Bahrain's GFH wins investor nod for capital cut

Bahrain-based Gulf Finance House (GFH) has won approval from the shareholders for a reduction in the group’s issued and paid-up capital. GFH board chairman Dr Ahmed Al-Mutawa said the rate of reduction approved is six shares for each 10 shares held at a nominal value of $0.265 per share, thereby resulting in elimination of $897 million of accumulated losses. In addition to this, the investors also discussed the continuation of GFH’s shares listing in London and Kuwait Stock Exchange and authorised the board of directors to adopt the necessary resolutions in this respect. The firm reported a consolidated net profit of $17 million for the year 2014.

Bahrain's GFH says to review London, Kuwait listings

Bahrain's Gulf Finance House will study the continuation of its equity listings in London and Kuwait. The investment firm is listed in four places, a potentially costly arrangement: Dubai Financial Market, where its shares are often the market's most heavily traded, Bahrain, Kuwait, and London in the form of global depository receipts. Moreover, shareholders approved reducing the firm's capital to $598 million from $1.49 billion to eliminate accumulated losses, and the company will change its name to GFH Financial Group. GFH did not give details of what its review would involve or say when it might be completed.

Bahrain's BKIC raises stake in Takaful International to 40.9 pct

Bahrain Kuwait Insurance Co has raised its stake in local peer Takaful International to 40.9 percent, a move that could herald the start of wider consolidation in the sector. Last week, BKIC had taken an initial 10.8 percent stake in Takaful International, the largest Islamic insurance firm in a market. BKIC bought 18.8 million shares of Takaful International valued at 1.88 million dinars ($5 million) from three Bahraini and Kuwaiti institutions. BKIC now becomes the largest shareholder in Takaful International, displacing Bahrain Islamic Bank which has a stake of 22.75 percent.Takaful International swung to a loss of 1.7 million dinars in 2014 from a profit of 300,000 dinars a year earlier.

Waqf fund hosts eighth shari'a scholar session with Dr. Akram Laldin

Bahrain-based Waqf Fund hosted its eighth Shari'a Scholar session with Islamic finance scholar Professor Dr. Akram Laldin from Malaysia. Dr. Laldin serves on several Shari'a Boards including Bank Negara Malaysia's Shari'a Advisory Council, AAOIFI and a number of Islamic financial institutions in Malaysia and globally. The topic under discussion was "The Challenges of Achieving Shari'a Compliance in Islamic Finance". Dr. Laldin made a presentation on the key challenges in Shari'a compliance and narrated a number of real life cases from his experience as a Shari'a Board member. This was followed by an interactive session during which the participants asked questions and gave their comments.

Bahrain Islamic Bank to hire Standard Chartered’s Bahrain CEO

It was reported that Standard Chartered PLC’s Chief Executive Officer for Bahrain, Hassan Jarrar, is leaving to head Bahrain Islamic Bank BSC. Standard Chartered confirmed his departure. Jarrar served as CEO of its Bahrain unit since November 2011, and was earlier the head of origination and client coverage for the lender’s wholesale banking unit in the UAE. Jarrar’s departure comes amid a shake-up in top management at the London-based lender after profit slumped. Chairman John Peace, CEO Peter Sands, Asia head Jaspal Bindra and Viswanathan Shankar, head of Europe, Middle East, Africa and Americas, are all leaving the bank.

UAE, Bahrain to Expand Islamic Cash Products

The only two central banks in the Gulf with products that allow Islamic lenders to make short-term investments are expanding their offerings as demand for cash-management tools rises. Bahrain’s central bank started a seven-day Islamic deposit facility last month, and the United Arab Emirates broadened the range of collateral Shariah-compliant lenders can use for overnight lending effective 1 April. Bahrain’s one-week facility is based on a wakalah contract, where the regulator invests cash on behalf of the lender. In the UAE, the central bank has expanded the list of eligible collateral for its Shariah-compliant overnight facility to include assets other than the regulator’s Islamic certificates of deposit.

Ithmaar Bank's strategic initiatives start yielding results

Bahrain-based Ithmaar Bank has announced that the strategic decisions taken by the Bank's Board of Directors early in 2014 have already started yielding results. The decisions, which aimed at turning the Ithmaar Group around by significantly transforming operations, included initiatives for increased revenue, improved margins, divestment of non-core assets and cost reductions across the Group. Ithmaar Bank 's financing business in Bahrain increased by 23 percent to US$914 million at the end of 2014. This growth in 2014 was driven mainly by Home Financing and Personal Financing. Similarly, total customer current accounts, savings accounts, Thimaar and URIA deposits, increased by 11 percent in 2014.

AAOIFI holds 14th Annual Sharia Conference

Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI) will hold, under the auspices of the Central Bank of Bahrain, the 14th edition of its Annual Shari’a Conference on March 22-23 in Bahrain. The conference will be held in 7 sessions to discuss topics relating to application of Shari’a to international Islamic finance products, services and practices as well as continuing innovation of Islamic finance to support further growth and expansion. Following the conference, AAOIFI will hold training sessions for its Certified Shari’a Adviser and Auditor (CSAA) and Certified Islamic Professional Accountant (CIPA) qualification programs from 24 to 27 March 2015.

LMC posts good results

Liquidity Management Centre (LMC) has announced 18 per cent increase in the net profit at $4.22 million for last year when compared with $3.57m for 2013. This resulted in a return on capital equivalent to approximately 8pc while the average one-year interbank rate remains below 0.75pc. Total operating income was $10.11m as against $10.57m for 2013. Net profit for the fourth quarter was $847,000 versus $784,000 for the same period in 2013. Portfolio-based activities saw a growth of approximately 13pc while the bank's balance-sheet continues to see significant improvement in terms of asset quality and liquidity. Shareholders' equity grew by 7.18pc from $62.96m as of 2013-end to $67.48m as of December-end last year.

GFH plans $230m sukuk issue in 2015 to fund acquisitions

Gulf Finance House (GFH), the Bahraini Islamic investment firm, plans to make a $230 million sukuk issue this year to help it fund acquisitions of two to three regional companies. The bank sold $170 million of convertible sukuk murabaha last year to raise money for the investments, Ahmed Khalil Al-Mutawa said. The paper was converted into equity in the same year. In addition to the funds raised through sukuk last year and this year, the rest of the money needed for the acquisitions is likely to come from bank borrowing. Al-Mutawa said that the companies targeted by GFH focused on asset and wealth management and were based in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Dubai. The deals, which involve taking controlling stakes, should be closed by the end of the second quarter, he said. He did not give further details.

Bahrain's Arcapita: Rising from the ashes

One of the reasons the Gulf has been so slow to introduce bankruptcy legislation is because there is still a stigma associated with the process. While some of the biggest companies and business names in the West have gone through the process, in the Arab world it is still seen as taboo and a major cultural failure. One company that has gone through the process, come out the other side and is slowly beginning to scratch away at the doomsday perception associated with bankruptcy is Bahrain-owned, US-based firm Arcapita. Atif Abdulmalik, chief executive, believes the Arcapita experience should be seen as an example to authorities in the region who might be reluctant to push ahead with the introduction of similar procedures in the Arab world for fear of the taboo associated with it.

Al Salam Bank Bahrain income drops 52 per cent

Al Salam Bank Bahrain has reported total comprehensive income for 2014 down 52 per cent at BHD 16.68 million. The bank showed a 79.6 per cent increase in total assets to BHD 1.96 billion while liabilities rose 95 per cent to BHD 1.6 billion. Income from financing contracts was up from BHD 26.1 million to AED 51.5 million while total operating income was up 76 per cent to BHD 46 million. However, earnings per share slipped from 8.3 to 8 fils. Al Salam Bank Bahrain reported a jump in operating expenses from BHD 11.4 million to BHD 26.4 million.

Bahrain looks for regional edge with central sharia board

Bahrain's central bank is drafting legal documentation to set up a sharia board of scholars that would oversee the kingdom's Islamic finance sector. The central bank already has a sharia board but its scope is limited to vetting its own products. A country-level approach could help to limit differences between products, speed the design of new products and boost investor confidence. A "legal instrument" is now being prepared that would set out details of the sharia board, Khalid Hamad, the central bank's executive director of banking supervision, said. He did not specify a timeframe. The United Arab Emirates is the only other regulator in the Gulf to have announced a plan to adopt a centralised sharia approach.

New takaful model on way

A new takaful model is being implemented by the Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB) this month onwards and is expected to attract new entrants to the market and foster competition. The objective of modifying the existing takaful rules is to facilitate a faster growth of the business in Bahrain while protecting the interest of all stakeholders, vis-ˆ-vis participants, shareholders and operator, CBB executive director for financial institutions supervision Abdul Rahman Al Baker said. The new CBB rules on client money aim at enhancing the regulatory framework in relation to appointed representatives and insurance brokers. Since their release in October last year, the market response has been quite positive, he added.

Shari'a scholars from Morocco meet CBB Governor

A nine member delegation comprising of leading Shari'a scholars from Morocco met with Mr. Rasheed Al Maraj, Governor of the Central Bank of Bahrain. The visiting delegation wants to learn from the Bahrain experience in Islamic finance. Mr. Al Maraj welcomed the eminent scholars and assured them of CBB's full support in their Islamic finance journey. During their three day visit the delegation met with the CBB officials, leading Shari'a scholars in Bahrain and global Islamic finance bodies such as AAOIFI, IIFM and CIBAFI. Morocco has been gearing up to offer Islamic financial services in the wake of strong domestic demand.

AAOIFI to hold its 14th Annual Shari'a Conference on 22 and 23 March 2015

Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI) will hold the 14th edition of its Annual Shari'a Conference on 22 and 23 March 2015 in Manama, Bahrain. The conference will be held under the auspices of the Central Bank of Bahrain. Discussions will include on topics relating to application of Shari'a to international Islamic finance products, services and practices as well as continuing innovation of Islamic finance to support further growth and expansion of the industry. Following the conference, AAOIFI will hold training sessions for its Certified Shari'a Adviser and Auditor (CSAA) and Certified Islamic Professional Accountant (CIPA) qualification programs from 24 to 27 March 2015.

Islamic finance issues to be probed at forum

Bahrain-based General Council for Islamic Banks and Financial Institutions (CIBAFI) and the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) are planning a joint meeting in Bahrain next month aimed at discussing issues of internationalisation of Islamic financial services. The roundtable meeting of the directors of operations and investment of Islamic banks, themed 'Internationalisation Strategies of Islamic Financial Institutions', will be held on February 23 and 24. Through the meeting, the council expects to increase awareness and information sharing about the CIBAFI Strategic Plan 2015-2018.

Tamkeen and Family Bank increase microfinance programme portfolio to BD 5 million

Tamkeen and Family Bank signed an agreement to add BD2 million to the microfinance support scheme, bringing the programme’s total portfolio value to BD 5 Million. The agreement is part of Tamkeen’s and the Family Bank’s efforts to provide customised Sharia-compliant financing solutions to help micro enterprises, including productive families, to grow, in addition to enabling low-income Bahrainis to establish small businesses. Under the programme, Tamkeen supports 50% of the loan profit. Finance amounts range between BD500 and BD5,000. Tamkeen also provides advisory services to customers.

IIRA Reaffirms Ratings of Bahrain Islamic Bank

Islamic International Rating Agency (IIRA) has reaffirmed ratings of Bahrain Islamic Bank (BIsB) at BBB/A2 on the national scale and BBB-/A3 on the international scale. Outlook on the ratings is 'Stable'. IIRA has also reassessed BIsB's fiduciary score at '65-70'. There has been gradual improvement in the bank's funding access, as well as an improved earning capacity. Meanwhile, the bank has maintained strong control on operating expenses, which is beginning to reflect in overall profitability. However, prior year losses have depleted equity levels and recapitalization is required not only to financially reinforce the bank, but also to benefit from a growing market and expand business operations.

InFocus Inaugural newsletter of the General Council for Islamic banks and financial institutions

Inaugural issue reporting about the work and new strategic plan of CIBAFI, the General Council for Islamic banks and financial institutions.

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