The Edge Markets

My Say: Financing Covid-19 stimulus packages with GDP-linked #sukuk

The fiscal cost of fighting the economic fallout of the pandemic has been great for each nation. Many governments have already pledged billions in grants to support fiscal stimulus packages. Through moratoriums and debt relief programmes, capital that would have otherwise been used to pare down debts will instead be utilised by vulnerable groups and SMEs to support their expenditures in times of reduced income. These expenditures will in turn contribute towards GDP growth, save jobs and limit unemployment. But in order to do so, governments have to dig deep into their reserves. GDP-linked sukuk is one way to convert debts into equity repayments based on the GDP performance of the country. GDP-indexed securities can be viewed as desirable vehicles for international risk sharing and for avoiding the disruptions arising from formal default.

ESG, syariah stock indices slightly outpaced conventional counterparts on better management, lower leverage — Islamic finance heads

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) and Islamic stock indices have marginally outperformed their conventional counterparts this year, owing to their better management and lower leverage. Refinitiv head of Islamic finance Mustafa Adil said while syariah-compliant equity indices experienced identical volatility-induced declines to conventional stock indices, they had staged a better recovery so far. He added that these equities are expected to provide greater returns in the medium to long term as they are less leveraged.

Potential of Islamic capital market remains promising at home and abroad – Bursa chairman

According to Bursa Malaysia chairman Tan Sri Abdul Wahid Omar, the potential of the Islamic capital market remains promising both in Malaysia and abroad. During his keynote address at the Shariah Investing Virtual Conference 2020 Abdul Wahid said that in Malaysia alone, the industry of Islamic funds had demonstrated impressive growth. As of March, syariah funds stood at RM170 billion, representing 23% of total industry assets under management (AUM). Syariah unit trust funds' net asset value (NAV) stood at RM99 billion. Abdul Wahid added that there are opportunities for further product innovation and development to provide investors with more syariah-based products.

World Bank: Islamic finance value proposition has to be clear

The World Bank said the Islamic capital market's (ICM) value proposition has to be very clear to show that its concept is more powerful than the environmental, societal and governance (ESG) investment schemes. World Bank financial sector specialist consultant Dr Mohamed Eskandar Shah said ESG's value proposition seems to be quite straight forward compared to Islamic finance. He noted that between 2007 and 2019, the ICM, measured in global shariah equities, saw a 4.3% growth a year compared to the 10.2% expansion in ESG equities. As such, Islamic finance could become a subset of ESG investing, or eventually people will brand Islamic finance in the context of ESG, rather than Islamic finance having its own identity.

Hong Leong Islamic appoints Rusni Hassan as Shariah Committee chairman

Hong Leong Islamic Bank (HLISB) has appointed Professor Dr Rusni Hassan as the chairman of its Shariah Committee effective April 1, 2020. Rusni is a professor at the IIUM Institute of Islamic Banking and Finance and is an influential veteran in the Islamic finance and banking industry. Her works and contributions to Islamic finance have also been recognised internationally including being listed in the prestigious Top 10 Most Influential Women in Islamic Business and Finance 2019 and Top 50 Most Influential Women in Islamic Finance 2018 by Cambridge IFA.

Islamic investments a more stable choice in uncertain times

According to Malaysian Principal Islamic Asset Management CEO Datuk Syed Mashafuddin Syed Badarudin, Islamic investments are less volatile than their conventional counterparts and may be a better choice for investors during times of uncertainty. He notes that the increased uncertainty from the coronavirus outbreak has led to financial market volatility not seen since the last global financial crisis. Asean countries, including Malaysia, have already cut policy rates in response to the turmoil. Based on real interest rates in the region, there is more room for rate cuts and this bodes well for bond prices. Badarudin expects that market conditions will continue to be volatile until some stability is seen regarding the virus situation. He expects Principal Islamic to increase its asset size this year despite the more challenging economy.

International #Sukuk Issuance volumes expected to grow in coming years - Fitch

According to Fitch Ratings, international sukuk issuance from major Islamic finance markets were almost unchanged in the first nine months of 2019 year-on-year (y-o-y). Sukuk issuance with a maturity of more than 18 months from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region, Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey and Pakistan totalled US$30.6 billion in 9M19 compared with US$31 billion in 9M18. This supports the view that volumes normalised rather than declined last year after hitting record levels in 2017. Fitch said that GCC debt markets are still relatively developing, and individual sovereign funding decisions can profoundly affect total supply. Fitch believes that new issuance volumes in the coming years will also be supported by refinancing activity. Nearly two-thirds of the US$99.4 billion of outstanding Fitch-rated sukuk at end-1H19 mature in less than five years.

Virtual banks can attract more millennials to Islamic banks

According to Professor Datuk Dr Azmi Omar, President of the International Centre for Education in Islamic Finance (INCEIF), it is necessary to address millennials, as they constitute a significant proportion of the Malaysian population. Therefore, Islamic banks must be smart enough, in either that they create another subsidiary, a virtual bank, or roll out more of their services in terms of virtual applications. He added that virtual Islamic banks will attract millennials, but not everyone will go for digital banking. It is an alternative. In March this year, BNM governor Datuk Nor Shamsiah Yunus said the central bank had had some preliminary discussions with a few banks, with virtual banks overseas. In its report on Islamic Banking Moody's noted that Malaysia planned to issue new virtual banking licenses by end-2019. This could increase competition for deposits, especially among Islamic banks with weaker deposit franchises.

Maybank Islamic wants to link up Gulf Cooperation Council with Asean

Maybank Islamic wants to be the bridge for the Islamic banking sector between the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the ASEAN region. CEO Datuk Mohamed Rafique Merican expressed confidence that the company would be able to play the role in facilitating the trade, as well as flow of funds for financial activities between the two regions. Last year, MIB announced that it might receive regulatory approvals to set up its Dubai branch in the first half of 2019. Maybank Islamic has strong footprints in Islamic finance, particularly in Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. Being the largest Islamic bank in Malaysia, Maybank Islamic has about RM225 billion worth of assets as at Dec 31, 2018 (FY18). Its total gross financing for FY18 advanced 8.1% year-on-year to RM176.8 billion and its Islamic financing contributed 58.7% to the group's total financing.

Fixed Income: Bite-sized #sukuk with #blockchain

According to Matthew Martin, founder of microfinance investment fund Blossom Finance, technology will make sukuk issuance much cheaper and simpler as well as more available to investors and issuers. The potential for blockchain to transform the bond and sukuk space was noted by S&P Global Ratings last October. The rating agency wrote that blockchain and smart contract protocols could increase the transparency of cash flows and underlying assets. The World Bank created the first public bond to be managed using blockchain last August. According to Reuters, the prototype deal was as a step towards moving bond sales away from manual processes. Blossom will also use blockchain to record all transactions on the ledger. Currently, the company is selectively listing investors who want to be part of the pilot.

#Fintech: Democratising #ESG investing

The use of artificial intelligence (AI) has made it easier for retail investors to access investments that adopt environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles. According to Omar Selim, CEO of Arabesque Asset Management, technology is democratising ESG investing. Nowadays, both large and small financial institutions are able to extract and analyse ESG-related data using AI, which is cheaper and faster. One advantage of using AI is the ability to tap a larger pool of information and monitor the ESG performance of companies on a daily or monthly basis. Selim believes that ESG investing will gain more traction in the future as people’s views on investments change. More and more people want to invest in companies that have good corporate governance and sustainable business models.

#Qatari Islamic banks grow despite regional rift — IFSB data

Assets and revenues at Qatar's Islamic banks have grown over the past year, but an increase in problem loans and a drop in foreign currency lending underscore the impact of a diplomatic rift in the region. Qatar Islamic Bank, Masraf Al Rayan, Qatar International Islamic Bank and Barwa Bank held a combined 358.6 billion riyals (US$96 billion) in assets in the first quarter of this year, an 8.8% increase from a year earlier. Most of that increase was due to their holdings of Islamic bonds, which stood at 65.1 billion riyals in the first quarter, a 37.7% rise from a year ago. Capital adequacy and profitability measures were mostly unchanged, but foreign exchange financing decreased by 7%.

Cagamas issues RM825m 1-year bond and #sukuk

The National Mortgage Corp of Malaysia (Cagamas) has issued a RM825 million 1-year bond and sukuk comprising RM800 million Conventional Medium Term Notes (CMTN) and RM25 million Islamic Medium Term Notes (IMTN). Proceeds will be used to fund the purchase of mortgage and Islamic home loans. With this move the aggregate primary issuance by Cagamas has reached RM9.3 billion for 2018, marking a 24% increase in the company's primary supply as compared to 2017's year-to-date total of RM7.5 billion. Cagamas CEO Datuk Chung Chee Leong said the CMTN issue was concluded via reopening of an existing bond tranche which marked the company's second reopening exercise for the year.

Matrix Concepts, #Indonesian consortium to jointly develop Islamic financial district in Jakarta

Malaysian property developer Matrix Concepts is teaming up with an Indonesian consortium to jointly develop an Islamic financial district in Jakarta. Matrix entered into a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Bangun Kosambi Sukses (BKS) and Nikko Sekuritas Indonesia (NSI) for the joint development dubbed PIK 2 Sedayu Indo City. Matrix said the proposed development was initiated by the Indonesian government in its quest to position itself as an Islamic financial hub. PIK 2 Sedayu Indo City will encompass 1,000ha of land complete with residential houses, apartments, shopping centres, a light rail transit system, and a stadium.

MBSB starts afresh as a full-fledged Islamic bank

MBSB Bank, the result of a merger between Malaysia Building Society and Asian Finance Bank, starts afresh as a full-fledged Islamic bank. According to group CEO Datuk Seri Ahmad Zaini Othman, the bank intends to differentiate itself in the area of transactional banking, as well as in digital capabilities. One of the key targets in MBSB Bank’s three-year business plan is to have fee-based income account for at least 25% of its total income by the end of 2020. The bank hopes that its approach towards customers will also set it apart from other lenders. MBSB Bank is starting out with total assets of RM43.7 billion, making it the second largest standalone Islamic bank after Bank Islam Malaysia (RM57.7 billion). Personal financing constitutes the biggest portion of the bank's gross financing and is extended mainly to civil servants. MBSB plans to make a stronger push in the industrial hire purchase segment, which involves SME financing. Zaini plans to offer a lot more products and services for SMEs, especially in the area of current accounts.

Maybank Islamic to grow trade financing biz

Malaysian Islamic banks are boosting their trade financing market share with various measures. Maybank Islamic CEO Mohamed Rafique Merican said the bank intended to grow its trade facilities in line with growing demand for Islamic finance in Malaysia. Mohamed Rafique was speaking to reporters after a forum on "Islamic Trade Finance: Revitalising Trade and Unlocking New Potential". He said a lot more could be done to boost Islamic trade facilities, which stood at 1.5% out of US$50 billion. RHB Islamic Bank CEO Datuk Adissadikin Ali said Islamic banks would need to collaborate with the financial technology players to provide e-commerce trade financing. He added that RHB Islamic Bank was developing an e-commerce trade financing platform to enable companies to boost their working capital and the platform was likely to be implemented next year.

CIMB expects sovereigns to issue green Islamic bonds in 2018

CIMB Group Holdings expects sovereigns to issue 'green' Islamic bonds for the first time this year. CEO Rafe Haneef said about 3 to 5 sovereign sukuk issues are exptected to come to market this year and some of them will be green issuances. Corporates are also eyeing green sukuk issuances. Green bonds are a growing category of fixed-income securities, raising capital for projects with environmental benefits. Rafe says more and more investors are allocating funds for socially responsible investments (SRI) and Islamic bond issuers could benefit from that. He expects the total number of Islamic bond issuances this year to be slightly higher than last year, driven mainly by infrastructure bonds in Southeast Asia. He expects some new issuers to enter the sukuk market, saying state-owned enterprises from the United Arab Emirates and Qatar were possibilities.

Cover Story: Rediscovering the spirit of Islamic banking

At 37 years old, Arsalaan Ahmed is the youngest chief executive in the Malaysian Islamic finance industry. As CEO of HSBC Amanah Malaysia, his vision is to change the industry’s narrative on Islamic finance. So far, the narrative has focused a lot on the technicalities of products and services. Arsalaan says these discussions should be focused on the principles of social justice and create a positive impact on society. He plans to allow retail investors to invest directly in sukuk. Currently, individual sukuk requires an initial investment of RM500,000. By lowering the initial investment amount, investors with sufficient knowledge of the market could invest directly. Arsalaan says 2018 is a good time to democratise sukuk because of China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative, which aims to improve the infrastructure of land and maritime routes. According to HSBC, the initiative involves US$4 trillion worth of investments and 900 planned projects.

Great Eastern #Takaful appoints Shahrul Azlan as new CEO

Great Eastern Takaful has appointed Shahrul Azlan Shahriman as its new Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Shahrul Azlan was the Chief Distribution Officer in Prudential BSN Takaful, with local and international experience in multichannel distribution. Great Eastern Takaful Chairman, Datuk Kamaruddin Taib said Shahrul Azlan was the best person to steer the company given his vast experience and established track record. He added that in Malaysia there was tremendous potential for Great Eastern Takaful to serve the underinsured and fast-growing Islamic insurance market in the country.

Responsible investing: ESG factors set to alter the #investment landscape

Environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) and sustainable investing (SI) are central topics for policymakers, institutional investors and corporates. According to a 2017 study by BNP Paribas, 46% of asset owners plan to have 50% or more of their investments in funds that incorporate ESG or responsible investing. Investors are increasingly investing based on the ESG profiles of the investee companies and using green, sustainable bonds (52%). Asia-Pacific investors are leapfrogging their regional counterparts. Despite the positive developments, there is still much work to do and challenges to overcome. A lack of robust ESG data is the biggest issue for asset owners and asset managers. The biggest reason why ESG is not part of investment decision-making today is a lack of clarity over how to define it. In November 2017, the European Investment Bank and the China Green Finance Committee presented a project to facilitate the establishment of a common language in green finance.

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