The Star Online

Screening Shariah status of investments

Amanie Shariah Screening system app, launched by Amanie Nexus Sdn Bhd, screens and filters all public-listed equity/stocks in the global stock exchange to produce the universe of Shariah investable stocks. With this app, it is possible to download and check the Shariah status of over 33,000 stocks worldwide any time and anywhere before making any investments. Newly released, the app is available in Android variant on Google Play Store before it is released a Windows Phone 8 version and Blackberry 10. Razi Pahlavi, chief executive officer of Amanie Nexus, feels that Malaysia has sufficient talents in app development. However, the commercialisation stage is where most developers will need help and guidance, he notes.

BIMB sukuk plan rejected, but it can buy remaining stake in Bank Islam

Bank Negara has rejected BIMB Holdings’ proposed move to issue sukuk using Bank Islam Malaysia’s shares as security for the debt, but has allowed the former to acquire the remaining 49% stake in the latter. The central bank has then requested to source and notify the bank on suitable alternative assets as security for the proposed sukuk. An analyst felt the rejection by the central bank would not deter or derail BIMB’s plans to acquire Bank Islam, although it may slow down the purchase process. Last month, BIMB had announced the proposed acquisition of the remaining stake in Bank Islam – 30.5% from the Dubai Financial Group and 18.5% from Lembaga Tabung Haji – for a total cash consideration of US$884.6mil (RM2.87bil). This was to be financed via a two-for-five rights issue of 426.7 million new shares, and a sukuk issuance of up to RM1.47bil.

Report: Ground-Breaking IILM Sukuk Faces Secondary Market Challenge

The $490 million, three-month Sukuk, issued by the International Islamic Liquidity Management Corp (IILM), was auctioned to seven primary dealers from Asia, theMiddle East and Europe. However, this will only be a major breakthrough for Islamic finance if IILM sukuk are actively traded by Islamic banks, rather than held to maturity. It is not clear whether the existing primary dealer network - which includes only two purely Islamic financial institutions - is broad enough to engineer trade in IILM sukuk across major markets. The prevalence of conventional banks in the dealer group suggests the IILM may have decided to choose the largest possible primary dealers in order to maximise distribution of the sukuk. But it also raises the possibility that the instrument could be bought by conventional institutions rather than the Islamic banks which most need it.

Bank Islam confident of over 15% profit growth

Bank Islam Malaysia is confident of achieving more than 15% growth in profit before tax and zakat this year compared with RM600.3 million last year. Managing director Datuk Seri Zukri Samat said consumer banking would continue to be the main contributor to achieve the target. 70% of the financing portfolio is to be contributed by consumer banking and the balance of 30% from corporate and commercial banking. For the first quarter of this year, the bank raked in profit before tax and zakat of RM151.5mil. However, Zukri said the economic growth which is somewhat slow currently and the new guidelines on responsible lending might affect the bank's financing growth.

Kerala allows Islamic finance

India’s central bank has allowed a firm in the southern state of Kerala to operate as a non-banking financial company that follows Islamic principles ? a small step towards developing syariah-compliant finance in the country. Cheraman Financial Services said it had obtained approval to operate from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and would follow the Islamic ban on interest. RBI governor Duvvuri Subbarao has said Islamic banking was not possible in the country but syariah-compliant products could be delivered through alternative means.

Bank Muamalat courts a DFI for merger

Bank Muamalat Malaysia Bhd is said to be revisiting the idea of a merger, this time with a development financial institution (DFI). Among the possible candidates are Bank Rakyat Malaysia Bhd and Malaysian Industrial Development Finance Bhd (MIDF). DFIs are specialised financial institutions established by the Government with the specific mandate to develop and promote key sectors that are considered of strategic importance. Industry players say the idea of a merger between Bank Muamalat and Bank Rakyat is an attractive proposition as both are Islamic concerns, with Bank Rakyat being the country’s largest Islamic cooperative bank.For the financial year (FY) ended March 31, 2013, Bank Muamalat posted a record pre-tax profit of RM236mil. Bank Rakyat, meanwhile, has been enjoying profitable growth over the years.

Takaful operators to use IFSA grace period to ensure growth

Takaful operators in Malaysia are aggressively strategising their operations to ensure profitable growth and taking advantage of the five-year time frame given to composite takaful players to fully comply with the new Islamic Financial Services Act (IFSA). Under the Financial Services Act (FSA) and IFSA, which came into force on July 1, composite insurers and takaful players would be, among others, required to split their life and general insurance businesses under separate licences. Takaful Malaysia group managing director Datuk Mohamed Hassan Kamil said his company will be devising and evaluating potential options to achieve more efficient solutions from the capital management and shareholder return perspectives. On whether the Act would take a hit on Takaful Malaysia’s bottomline in view of the split in operations of its family (life) and general businesses, Hassan said although there would be potentially higher cost initially due to start-up costs, in the long run.

BIMB set to own 100% of Bank Islam

BIMB Holdings Bhd is likely to conclude the purchase of the 18.5% stake held by Lembaga Tabung Haji (LTH) in Bank Islam Malaysia Bhd by the end of the month. BIMB owns 51% of Bank Islam, while the remaining 30.5% stake is held by Dubai Financial Group (DFG). LTH, meanwhile, is the ultimate holding company of both BIMB and Bank Islam. Apart from its direct interest in Bank Islam, the pilgrim fund also owns a 51.5% stake in BIMB. There were reportedly no problems in the talks between BIMB and LTH, with pricing done at arm’s length on market benchmarks and in the best interest of the shareholders. The two block of shares are likely to be valued between 1.6 times and 1.8 times price-to-book value. If both talks with DFG and LTH were successful, then BIMB would fully own Bank Islam. An announcement on both stake sales is expectyed to be made by end-July.

Bank Islam seeks expansion in region

Bank Islam Malaysia is exploring opportunities to expand its business in South-East Asia, especially in Indonesia. However, the bank has not identified suitable joint-venture partners to penetrate foreign market, according to its managing director, Datuk Zukri Samat. Bank Islam was earlier reported to have held talks with an Islamic bank in Indonesia to acquire up to 40% stake in the latter. Meanwhile, Zukri said, the bank aimed to expand its operations by opening five branches nationwide by year-end. Bank Islam recently closed a deal regarding a business zakat of RM320,000 to Majlis Agama Islam Johor. Zukri said the zakat payment represented part of the total RM9.2mil for financial year 2012, based on its profit of RM600mil the previous year.

Thai Islamic bank plans to up capital and sukuk

State-owned Islamic Bank of Thailand plans to increase its capital by 7.11 billion baht (US$234.9mil) and issue a 5 billion baht sukuk, the country's first-ever Islamic bond. The bank plans to issue the 5billion-baht subordinated sukuk to increase its capital ratio. Last year, bank officials said the sukuk would have a likely maturity of 5 years and the bank would appoint Malaysia's CIMB Bank to handle the deal, targeting domestic and institutional investors in Malaysia and Hong Kong. The bank expects to raise 927 million baht in capital this month and 6.2 billion baht in the fourth quarter. The bank, rated BBB by Fitch, also wants to seek investors to establish a presence in the Middle East in the next three years, while increasing its domestic network of branches to 130 from 106 now. It hopes this strategy will help it to return to profit this year and help the country's Islamic financial sector grow.

Issuers warm to cross-border sukuk, many tap into M'sia

During the past year, there have been a number of cross-regional sukuk, mostly by Gulf issuers tapping Malaysia's highly liquid market. However, sukuk structures are not standardised, and some Gulf-based sharia scholars have objected to certain structures used in Asia, a region which has proven to be more flexible in its transactions. Sukuk issuance in the Middle East outside of the Gulf is also becoming more attractive, notably Turkey, which was recently elevated to investment grade credit status and is bidding to develop an Islamic finance industry. Growth in cross-border Islamic bond issues points to greater convergence in the industry, opening the door to a much wider pool of investors.

London-based Gatehouse Bank plans to seek licences in M'sia

London-based Gatehouse Bank is considering applying for two or three licences in Malaysia in universal banking, investment banking, and or, wealth management to expand its business in Asia. The bank, which recently commenced operations in Malaysia via a representative office in Kuala Lumpur, would closely discuss licensing options with the Securities Commission and Bank Negara, according to chief representative of Gatehouse Bank in Malaysia Richard Thomas. The establishment of the representative office will be the first step in a two-year larger strategic plan to apply for a full-fledged licence. In these two years, the bank will conduct and collect research as well as analyses of the risks and rewards of investing in Asia.

BIMB to deliberate on Bank Islam stake by end-May

The board of BIMB Holdings Bhd is set to deliberate on Dubai Financial Group LLC's (DFG) sale of a 30% stake in Bank Islam Malaysia Bhd. BIMB's group managing director and CEO Johan Abdullah said that there is no official agreement yet, and that the board is going to discuss this by the end of the month. He added that the sale must have value proposition and earnings accretion for shareholders of the company as a whole. Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) gave BIMB Holdings until June 30, 2013 to complete its negotiations to buy DFG's 30% stake in Bank Islam Malaysia. Therefore, the parties must ensure the negotiations are completed within this deadline.

Riyadh-based Al Bayan issues first ringgit sukuk of 1 billion ringgit programme

Al Bayan Holding became the first Saudi Arabian company to issue an Islamic bond in Malaysian ringgit by issuing 200 million ringgit ($65.4 million) as the first tranche of a newly established 1 billion ringgit programme. Pricing details were not immediately available. Al Bayan issued the sukuk as a wakala. HSBC Holdings' Islamic unit in Malaysia, Hong Leong Islamic Bank, and Kenanga Investment Bank Bhd acted as joint lead managers on the deal, while Abu Dhabi's Al Hilal Bank was manager in the United Arab Emirates.

CEO: Timing not right for Great Eastern in M&As

Insurance group Great Eastern Holdings Ltd has no plans for merger and acquisition activities (M&A) as the valuations are high, according to its group chief executive officer Chris Wei. However, the company is closely watching the market. Wei added that the lofty offer prices were underpinned by multiple reasons, aptly that Asia being one of the most attractive markets compared with Europe and the United States, hence, attracting foreign capital. He said the group would continue to grow responsibly and further strengthen its position as a life company rather than just a life insurance company by promoting health in the communities it operated in.

Staff pinching worry in insurance arena

The Financial Services Act (FSA) and Islamic Financial Services Act (IFSA) which are expected to come into force by the middle of this year, would require composite insurers and takaful players to split their life and general insurance businesses under separate licences. Takaful Malaysia group managing director Datuk Mohamed Hassan Kamil said the Act would have an impact not only on talent hiring but also on retaining the existing talent, and would lead to staff pinching, resulting in higher wages but little improvement in productivity and efficiency. According to analysts, the impact would be felt more by takaful operators due to the higher number of composite or dual licences issued to them compared with conventional insurers.

Great Eastern Takaful expects RM20mil sales from family term plan

Great Eastern Takaful Sdn targets RM20mil of total weighted contribution from its new product, i-Great Idaman. The family Takaful term plan provides biennial cash payout combined with protection. The group expects to get about 5,000 to 6,000 customers within the one year of the launch. According to Great Eastern Takaful chief executive officer Zafri Ab Halim the target market were individuals with middle to high income. He added that the product was suitable for people who already have medical protection and are seeking for other type of offerings.

The beauty of sustainability

Estee Lauder Companies' corporate responsibility report, The Beauty Of Responsibility, examines its impact on Earth by reviewing how it conducts business. In the environmental aspects, ELC’s priorities are to reduce its contribution to global climate change by conserving energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions associated with its operations, as well as to recycle and reuse as many resources as possible. Every employee, brand and function within the company is encouraged to contribute to the sustainability and philanthropic efforts.

It’s confirmed, Hamidy is new CEO of Kuwait Finance House

Kuwait Finance House (KFH Malaysia) has appointed Datuk Seri Abdul Hamidy Abdul Hafiz as its CEO effective today.
Datuk Jamelah Jamaluddin, who has helmed the bank since 2010 as the CEO, would now assume the role of managing director of Kuwait Finance House (Labuan). The changes were part of the group's overall strategy to restructure its business, strengthen its presence in the Asia-Pacific region by focusing on investment banking and fee-based income. Hamidy will grow KFH Malaysia's banking business and fund-based activities, Jamelah will drive the region's capital market, investment banking and fee-based activities for the group.

BIMB-Dubai Financial Group talks may have stalled

Talks between BIMB Holdings and the Dubai Financial Group (DFG) over the latter's 30.5% stake in Bank Islam Malaysia have stalled. This is because a long-awaited plan by BIMB to transfer its listing status to Bank Islam is nearing fruition, a prospect DFG finds more attractive than hiving off its interest to pare down debts. The bigger picture, however, is that pilgrim fund Lembaga Tabung Haji, the parent to both BIMB and Bank Islam, is revisiting the idea of a mega Islamic bank involving a merger between BIMB and Bank Muamalat Malaysia. Bank Islam managing director Datuk Seri Zukri Samat said the lender might carry out an initial public offering (IPO) within a year or two.

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