The National

Ajman profits leap despite fourth-quarter stumble

Ajman Bank generated net income of Dh33.5 million (US$9.1m) during last year, compared to profit of Dh6.9m a year earlier. However, Ajman's fourth-quarter profits fell 29.5 per cent to Dh8.3m. The bank did not provide detailed financial statements or an explanation of the drop in quarterly income. Ajman said its increase in income was mainly generated through corporate banking, lending to small and mid-sized businesses and treasury operations. The bank's revenues and shares rose as well.

Burst bubble fears on Middle East sukuk sales

London-based private bank Coutts warns of the possible bursting of the bubble in emerging market debts and recommends a switch towards equities and other assets less vulnerable to a sharp withdrawal of investment. According to Gary Dugan, the bank's chief investment officer for Asia and the Middle East, investors should beware in the Middle East of a significant sell-off in sukuk. In recent weeks, financial firms including Fitch Ratings and Goldman Sachs have joined a debate over whether a "bubble" is brewing in fixed-income markets.

Islamic bonds trail emerging market debt

Islamic bonds trailed emerging-market debt for a second year, a trend that is expected to continue this year. Compared with a 18.5 per cent yield for developing-nation securities, Global Sharia-compliant notes gained 9.6 per cent last year.
Falling yields have helped to push worldwide sales of debt that comply with Islam's ban on interest, and sales may increase this year as new countries including Oman, Tunisia and Egypt tap the Sharia-compliant capital market for the first time.

Syria bank chief points to insider in $10m theft

Approximately US$10 million were stolen from the vault of the International Bank for Trade and Finance (IBTF) in Damascus on January 17. According to the bank's chief executive Sultan Al Zobi, the management only discovered the robbery on the following Sunday. He also added that a bank employee was believed to be involved in the raid. IBTF notified the authorities, an investigation is under way.

Standard bearer for managing Gulf wealth

Insurance for life and even buildings has remained under-exploited in the Middle East. The problematic of the business is the socio-cultural barrier, on top of the weak demands, by international standards, and low market penetration.

Brazil farmers reap from Adep's financial lifeline

In order to allow Brazilian farmers to sell their crops between harvests and therefore achieve higher return, Abu Dhabi Equity Partners (Adep) provides inventory finance to them. In return, Adep takes title of the soft commodity. The Abu Dhabi firm has struck deals with Brazilian growers to provide financing worth $100 million for the first half of this year. Despite the risks in form of natural disasters the business has been widely welcomed by Adep founder Muneef Tarmoom's investors.

Bahrain's Arcapita sells stakes in UK retirement homes

As part of its strategy to raise money for its creditors, Bahrain-based Arcapita Bank sold its stakes in five retirement homes outside London. The American property investment trust Health Care REIT bought the 80 per cent ownership. Arcapita Bank has faced legal proceedings with creditors after the 2008 global financial crisis and is therefore liquidating its assets.

Borse Dubai chairman says timing is right for Islamic economy

According to Essa Kazim, the chairman of the Borse Dubai, the emirate's strategy to become a global centre for Islamic business and finance is paying off, although it is still at an early stage. Underlining its ambitions, the emirate raised US$1.25 billion (Dh4.59bn) in government sukuk at competitive interest rates last week. The Dubai Financial Market General Index is one of the best performing in the world over the last 12 months.

Dubai Multi Commodities Centre a pioneering force in Sharia compliance

Dubai aims to become a global centre for Islamic finance and economy, a project that will receive full support of the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC).The DMCC already functions as a trading centre for Sharia-compliant Islamic financial products and prepares to further develop that industry.

Syrian banks face gangs and robbery as they transport cash to Damascus

Syrian banks remove deposits from their branches in “hot spot” areas and transport the cash to their head offices in Damascus. However, a lot of money is going missing on the way due to robbery, theft and payoff to gangs. Moreover, Syria also faces fuel shortage and a power outage in Damascus after an attack on the main power line.

Dubai's innovative approach to debt smooths the way

Since 2009, the emirate’s financial authorities and indebted government related enterprises (GREs) have adapted new tactics to overcome the debt crisis. The actions include negotiations with creditors and mortgage providers as well as repayments and restructurings. However, Dubai’s debt is still as high as $110bn, so this year’s debt deals are just the beginning of the approach to manage the crisis and avoid legal actions.

World Economic Forum in Davos to focus on Arab Spring reforms

Heads of state and businessmen meet in Davos at the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Wednesday 23/01/2013, where attention will be focused on economic reforms following the Arab Spring. This year’s theme will be resilient dynamism and how to deal with changing contexts and sudden shocks. The Davos meeting will also include a separate session on Syria to discuss the country’s prospects this year.

RAKBank establishes Islamic unit

RAKBank has recently launched an Islamic banking unit. According to a statement by the Ras Al Khaimah-based lender, it had received approval from the Central Bank to start an Islamic offering. The new unit will offer customers debit and credit cards with discounts at Sharia-compliant outlets, as well as car loans and takaful policies. As a subsidiary, RAKBank Amal becomes part of a continuously increasing number of lenders seeking to capitalise upon a development drive into Islamic finance.

Progress in 'complicated' Amlak restructuring

According to the Economy Minister Sultan Al Mansouri, restructuring of Amlak Finance is considered a particularly complicated problem. However, solution is near. Amlak is currently discussing proposals to restructure bank debt of about US$2 billion (Dh7.34bn). Since the Dubai property crash in 2008, the company has been facing uncertainty in terms of finance due to the suspension of its shares. The authorities treat the situation with renewed urgency. The government of the UAE has summoned a special committee to resolve Amlak's problems.

Dubai shifts Amlak's DIFC cases to special committee

Due to orders by Dubai's ruler, all legal action in the Dubai International Financial Centre courts involving Amlak Finance were transfered to a special judicial committee outside Dubai's normal legal system. According to a decree, which was issued on December 16th by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, all Dubai courts including those in the DIFC are not allowed consideration and settlement of any application or claim related to Amlak Finance. A decree from 2009 established a special judicial committee which serves to hear claims against Amlak and Tamweel. That decree relocated all cases in the Dubai courts to the committee, did not however discuss cases in the DIFC courts, which have a separate set of procedures based on English common law.

Emirates NBD surges after profit forecast of Islamic finance unit

Emirates NBD surged after the forecast of its Islamic unit that profits would double. The stock gained 6.4% reaching Dh3.31 a share, which is the biggest increase since April 2011. On Wednesday, about 1.3 million shares were traded, which is three times the three-month daily average. The stock is said to be the biggest gainer on the Dubai Financial Market General Index. Emirates Islamic Bank will look for ways to boost net income to Dh150 million this year increasing it from Dh80m in 2012.

Deutsche Bank shares Dubai's dream to become Islamic financial hub

When last week Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid explained his vision of the emirate becoming a global hub for Islamic finance and economy, the head of Islamic finance structuring at Deutsche Bank (DB) in Dubai Ibrahim Qasim was pleased but not really caught by surprise. He considers the initiative a very positive one and thinks it will solidify Dubai and the UAE's current standing as an important Islamic finance hub. He further explains that the UAE already has an advantage in the area of Islamic economy. DB is prepared to help and support the policymakers of the emirates in their ambitions.

Unit's restructuring shifts focus to Dubai Holding

Bankers have an optimistic attitude towards a full-scale restructuring of the US$10 billion (Dh36.72bn) debts of Dubai Holding. They consider such a move to be imminent following the settlement of a legal action against a unit of the conglomerate. Four banks, one of which Royal Bank of Scotland, have reached an agreement on the terms of restructuring debts of Dubai Group, the financial arm of the holding company. This will include their dropping a controversial legal action against the Dubai company.

Bahrain's Arcapita sells stakes in UK retirement homes

In the process of Arcapita Bank's asset liquidation aiming to raise money for its creditors, the bank has sold its interests in five retirement homes outside London. According to a statement, Arcapita and its investors have sold their ownership of 80% in the property to Health Care REIT. The investment in the US-based publicly traded property investment trust was carried out in 2003 through a joint venture with Sunrise Senior Living. At the time Arcaoita sought Chapter 11 protection on March 19, 2011, the bank had assets of US$3.06 billion (Dh11.24bn) and liabilities of $2.5bn.

Syrian lenders hit by board resignations amid 'political exposure'

Banks in Syria are experiencing additional cull at board level which combines with the already difficult conditions facing a sector hit by sanctions, losses and robberies amid a deepening civil war. The changes are in the form of reported resignations, some of which deemed too close to the regime, are being asked to step down, thus helping to ease the pressure on financial institutions. Other directors have made a different decision and shed their holdings in a bid in order to ensure they are not marked in the future.

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