré mercredi 26 juillet 2017 officiellement leurs activités au Maroc. Le takaful n’existant pas encore sur le marché, explique Adnane El Guetari, le directeur général d'Umnia Bank. Si les Umnia Bank et Bank Assafa se sont engagées dans ce créneau pour des opérations de base, toute la profession attend cependant la réaction de la Banque centrale du Maroc, Bank Al Maghirb, et les modèles de contrats contrat ijara et au placement des dépôts d’investissements. Selon l’agence américaine de notation Standard & Poor's, la finance islamique pourrait représenter entre 10 et 20% du système bancaire du Maroc.

Do more to boost Islamic #trade finance

As the World Trade Organisation (WTO) reaffirmed commitment to its Aid for Trade initiative, the outlook for global trade over the next two years is indeed mixed. WTO is forecasting that global trade will expand by 2.4% this year and between 2.1 to 4% next year, reflecting the continued uncertainty of the global economy. In Malaysia, Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) Governor Muhammed Ibrahim wants Malaysia’s Islamic finance industry to boost trade finance to increase largely untapped business opportunities using technological capture. BNM is keen for Syariah-compliant trade financing to support 10% of total trade in the next three years. Malaysia’s Islamic finance industry has assets under management totalling RM742 billion. BNM wants the industry to leverage this pole position and to account for 40% of total financing in Malaysia by 2020.

#Kazakhstan, #Malaysia plant seeds for green Islamic finance

Astana International Financial Center (AIFC) has gained the support of technology financier Malaysia Debt Ventures (MDV) to develop both green and Islamic finance in Kazakhstan. Under a newly agreed MoU, AIFC and MDV will work closely with each other to share best practices, expertise and knowledge in these two areas. Apart from sharing knowledge, both parties will also explore financing green projects using Islamic financing tools. While not fully operational yet, AIFC is keeping busy by setting the groundwork. Green finance received a huge boost earlier in January when the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development agreed to launch the Green Financial System for Kazakhstan project, financed by Finland. With eyes on a comprehensive green financial system, engaging MDV could culminate in a variety of Islamic financial products for sustainable eco-friendly projects including green Sukuk.

#Fintech and Islamic #Crowdfunding

The Islamic Financial Services Board (IFSB) in its annual report highlighted developments in the Islamic Finance Fintech space. To identify relevant crowdfunding platforms with a focus on equity- and loan-based platforms located in the Muslim world, the database of Crowdsurfer was consulted. It lists in 32 of the 57 member states of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) a total of 108 crowdfunding platforms. After some corrections, the Crowdsurfer database identifies 14 equity-based and 13 commercial loan-based crowdfunding platforms with an active status. The number of platforms in OIC member states that explicitly refer to Islamic finance or Shariah and offer investors financial returns is very small. There are two more Islam-oriented active platforms of this type outside the OIC: Ethis Crowd (Singapore) for real estate, and KapitalBoost (Singapore) for SME financing.

#Malaysia in bid to lift Islamic finance

The Malaysian Institute of Accountants (MIA) announced that Malaysia could become the first country to incorporate the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) in Islamic finance. MIA president Datuk Mohammad Faiz Azmi said the accounting body was looking into the prospect. He added that MIA will come out with a book on how to apply the IFRS in Islamic finance, as many countries have not adopted it yet. The book will be launched later this month with the help of the regulators and banks. According to MIA, Malaysia adopted the IFRS in 2012, in keeping pace with global trends. The IFRS brings transparency, accountability and efficiency to financial markets. Faiz said MIA’s role was assisting Malaysian Accounting Standards Board (MASB) to prepare the market for IFRS. For that, MIA carries out various workshops and courses.

Africa is Islamic banking’s new frontier

Several African countries are vying to become regional hubs for Islamic finance. Kenya has three Islamic banks, as well as an Islamic insurance company. A further five conventional banks offer sharia-compliant products through dedicated Islamic 'windows'. Kenya also hopes to issue a sovereign sukuk to raise funds for infrastructure and help foster an Islamic capital market. Nigeria, which has one Islamic bank, plans to do the same. South Africa, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire and Togo have already issued sovereign sukuk. In north Africa Islamic finance has long been held back by a fear that it means introducing sharia law through the back door. South of the Sahara the problems are more structural. According to Thorsten Beck of City University in London, Islamic banks’ sources of funds are mainly short-term, making it hard for them to offer long-term financing. Khaled Al-Aboodi of the Islamic Development Bank says regulators don’t yet know how to deal with the sector. In Kenya Islamic transactions still face double taxation, which makes it hard to compete.

External Shariah #audit in Islamic banks

The external Shariah audit is the latest development in the area of Shariah governance of the global Islamic banking industry. Traditionally, Islamic banks appoint a Shariah supervisory board with the mandate to oversee Shariah compliance. An additional layer of assurance by an independent party will provide greater assurance to the Islamic banks' stakeholders. Several central banks are already using the external Shariah audit in their governance system, for example the Central Bank of Kuwait or the central banks of Oman and Pakistan. Several other jurisdictions, including Bahrain, are also likely to do the same. The Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Institutions (AAOIFI) recently issued an Exposure Draft specifically on external Shariah audit. Availability of human resource can be a challenge in implementing external Shariah audit. This can be overcome by taking initiatives to train both the professional accountants and Shariah experts to conduct an external Shariah audit.

The future of Islamic finance in #Spain

In Spain the Muslim population exceeds two million being higher than that of Qatar or Bahrain and similar to the population of Kuwait. However, there are no Shari'ah compliant services or assets under management. Europe advances in this type of financing. The United Kingdom was the first non-Muslim country that held in 2014 an emission of sovereign Sukuk bonds amounting to 200 million pounds. In 2015 Kuwait Finance House (KFH) opened a subsidiary in Germany, Habib Bank Zurich will operate in the UK at the end of 2017. There is a clear tendency that Islamic banks are expanding their activities in Western countries and continue introducing their products in these markets. In Spain there is an excellent opportunity to implement Islamic finance as currently there is no market operator offering Shari'ah compliant products or services.

Collaboration Between DIFC And DIEDC Set To Launch Islamic #FinTech

Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre (DIEDC). Earlier this year, DIFC launched FinTech Hive, a 12-week accelerator programme which allows tech start-ups to test and develop FinTech related business ideas. As part of the agreement, the programme will include institutions such as Emirates Islamic Bank, Dubai Islamic Bank, and Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, to mentor participants in the field of Islamic finance technology. Arif Amiri, CEO of DIFC said this MoU was an important step for FinTech, for the Islamic economy and for FinTech Hive. For his part, Abdulla Mohammed Al Awar, CEO of DIEDC, said FinTech Hive at DIFC will go a long way towards developing segments like mobile banking and payment systems, as well as SME financing.

Le combat de la ville de Nice contre une enseigne de «finance islamique»

Alors qu'une société souhaitait installer des enseignes lumineuses avec la mention "finance islamique", le tribunal administratif de Nice a validé le refus de la mairie. Un nouveau dossier communautaire à gérer pour la ville, un an après l'affaire des burkinis. Le dossier pourrait raviver les tensions. Le tribunal administratif de Nice a débouté aujourd'hui jeudi 6 juillet la société Noorassur de sa requête contre la mairie de Nice, et a validé le refus par la mairie que la société appose deux enseignes lumineuses. Le juge a estimé que la décision de la mairie ne pouvait être regardée comme portant atteinte. Dans un communiqué, Christian Estrosi s'est félicité de la décision du tribunal. Du côté de la société Noorassur, l'ordonnance rendue en référé ne clôt pas l'affaire.

Amid Dana debacle, Islamic finance seeks safeguards against illegality claims

The Islamic finance industry is seeking ways to safeguard deals against challenges to their religious permissibility. Sharjah-based Dana Gas declared it would not make payments on $700 million of sukuk because Islamic finance standards had changed since the instruments were issued. This raised concern across the Islamic finance industry that more companies could avoid redeeming sukuk by adopting the same argument as Dana. To try to avoid similar cases in future, investors may demand more detailed and restrictive language in sukuk documentation. Such language already exists for some sukuk, but it is not used consistently and is not standardised. Investors may also screen the groups of scholars who provide sharia endorsements for sukuk. The newly formed high sharia authority for Islamic banking and finance is expected to set rules and a general framework for Islamic finance governance in the United Arab Emirates.

CIMB Islamic CEO says Dana Gas’ case is a dud, won’t hurt market

According to Mohamed Rafe Mohamed Haneef, CEO of CIMB Islamic Bank, Dana Gas’s case will leave the global Islamic finance industry relatively unaffected. Dana Gas said it no longer considered its two securities due in October as compliant with Islamic principles under UAE law. Unlike Malaysia, most Arab countries have no centralised Shariah boards to approve deal structures. In Haneef's opinion, Dana Gas’s case will probably be dismissed, as the sukuk agreement is subject to laws in both the United Arab Emirates and the U.K. A U.K. court is due to issue a ruling on Dana Gas' attempt to extend an injunction preventing sukuk holders from taking action regarding the debt. The company has proposed restructuring the notes on terms that are less advantageous to investors and plans to explain the legal action on a conference call with investors on July 6.

Shariah-compliant, gold-backed #digi-coins could change Islamic finance

The launch of the first-ever Islamic finance-compatible cryptocurrency could be a game changer for the entire Islamic banking industry. OneGram calls itself the world’s first Shariah-compliant cryptocurrency whose value is backed by actual gold reserves. The company started selling a total stock of 12.4mn digital tokens on May 21 that are backed by one gram of gold each. The Initial Coin Offering programme aims to raise around $500mn. At its sister company GoldGuard, OneGram will store the physical gold in a vault inside the Dubai Airport Free Zone. OneGram’s founder and CEO, Mohammed Ibrahim Khan, says he felt inspired by Bitcoin whose use is subdued in the Arab world. He added that OneGram has Shariah scholars on its board who ensure that the company is fully compliant with Islamic finance requirements. According to Mohammed, large-scale funds of more than $200mn have been committed by Dubai-based Tabarak Investment Capital. The sale of the OneGram coins is going on until September 22 this year and no more coins will be ever issued from then.

Dana debacle highlights need for unified Islamic finance regulator

A recent report from Standard & Poor’s said that Islamic financial assets had accelerated toward the end of 2016, but that such progress was unsustainable in the long term. The agency pointed out too that a lack of standardization was a barrier to creating a truly global industry based in the Middle East. The Islamic economy would continue to grow but at much lower rates than in the boom years from 2007 onward. It is against this background that recent events at Dana Gas should be seen. In 2013, the company issued sukuk totaling $700 million. Dana, which does a lot of its business in Egypt and Iraq, had problems getting paid in those countries. Earlier this month, Dana said it had received new legal advice which meant its sukuk were no longer to be considered Shariah-compliant. The Dana debacle confirms the belief that what is really needed is a much more standardized regulatory approach in the Islamic finance market.

The rise of Islamic fintech, global opportunities for #Bahrain

At the moment Islamic fintech is more of an aspiration than a reality. As the fintech industry and the demand for ethical investments grows exponentially, we are witnessing a want for the convergence of two. Seeing this space in the Middle Eastern banking industry, the Kingdom of Bahrain has entered a partnership with fintech incubator Singapore Fintech Consortium (SFC) and asset management and advisory firm Trucial Investment Partners. This partnership stands to initiate, nurture and sustain Bahrain’s fintech ecosystem while pulling from the experience of global industry leaders. Likewise, Bahrain has also recently opened a consultation led by the Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB), with the aim of establishing a regulatory sandbox for fintech. It enables businesses to take advantage of the concentration of Islamic financial institutions and the consultation focuses on crowdfunding, including Shari’ah-compliant crowdfunding.

#Kuwait’s Islamic finance sector on strong growth trajectory, IMF says

According to a recent study by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Kuwait’s Islamic financial services sector is growing rapidly, with Islamic banking emerging as the most developed component of the industry. Islamic banks’ market share increased rapidly between 2005 and 2010 and has since then stabilised at around 38%. Kuwait’s Islamic banking sector includes systemically important banks. The largest Islamic bank in Kuwait accounts for 23% of total banking system assets, over 70% of the Islamic banking assets. The capital adequacy ratio and Tier-1 capital remain above 15%. The IMF report notes that the economic diversification effort could help drive further growth in Kuwait’s Islamic banking industry.

IMF warns #Kenya of loopholes in Islamic banking #regulation

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned that the rapid growth of Islamic finance in Kenya is happening without adequate protection of depositors. Despite the fact that the Shariah banks are already offering loan products, Kenya is yet to refine its prudential regulations to cater for Islamic banking. Kenya is also yet to come up with a Shariah-compliant deposit insurance scheme and is continuing to manage deposit insurance premiums in a single pool for all banks. This situation could complicate compensation of depositors if a bank offering conventional and Islamic products collapses. According to the IMF, Kenya should seek to bring clarity to the grey areas in Islamic finance as it drafts amendments to the banking law as promised in the 2017/18 budget.

Islamic finance growth to lose momentum in 2018: S&P report

According to S&P Global Ratings, the Islamic finance industry will continue to expand this year, but will lose some momentum in 2018. Even though sukuk issuance accelerated in the first half of this year and will likely stay strong in the second half, S&P Global Ratings believes this growth rate is not sustainable. In their view, the current economic situation in core Islamic finance markets and depreciation of local currencies have weighed on the industry’s performance in 2016 and 2017. The report foresees a deterioration of GCC Islamic banks’ profitability in 2017 and 2018 as the cost of funding has increased and the cost of risk is on the rise. Sharia is still interpreted in different ways across the various Islamic finance markets. However, the industry appears to be going in the right direction with the proposal for central Shariah boards.

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