Gulf Times

Toyota, Aeon to issue new sukuk in Malaysia

The Malaysian unit of Toyota Motor Corp said it plans to set up a 2.5bn-ringgit ($655mn) programme through its local financing arm Toyota Capital Malaysia in order to raise funds via both Islamic and conventional bonds. While Toyota has not revealed how much of the programme will be covered by Islamic bonds, it is expected that this part will be at least 1bn ringgit ($262mn) which is the size of Toyota Malaysia’s previous and first-ever sukuk programme, which was set up in 2008 and matured in June 2015. Proceeds will be used to strengthen the funding structure of Toyota Capital Malaysia to meet its mid-term expansion plans.

Junk-rated sukuk top market on Saudi housing shortage

Demand for housing in Saudi Arabia is translating into a rush for some of the lowest-rated Islamic debt in the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council. Three sukuk from Dar Al Arkan Real Estate Development Co are among the five best-performing Shariah-compliant bonds in the region this year. The company’s notes due May 2019 returned 8.2% through July 21, compared with an average 2.1% for the GCC sukuk market. The gains underscore efforts by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman to stoke construction amid an estimated shortfall of 2mn homes. The securities have been helped by a clamour for high-yielding assets as the US Federal Reserve prepares to raise interest rates for the first time since 2006.

Rapid growth is expected for Islamic wealth management

Islamic wealth management is going to become be the “new frontier” for the global Islamic finance industry as a growing number of Islamic high-net worth individuals keeps looking for Shariah-compliant types of investment. According to Thomson Reuters’ Global Islamic Asset Management Outlook 2015, Islamic funds – which are already a $60bn industry – are forecast to grow to at least $77bn by 2019, but the latent demand for Islamic funds is projected to grow even higher to $185bn. nitially, Europe led the initial drive of Islamic wealth management, but now other Shariah-based players have joined the market, especially in the GCC and Southeast Asia.

Malaysia expects its Islamic finance sector to grow by 18% annually

The Shariah-compliant banking sector in Malaysia, already among the largest in the world by assets, is forecast to grow at an average annual rate of 18% over the next years to reach a value of $296.26bn in 2019. This is the prognosis contained in the Malaysia Islamic Finance Report 2015 revealed at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur on June 30. The report, commissioned by Malaysia’s CIMB Islamic and produced in partnership with Jeddah-based Islamic Research and Training Institute (IRTI), the General Council for Islamic Banks and Financial Institutions based in Manama, Bahrain and Thomson Reuters, also projects that takaful contributions in Malaysia will grow at an average 18.2% year-on-year to reach a market share of 17.96% of total insurance premiums by 2019, equal to $5.51bn.

Thailand’s troubled Islamic Bank seeks investors to turn around business

State-owned Islamic Bank of Thailand, branded as IBank, has become the target of domestic and foreign investors, including from the Middle East, according to its chairman Chaiwat Uthaiwan. In an effort to rehabilitate its business, the country’s State Enterprise Policy Office agreed to allow local or foreign private investors to acquire more than 50% of stakes in the bank. According to IBank’s chairman, several Asian financial houses including some from the Middle East were interested to take over a larger stake. But this could happen only next year because the bank has to separate its good and bad assets first before it could think about a stake sale, he added. At present, IBank tries to restructure $1.7bn of bad loans out of a total loan amount of close to $3bn. Net loss in 2014 was around $300mn.

Bank Asya bonds languish even as control bets lift shares

Speculation that the Turkish government may be closer to relinquishing control of Bank Asya has stoked its stock to a record gain. Bondholders proved harder to please. Shares of the Istanbul-based lender soared more than 50% after it said most Class-A holders provided documentation to the regulator proving they’re qualified to be founding partners. The bank’s Islamic bond climbed about 3% to 61.474 cents on the dollar in the week of April 12. Government control is considered positive for bondholders. The bank’s Islamic bond due March 2023 jumped 38%, the most on record, when Turkey’s agency responsible for resolving failed banks seized control in February as investors bet authorities wouldn’t let the lender default.

Malaysia and Saudi facing Iran’s rising finance power

With the easing of economic sanctions against Iran, the country is expected to unleash its enormous potential of Islamic finance and enter the global stage with new Shariah-compliant products at a size that could threaten the dominance of Malaysia and Saudi Arabia in the sector. Iranian banks represent the world’s largest financial system based on Shariah law. However, due to the sanctions, the country has so far only marginally participated in the global Islamic finance sector and thus did not benefit from the rapid global growth of Islamic finance in the recent past. The entire banking system in Iran is Shariah-compliant, and there are no conventional banks to compete with.

Takaful in Qatar: What’s ahead?

Fast-paced economic growth in Qatar is supporting the takaful sector along with a keenness from policy makers to support the insurance market. At the same time, most of the mainstream takaful and retakaful companies in the region are currently undervalued compared to other sectors of the economy. Year 2015 continues to hold high hopes for takaful in Qatar and promises increased market penetration. However, sector executives appear not to be optimistic, with the Qatar Financial Centre’ Mena Insurance Barometer reporting that only 21% of participants expect the takaful segment to outgrow total insurance premiums in the next twelve months in 2015 same as in 2014, but compared with 32% in 2013.

Qatar’s low insurance penetration is offering ‘great opportunities’

Qatar’s low insurance penetration is “a revealing factor” of great opportunities, Qatar Central Bank Governor HE Sheikh Abdullah bin Saud al-Thani has said. The country’s current level of penetration is around 0.5% of GDP and 1.6% as share of the insurance as part of the global business sector, Sheikh Abdullah said in his keynote address at the ninth MultaQa conference. Asserting that it is the desire of Qatar to reduce reliance on energy, Sheikh Abdullah, who is also the chairman of the Qatar Financial Market Authority and the Qatar Financial Centre Regulatory Authority, said the country’s insurance sector has been undergoing significant evolution and is in the process of establishing a committee for supervision of risk management.

Indonesia plans to create $8bn mega-Islamic bank

Indonesia seems to push ahead with its plans to create a new $8bn Islamic bank that would mainly arise from the merger of three large domestic Shariah-compliant lenders. According to the chairman of Indonesia’s Financial Services Authority, Muliaman Hadad, the merger between the Islamic finance units of government-controlled Bank Mandiri, Bank Rakyat Indonesia and Bank Negara Indonesia, as well as a small unit of Bank Tabungan Negara, could happen as early as this year. The idea behind the mega-merger is to create an Islamic banking institution that would be able to face the growing foreign competition, as well as to boost the currently quite small market share of Islamic finance in the country. The new Islamic mega-bank would also be a catalyst for new products for retail customers and businesses.


Issues facing product development in Islamic finance

Product innovation and enhancement is an important aspect for the development and growth of Islamic Finance. However, this is also one of the major challenges. To create products or services in Islamic finance, one should understand that there are two common ways — Shariah-based products, or Shariah-compliant products. The product development process should be governed by very prominent parameters, standards and framework to ensure that a proper product is introduced in the market. Needless to say, Islamic banking products are constantly being compared to interest-based products in terms of cost and return without any regard for the unique product rules of Shariah.

Private-sector moves keep Tunisia’s Islamic finance hopes alive

Amen Bank, Tunisia’s second-largest private sector bank, launched two Islamic mutual funds this week, managed by Tunis-based United Gulf Financial Services-North Africa. In October, El Wifack Leasing said it had received central bank approval to become the country’s third full-fledged Islamic bank, with 150mn dinars ($80mn) in capital, adding the firm would bring international shareholders to the venture. These are welcome steps for the Islamic finance industry which has been waiting for the government to issue a debut Islamic bond. Earlier this year the private sector arm of the Islamic Development Bank teamed up with Tunisia’s newly created sovereign wealth fund, Caisse de Depot de Tunisie, to set up a $30mn fund to support local businesses.

Mashreq sees sukuk pipeline starts spilling deals after market volatility

After sales of Islamic bonds began the fourth quarter at the slowest pace in six years, sukuk from companies including FlyDubai and Bahrain Mumtalakat Holding Co are among deals announced or sold this week. They will increase the amount raised this quarter to at least $5bn. These deals have been in the pipeline and the market volatility in September and October delayed them, said Abdul Kadir Hussain, the chief executive officer of Mashreq Capital DIFC. However, the latest transactions won’t be enough to make for a record sukuk issuance year, he added. Global sukuk yields have retreated 17 basis points since reaching a five-month high in October to 2.8% on November 18.

GCC economies are dominated by SWFs, says Seetharaman

The GCC economies are dominated by Sovereign Wealth Funds that account for more than 30% of the global SWF assets, valued at $6tn, said Doha Bank Group CEO, Dr R Seetharaman. He was delivering the keynote address on “Uncertain times — can GCC banking take off?” at a conference hosted by the ICAI Abu Dhabi Chapter recently. Gulf SWFs have invested in a wide range of industries and high-risk assets with higher expected return. The assets under management growth in the GCC will be mainly driven by positive economic outlook, family businesses & entrepreneurship and the population demographics, Seetharaman said.

QIB launches Walady child education plan

Qatar Islamic Bank (QIB) has introduced a child education plan, Walady. It is a long-term savings and investment plan coupled with Takaful protection for the parent, and offers a return on contributions depending on the fund’s performance. Upon maturity of the contract, the outstanding value of the participant’s investment account is paid in a lump sum to take care of the education needs of the child; in the case of the early death of the parent, the amount of life cover is paid upfront to the nominee as per the terms and conditions of the contract; and in the event of the parent’s total disability, regular contributions will be paid until maturity of the plan subject to satisfying the claim conditions. Walady was underwritten by Medgulf Takaful.

UK’s IBB is set to become Al Rayan Bank, serving Muslims, non-Muslims alike

The synergy between the Islamic Bank of Britain (IBB) and its parent company Masraf Al Rayan will soon be reflected in the British bank’s name. Customers were informed last week that the new name for IBB to be adopted towards the end of the year will be Al Rayan Bank. Sultan Choudhury, chief executive officer of IBB, emphasised in the letter he sent out last week informing customers about the name change that the bank remains British regulated with a British board. The bank has invested heavily in its internet banking capability which has opened up its services to a much broader customer base. Its latest data also shows a big surge in non-Muslim customers.

Gulf bond issues to draw big demand despite geopolitics

A revival of international bond issues from the Gulf is set to draw heavy demand from local and foreign investors, despite the latest geopolitical upheavals in the Middle East and the approach of higher US interest rates. Gulf bond issuance has dried up since early July, because of a traditional summer lull in local investor activity as well as global market instability due to the crisis in Ukraine. But the vast majority of investors have decided that the geopolitics do not come close to posing any existential threat to the rich Gulf Co-operation Council economies. More than geopolitics, the biggest threat to the Gulf’s primary bond market may be expectations for US interest rates. The currency pegs mean eventual US rate hikes are expected to feed through into official Gulf interest rates quickly.

Qatar businessmen explore Kenya investment options

A delegation of the Qatari Businessmen Association (QBA) visited Kenya last week to enhance bilateral business relations between the two countries and open up new areas of investment. The delegation was headed by Sheikh Dr Khalid bin Thani bin Abdulla al-Thani, second deputy to QBA chairman and Ezdan Holding chairman. The delegation included Ezdan Holding CEO Ali Mohamed al-Obaidly and Vodafone Qatar CEO Kyle Whitehill among other businessmen and QBA members. The delegation was received by Kenya’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Amina Mohamed, who brought them together with senior officials from the Kenyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and members of Kenya’s business community. Sheikh Dr Khalid said Kenya has become a promising and attractive business environment.

Qatar firms explore investment opportunities in Ethiopia

Qatar is exploring investment opportunities in Ethiopia’s banking, insurance, real-estate development, and health and communication sectors. This was announced by a Qatari businessmen delegation, chaired by Sheikh Dr Khalid bin Thani bin Abdullah al-Thani, chairman of Ezdan Holding Group. Dr Mulatto Shuma, president of Ethiopia, highlighted government’s readiness to offer all possible support to encourage foreign investment in Ethiopia by offering facilities and incentives as well as adopting a policy that protects investments in the country. Other members of the delegation included Ali Abdulrahman al-Hashemi, delegated member of Mackeen Holding Company; Ali Ibrahim Abdulghani, CEO of Qatari Islamic Insurance Company; and Kyle White Hill, CEO of Vodafone Qatar.

Islamic trade finance fuels rising Gulf reinsurance demand

The spread of Islamic trade finance is boosting demand for Shariah-compliant reinsurance in the Gulf, trade credit insurer Euler Hermes says, predicting the sector could eventually account for over a third of its business in the region. Euler Hermes, part of Germany’s Allianz insurance group, is involved in the business because it is one of the region’s biggest trade credit insurers. The company launched a Shariah-compliant trade credit insurance product in 2008 and the business began growing substantially three years ago, now accounting for about 10% of Euler Hermes’ total GCC business. Euler Hermes’ GCC operations had total turnover exceeding $40mn last year, and exposure to its clients of more than $12bn.

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