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#Morocco to issue first sovereign Islamic bond worth 1 bln dirhams

Morocco is preparing to issue its first sovereign sukuk worth 1 billion dirhams ($105 million). According to Finance Minister Mohamed Boussaid, the legal framework is now prepared and issuance is expected in the coming weeks. Earlier, the cabinet adopted a decree allowing financial authorities to define different types of sovereign sukuk, in line with the opinion of Morocco's council of Muslim scholars. Last year, Morocco's central bank approved five requests to open Islamic banks and allowed subsidiaries of three French banks to sell Islamic products. Morocco is the most advanced among its North African neighbours in developing Islamic finance, but Tunisia and Algeria have also started to explore Islamic banking.

Islamic banks face uneven impact from correspondent banking decline -industry group

The General Council for Islamic Banks and Financial Institutions (CIBAFI) has warned of uneven impact from a decline in correspondent banking, reinforcing concerns that small lenders will be most affected from "de-risking" by international lenders. Heightened money laundering enforcement has pushed global banks to cut their relationships in some regions, a policy known as "de-risking". Islamic banks in Africa and South Asia were among those most severely affected, with banks in the Gulf and Europe relatively unscathed. A recent CIBAFI survey of 103 Islamic banks found around a third of respondents experienced a significant decline in correspondent banking. Products most affected included trade finance and international wire transfers. CIBAFI said the practical impact of de-risking might be confined to certain regions and lenders, but it had been severe enough to raise wider concerns.

#UAE's Dana Gas plans cash dividend despite $700 mln #sukuk dispute

Dana Gas plans to pay a dividend for 2017 despite its legal dispute with investors demanding that the company settles $700 million of sukuk bonds. International funds and local investors want Dana to direct its resources towards repaying that debt. Dana last year halted payments on its sukuk, saying the bond had become unlawful in the United Arab Emirates because of changes in Islamic finance. Dana has been in talks for months with creditors to restructure its sukuk. One of the proposals envisaged Dana redeeming 10% with cash and rolling over 90% under new terms. However, creditors want the company to redeem a higher proportion of the sukuk.

Ratings scheme planned for #Islamic #endowments

Islamic institutions in Bahrain and Malaysia are developing a ratings scheme for Islamic endowments, or awqaf. The Bahrain-based Islamic International Rating Agency and the Malaysia-based International Institute of Islamic Waqf (IIIW) hope that greater accountability in the management of awqaf can help integrate them into Islamic financial markets. This could mobilize idle assets which are estimated to be valued between $100 billion and $1 trillion across the globe. Awqaf operate social projects such as hospitals, mosques and schools with donations received from Muslims. Most Awqaf do not disclose financial figures, but their underperformance is believed to be considerable since they have traditionally been run by administrators rather than investment managers.

In expanding role, IILM plans longer tenor Islamic bonds programme

The International Islamic Liquidity Management Corp (IILM) plans to expand issuance of sukuk beyond its current short-term programme to address latent demand from Islamic banks. Establishing a new medium-term programme would allow the IILM to offer a wider range of highly liquid financial instruments. The IILM currently has around $3 billion in outstanding sukuk and it could gradually increase this to between $3.5 to $4 billion, depending on consistency of demand. Around 60% of demand for IILM sukuk comes from Islamic banks in Gulf countries with the rest split across Asia and international banks. But there is also potential for IILM sukuk in non-member countries, such as Oman and Britain as well as jurisdictions such as Hong Kong and Singapore.

#Qatar developer Ezdan’s #sukuk yields spike after S&P downgrade to junk

Standard & Poor's downgraded Qatari real estate developer Ezdan Holding on Monday. Therefore, yields on the company's $500 million sukuk jumped by about 2 percentage points after the downgrade. S&P cut the Qatari company by two notches to BB from BBB-minus and revised its outlook to negative from stable. The rating agency cited a weakening of the company's financial risk profile partly caused by the neighbouring Arab countries' boycott of Qatar. Ezdan's sukuk, issued in 2016, were yielding around 6% last week, now the yield has surged to over 8%. The sanctions have worsened a slump in Qatar's real estate market. Housing and utility prices sank 4.7% from a year ago in September, their biggest drop for at least several years, and fell 0.7% from the previous month.

#Malaysia's MBSB agrees to buy Asian Finance Bank for $152 mln

Malaysia Building Society Bhd (MBSB) plans to acquire Asian Finance Bank (AFB) from its foreign shareholders for 645 million ringgit ($152.5 million). Malaysia Building Society agreed with AFB's shareholders to pay 396.9 million ringgit in cash and the issuance of 225.5 million new shares at 1.10 ringgit per share. The deal values AFB at 1.3 times book value, MBSB said. MBSB has sought to become a full-fledged bank in the last few years. In 2014 a three-way merger deal with CIMB Group Holdings and RHB Bank was planned, but the plan fell through in early 2015. Talks with Bank Muamalat Malaysia Bhd in the last quarter of 2015 also collapsed.

Dana Gas and partners start arbitration case against MOL over #Kurdistan settlement

Dana Gas and its partner Crescent Petroleum have begun arbitration proceedings against Hungary's MOL Group over Dana's settlement agreement with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). The KRG agreed to pay $1 billion to the consortium and to reclassify some additional $1.24 billion from debt to outstanding costs. MOL is unsatisfied with the way Dana Gas, Crescent Petroleum and the Pearl consortium handled the settlement and would have pursued a final litigation and enforcement outcome against KRG instead. Dana and Crescent Petroleum own a combined 70% stake in the Pearl consortium, while Austria's OMV, Germany's RWE, and MOL each own 10%. The KRG settlement boosted Dana's cash balance and lifted the company's stock on the Abu Dhabi stock exchange by 14%. Last week Dana bondholders requested a $300 million cash paydown, but Dana refused the proposal and the case is now being disputed in a London High Court.

#Bahrain sends RFP for US dollar bond and #sukuk issues

Bahrain has sent out a request for proposals to banks to arrange issues of US dollar-denominated conventional bonds and sukuk. Bahrain needs to raise external financing to plug a budget deficit caused by low oil prices, as the state struggles to build political consensus around planned austerity measures. Last month the cabinet approved a draft budget projecting a BD1.3bn (US$3.4bn) deficit for 2017 and a BD1.2bn deficit in 2018. Bahrain had a deficit of BD1.5bn in 2016. Bahrain is rated BB- by S&P with a negative outlook. The agency last month revised the outlook to negative from stable, citing Bahrain's weakening external asset and fiscal positions. Fitch followed suit, revising the country's outlook to negative but affirming its BB+ rating.

UAE's Dana Gas aims to propose new #sukuk terms in coming weeks

According to Dana Gas CEO Patrick Allman-Ward, the company aims to communicate proposed terms of a restructured sukuk issue in coming weeks. He spoke to sukuk holders in a conference call, but there was no question and answer session and no immediate response from creditors. In mid-June, Dana stunned creditors by announcing it would halt payments on its four-year sukuk because they no longer complied with changing interpretations of the Sharia code. Dana said it would exchange the sukuk for new Islamic instruments with lower profit rates than the existing paper. Investors and bankers are concerned that other sukuk issuers could imitate Dana in refusing to redeem paper on the grounds that it has lost its sharia-compliance. CEO Allman-Ward insisted that Dana's arguments did not apply to other, lawful sukuk formats. Dana's existing paper features profit rates of 7 and 9%. The new sukuk would provide profit distributions at less than half the rates. Sukuk holders are contesting the plan in courts in London and the emirate of Sharjah.

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.

Three-way bank #merger in #Qatar aims to close by year end -sources

Executives working on a three-way bank merger in Qatar expect to finish valuing the deal in the coming weeks. Shareholders at Masraf Al Rayan, Barwa Bank and International Bank of Qatar are committed to pushing ahead with the deal despite the current embargo by some of Qatar's Arab neighbours. A shake-up has long been mooted in the Qatari banking sector given that 18 local and international commercial banks serve a population of 2.6 million. The more than two-week travel and diplomatic boycott could further dent bank performance if the dispute drags on. In December, Reuters reported that the trio had begun merger talks which would create the Gulf state's second-largest bank. The new bank, which would be run in compliance with Islamic banking principles, would have assets worth around 160 billion riyals ($43.6 billion).

#Saudi Arabia's Sedco Capital launches #green #investment strategy

Saudi Arabia's Sedco Capital has launched an investment strategy combining environment-conscious and sharia-compliant principles. The move could help develop green investing in the Middle East and make Islamic finance appeal to a wider client base. Green finance is increasingly important for Islamic firms seeking to differentiate themselves from peers. Sedco said its new strategy, dubbed Prudent Ethical Investing, would focus on due diligence and transparency around investment structures, while integrating environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria. The firm launched two ESG funds in 2012 and has published research which showed how a combined investment approach
can outperform conventional funds. According to its research, such a strategy can lead to investments with lower financial leverage and better cash conversion qualities, adding a prudential element to those portfolios.

#Brunei's largest bank aims to raise up $500 mln in #Malaysian #listing -IFR

Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam aims to raise as much as $500 million in an initial public offering (IPO) and the bank will be listed on the Malaysian bourse. JPMorgan and Malayan Banking (Maybank) are set to be joint global coordinators for the initial public offering of $200 million-$500 million this year. The IPO is expected to raise around $300 million but the final amount will depend on the size of the greenshoe option. Brunei is one of the world's richest countries on a per capital basis. The country does not have a stock exchange although its central bank last year announced draft rules to form one.

#Saudi Arabia's order books at about $25 billion for debut dollar #sukuk - sources

The order books for Saudi Arabia's debut U.S. dollar-denominated sukuk have reached about $25 billion. The dual-tranche sukuk is set to be the largest ever Islamic bond, beating a $4 billion sukuk issued by Qatar in 2012. The two tranches have maturities of five and ten years. The initial price guidance put the senior unsecured Islamic bonds in the 115 bps over mid-swaps area for the five-year tranche and 155 bps over mid-swaps area for the 10-year tranche.

Sovereign plans #sukuk blockbuster

Saudi Arabia is expected to raise several billion US dollar sukuk across five and 10-year tranches. The notes will be in a hybrid mudaraba-murahaba format, a structure in essence already trialled by Saudi Aramco for a riyal-denominated sukuk. The kingdom is rated A1 by Moody's and A+ by Fitch. The banks running the deal are BNP Paribas, Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, JP Morgan and NCB Capital. The national oil company Saudi Aramco raised SR11.25bn riyals in order to diversify its revenues impacted by low international oil prices. The floating rate local currency sukuk has a seven-year maturity and offers 25bp over the six-month Saudi Arabian Interbank Offered Rate.

MIDEAST DEBT-#Saudi Aramco pays premium in debut #sukuk sale

Saudi Aramco is paying a significant premium to the government and to its previous borrowing in its first sukuk sale. Aramco is offering 7-year, riyal-denominated sukuk at 25 basis points (bps) over the six-month Saudi Arabian Interbank Offered Rate (SAIBOR). The private placement, part of a 37.5 billion riyal ($10 billion) Islamic bond programme, could be as large as about 6 billion. It is expected to take place early next week. Riyadh is restructuring the company and its regulatory environment to make Aramco attractive as an investment. But major decisions on the company's structure and its post-IPO dividend policy have not been announced. Alinma Investment, HSBC Saudi Arabia, NCB Capital and Riyad Capital are the joint lead coordinators. They are joined by GIB Capital, Samba Capital and Saudi Fransi Capital in dealer roles.

UPDATE 1-#Saudi Arabia issues request for proposals for international #sukuk - sources

Saudi Arabia has sent a request for proposals (RFP) to banks for a planned U.S. dollar sukuk. The debt sale would be Saudi's second international bond offering, after the sovereign issued a debut $17.5 billion bond in October last year. Saudi Arabia is also expected to issue a conventional bond later this year. The kingdom's bond plans are part of its push towards a more diversified economy that is less reliant on oil exports. The RFP was issued at a busy time in the Gulf with other countries also planning to raise funds internationally to offset the impact of lower global oil prices. Bahrain launched a tap of its $1 billion 2028 bond on Tuesday, while Oman is expected to announce the launch of a new bond this week.

REVIEW: DIB breaks open #sukuk market for financials

Dubai Islamic Bank became the first Gulf financial institution to print a sukuk this year as it priced a US$1bn 3.664% five-year issuance. The only other bank from the region to have issued this year is Gulf International Bank, which sold a conventional US$500m five-year last month. Proceeds will go towards refinancing a US$500m sukuk coming due in May, as well as a US$300m maturity for the subsidiary Tamweel. Middle East accounts took 61%, Europe 20%, and Asia 19%. By investor type, banks got 52%, asset managers 39%, agencies 3%, private banks 2% and insurers 2%. Lead arrangers include Bank ABC, DIB, Emirates NBD, HSBC, KFH, Maybank, National Bank of Abu Dhabi, Sharjah Islamic Bank and Standard Chartered.

EU Lifts Sanctions on Syrian Bank, Businessman

The European Union on Thursday lifted sanctions on the Syria International Islamic Bank and businessman Sulieman Maarouf with ties to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad who lives in London. The moves came as part of a decision to extend the Syria sanctions on nearly all targets for another year, until June 1, 2015. A European diplomat said the decision to lift sanctions against the bank was taken because of a lack of strong evidence linking it to Mr. al-Assad's regime. The Syrian International Islamic bank was placed on the list because the EU alleged it facilitated transactions for the Commercial Bank of Syria and the Syrian Lebanese Commercial Bank. The list now includes 179 people and 53 entities that the EU says are "linked" to violent repression by Mr. al-Assad's regime.

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