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#Bangladesh's Islamic finance industry keeps booming with no slowdown in sight

The central bank of Bangladesh approved applications from two domestic banks, Standard Bank and NRB Global Bank, to become fully Islamic banks. The two banks so far only operated Islamic windows but sought to convert to fully-fledged Shariah-compliant banks to enlarge their scope of product offerings. NRB Global Bank said it plans to change its name to Global Islami Bank to underscore its new role. The move brings the number of fully-fledged Islamic banks in Bangladesh to ten, with the others being Al-Arafah Islami Bank, Islami Bank Bangladesh, Exim Bank, Social Islami Bank, Shahjalal Islami Bank, Union Bank, First Security Islami Bank and ICB Islamic Bank. Analysts note that the industry has still high potential for further expansion as Bangladesh enjoys a vibrant economy with GDP per capita having more than tripled over the past decade.

Swiss fintech firms venture deeper into Middle East

Swiss fintech company Instimatch has launched into the Middle East, having won a licence to operate in Qatar, and signed up its first Kuwaiti bank. The company is poised to incorporate Islamic finance-compliant solutions and blockchain into its platform. Qatar's Masraf Al Rayan and Ahli banks are among the 80-plus entities signed up by Instimatch, along with Kuwait's Gulf Bank. Instimatch plans to have Qatar as a springboard for further expansion in the Middle East and later to Africa and Asia. Along with other countries in the region, Qatar recently launched a national fintech strategy to beef up its financial centre with digital innovations.

Qatar- Malaysia builds framework for digital Islamic banks

Malaysia's central bank Bank Negara Malaysia is pushing the financial sector to join the digital banking revolution. It is preparing the issuance of the country's first five digital banking licences. Digital banks also named virtual banks, neobanks or challenger banks predominantly deliver banking services through digital channels such as Internet portals and smartphone apps with minimal, if any, brick-and-mortar presence. Among the largest standalone digital banks globally are currently N26 from Germany, Monzo, Starling and Revolut from the UK, Chime from the US, Tangerine from Canada, Nubank from Brazil, Neat from Hong Kong and WeBank from China. In the Islamic financial industry examples are insha, a co-operation of Turkey's Albaraka Turk Participation Bank with German solarisBank, and some others such as Boubyan Bank. Adding to this, Qatar Islamic Bank as part of its digital transformation has developed a fully digital financing services arm. Malaysia could potentially join with digital Islamic banking services in case Maybank and CIMB receive digital banking licences.

Stronger GCC appetite set to spur uptick in #sukuk issuance in 2020

A stronger appetite for sukuk issuance in some GCC countries is among the key factors that promise to spark an uptick in the market. S&P Global Ratings estimates a total sukuk issuance of between $160 billion and $170 billion this year, representing 5% growth on the $162 billion seen in 2019. The total estimated issuances include $40 billion-$45 billion of foreign currency sukuks. The expected upswing in sukuk issuances will be underpinned by high levels of liquidity in Indonesia, Turkey's efforts to tap all available financing sources, and the good performance in Malaysia. The green sukuk market will continue to expand, aided by opportunities related to energy mix diversification in the GCC/Malaysia and investor diversification. As GCC countries begin their transition toward less carbon-intensive economies, green projects are set to flourish. Some of these projects will likely be funded via the sukuk market.

The IFSB Database Completes Five Years Data for Islamic Banking Systems in 21 Countries, including the United Kingdom for the First Time

The Islamic Financial Services Board (IFSB) published country-level data on financial soundness and growth of the Islamic banking systems for Q1 of 2018 from 21 IFSB member jurisdictions. This report includes the data from four newly joined countries, namely: Qatar, Palestine, Lebanon, and the first time for the United Kingdom. With the inclusion of new countries’ data, the total assets of the Islamic banking industry grew by 8.0% from USD 1,573 billion in 2017Q1 to USD 1,699 billion in 2018Q1. Financing by Islamic banks grew by 6.7% and reached USD 1,033 billion in 2018Q1 from USD 968 billion in 2017Q1. The number of full-fledged Islamic banks and Islamic windows of conventional banks in 21 IFSB member participating countries stood at 188 and 85 in 2018Q1 as compared to 184 and 84 in 2017Q1 respectively.

#Saudi- Finance Minister heads the Kingdom's delegation to the 43rd Islamic Development Bank board of governors Annual Meeting in Tunis

Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan will head the Kingdom's delegation to the 43rd Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of the Islamic Development Bank between April 4-5 in Tunis. The Saudi delegation will include Dr. Ahmad Al-Khulaifi, Governor of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA), Dr. Hamad Al-Bazie, Vice Minister of Finance, Eng. Yousef Al-Bassam, Vice President and Managing Director of the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD). The IDB annual meeting's agenda will comprise of discussion sessions about the 2017 IDB activities report, IDB's institutions annual report and the establishment of the Islamic Solidarity Fund for Development (ISFD). The ISFD aims to alleviate poverty, develop capacity, and eradicate illiteracy, diseases and epidemics in member countries via funding various productive, social and service projects and programs.

The Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD) Signs Memorandum of Understanding with JANA to Test New Banking Model

The Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with JANA Bena'a Productive Families of Saudi Arabia in order to test a new banking model named Biniog Sathi. The MOU was singed by Khaled Al-Aboodi, the CEO of ICD and Mohammed Al Khamis, Chairman of JANA Bena'a Productive Families. The new banking model will resolve the problem of credit default in the banking industry with the help of Zakat and Sadaqa. JANA Bena'a Productive Families Centre provides interest free loans to support women in starting their own businesses.

Trustbank Amanah, the first Islamic Bank in #Suriname and region, to play an important role in the development of entrepreneurship and economic growth

Islamic banking has made its entry in Suriname with the approval of the Central Bank of Suriname for Islamic products and services in the banking sector. The official opening of Trustbank Amanah, the first Islamic Bank in Suriname, took place on Thursday 7th of December 2017. Trustbank Amanah aims to develop, support and encourage Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in accordance with Islamic Finance principles. After the official launch of Trustbank Amanah, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed with the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Tourism and the Association for Surinamese Business (VSB) to stimulate, support and develop local SMEs.

Qatar- Islamic finance making inroads into the #US

Islamic finance is increasingly making inroads into the US in a variety of forms, but widely out of the radar of the broader public. In the recent past, there has been a rise in the number of Islamic financial service providers. There are now about three dozen official Islamic finance providers in the US. Among the top institutions offering Islamic financial services in the country in terms of asset size are Lariba American Finance House and the associated Bank of Whittier in Los Angeles, as well as University Islamic Financial in Michigan. In terms of skills training, Harvard University has an Harvard Islamic Finance Program and the Franco-American Alliance for Islamic Finance is organising Islamic finance seminars this summer. On the consumer side, Islamic finance in the US is mostly prevalent in the real estate market.

IFC finds Arab indebtedness serious challenge to microfinance

A new study from IFC has found that external risks, security concerns, and over-indebtedness are perceived as the most serious challenges facing the microfinance sector in the Arab World. The survey, conducted in conjunction with Sanabel, the Microfinance Network of Arab Countries, said tackling those problems will be key to spurring the development of the industry. Microfinance has grown at a much slower rate in MENA over the last six to seven years, than it has in other parts of the developing world. The report marks the first in a series of studies on the microfinance sector to be developed by IFC and Sanabel. The initiative is part of IFC's wider efforts in MENA to expand access to finance, support to micro, small, and medium enterprises, and create jobs.

US startup brings innovative Islamic microfinance to Indonesia

Founded in San Francisco and recently moved to Jakarta, a financial startup called Blossom aims at nothing less than shaking up the microfinance sector in Indonesia. The company, launched in October 2014 by US entrepreneur and practicing Muslim Matthew Joseph Martin, plans to bring Shariah-compliant microfinance to the country. What sets Blossom apart from other financing schemes are two special features. First of all, its entire platform is Shariah-compliant. The second feature is the fact that its platform uses the cryptocurrency Bitcoin for global money transfers, at least in the background, to keep transfer costs low and money flows transparent. Last month, Blossom announced that it will make a "pilot investment of up to 100,000" in Bitcoins into BMT Nusantara Condet to fund small to medium businesses in Jakarta.

Sukuk industry: SABIC's pioneering role in spotlight

The tenth edition of Euromoney Saudi Arabia conference concluded on Wednesday with a firm belief that multisectoral reforms to diversify the Kingdom's economy an approach to look beyond the oil sector will add value to the local market with financial dynamism. Experts in the first session of the concluding day on sovereign bonds and sukuk referred to the intersection of ethical investment and Islamic finance in the wake of the Tadawul opening up to foreign investors for the first time. The panelists observed that in the context of the global financial crisis Islamic finance is seen as a significant option in international market which is good for the Kingdom that plays a leadership role.

Tadhamon International Islamic Bank - Ratings Downgraded

Capital Intelligence (CI) has downgraded the ratings of Tadhamon International Islamic Bank's (TIIB), based in Sana'a, Yemen. TIIB's Financial Strength Rating (FSR) is downgraded to 'B' from 'B', and the Outlook for the FSR is downgraded to 'Negative'. The Outlook for TIIB's Foreign Currency Ratings, which are affirmed at 'C' Long-Term and 'C' Short-Term, are downgraded to 'Negative' as is the case with all CI-rated Yemeni banks, reflecting the current turmoil and severe economic weakness. The Support Rating is maintained at '4', reflecting the limited capacity of support. Non-performing loans (NPLs) and assets are expected to rise, which will require additional provisioning, thereby hitting profitability.

Saudi- Islamic banking: Who is in control

Backed by a good track record and triple A ratings IsDB issued a 1.5 billion sukuk as part of its ambitious program to raise 10 billion. The issuance was met with success despite the general market uncertainty. The value of sukuk offered is still small despite the fact the Islamic finance industry is believed to have grown to 2 trillion. Governments and institutions in the west and Islamic states are driving this lucrative business. However, existing regulations suffer from being incomprehensive and untested in most cases and that again could be traced to the lack of a central body with authority to enforce such regulation. Accordingly it is left to each individual country to come up with whatever it sees fit to adopt and apply.

Saudi- Call for more focus on endowment properties

Saleh Kamel, chairman Board of Trustees Iqraa Waqf for Employment & Business Expansion, has highlighted the worsening situation of endowment properties in Muslim countries as a result of interference of governments. Kamel who is also chairman of the board of trustees of Iqra Endowment, emphasized the role of development in fighting poverty while speaking at the 35th Albaraka Symposium for Islamic Economics. He urged the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) to strengthen its efforts in developing endowment properties in the Islamic world. Other speakers presented a number of models for endowments from different parts of the world, and emphasized the need for transparency.

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