Times of Oman

Bank Sohar appoints new head of Islamic banking

Bank Sohar has appointed Salim Khamis Al Maskari, the former senior assistant general manager of branches, as the head of Sohar Islamic, Bank Sohar’s Islamic banking window. Prior to joining Bank Sohar in 2007, Salim Al Maskari had worked as the district manager of the Sharquiyah region for Oman International Bank and later moved to Bank Muscat as the regional manager of the north capital region. He has more than 29 years of experience in the banking sector in Oman and holds a Master of Business Administration from the University of Hull, UK. He also completed his Certification in Islamic Banking and Takaful Products (CIMA) examinations in 2015.

Bankers in Oman caution against 'excessive consumerism'

Banks in Oman believe that ease of access to financing and a wider range of options have enhanced the experience of customers but also hold the opinion that excessive consumerism should be avoided through educating the society. Yousuf Al Rawahi, deputy general manager - head of branches, retail and private banking at Ahlibank, says that with the ease of available credit, any society will have consumerism, which has to be managed accordingly. However, he says more efforts are required to promote the culture of saving in Oman. Asad Batla, head of consumer banking at Bank Nizwa, believes that the rate of consumption in Oman has witnessed ‘exponential’ growth. He added that Bank Nizwa encourages its customers to have discipline in their financial decisions, while constantly focusing on helping them lead financially-secure lifestyles.

Final approval for takaful law expected soon; industry constitutes 6% in total business

A final approval for the draft takaful or Islamic insurance regulation, which was cleared by the State Council in February, is expected soon. The draft Takaful Insurance Law, which was prepared by the insurance regulator, Capital Market Authority (CMA), is expected to give the much-needed impetus to the development of the Islamic financial sector. The law, which was drafted with the assistance of a consultant in line with the principles of the Islamic Financial services Board, was circulated among all related parties, especially insurance firms for their feedback, before seeking approval from various entities like the Ministerial Council and the Ministry of Legal Affairs.

Ahli Bank’s ‘Al Hilal MENA Fund’ posts 12 per cent return

Al Hilal MENA Fund (AHMF); Sharia Compliant, open-ended fund, managed by ahlibank asset management has posted commendable returns of 12 per cent year to date, as on April 30, 2015. Al Hilal MENA Fund is the first and only Sharia Compliant fund sponsored and managed by a bank in Oman. The fund invests across listed equities and sukuks issued and tradable within the GCC region. The current investments represent geographical coverage spanning Oman, Qatar, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia. The diversified sector exposure constitutes investments into petrochemicals, fertilizer producers, industrial chemicals, oil and gas exploration, Islamic banking, takaful, real estate, telecom, consumer discretionary and industrial manufacturing.

Oman announces OMR200 million debut sovereign sukuk issue

Oman government on Sunday officially announced the much-awaited maiden sovereign Sukuk issue of OMR200 million. The sovereign Sukuk issue will be through a private placement and will open for subscription soon. It will be marketed primarily to Islamic financial institutions, and sophisticated investors with a minimum subscription amount of OMR500,000, said Tahir Salim Al Amry, who heads the Sukuk committee. The sovereign Sukuk is primarily aimed at addressing the need of the nascent but fast growing Islamic financial sector in Oman. The Sukuk will serve as a domestic investment and liquidity management instrument to Islamic financial institutions in the country, he added.

Sukuk affected by oil price fall

Islamic bonds from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are heading for the worst month in more than a year after oil prices plunged to the lowest since 2009. Sukuk in the six-nation bloc, home to about a third of the world's proven oil reserves, lost investors 0.7 per cent so far this month, poised for the worst performance since August 2013. Middle East sukuk also underperformed non-Shariah compliant debt from the region last week. However, even after this month's drop, GCC sukuk have returned an average 5.8 percent to investors this year. Nevertheless, a prolonged period of oil price weakness will inevitably impact liquidity and credit risks in the GCC region.

CMA organises major forum on governance of family businesses

The Capital Market Authority (CMA), represented by the Oman Centre for Corporate Governance and Sustainability, in cooperation with the Pearl Initiative, organised a seminar on 'Governance of Family Businesses and the Separation of Ownership from Management and Succession Planning'. The seminar was aimed at airing the views of those present and fostering dialogue among the representatives of the family businesses, business experts and specialists in this regard. Speakers underlined the importance of accountability and transparency in the family and state-owned companies that seek to successfully achieve permanence and continuity.

FlyDubai’s debut sukuk issue raises $500 million

FlyDubai's debut Islamic bonds are signalling growing appetite for sukuk from aviation companies in the Gulf as they spend on airports and fleet expansion. The budget carrier raised $500 million this month in the first sale of the debt by a regional airline after Emirates. The issue received bids for more than six times the amount offered. Boeing forecasts Middle East airlines will need more than 2,600 new aircraft over the next 20 years, worth $550 billion. Sukuk is exptected to be part of the financing mix. FlyDubai's five-year sukuk pays a profit rate of 3.776 per cent, or 200 basis points above the five-year mid swap rate.



Delay to set up Sharia body to derail Dubai’s hub ambition

A year after the emirate set out plans to be the Islamic economic hub, it's seven months behind schedule in setting up a centralised Sharia body that would help spur the emirate's sukuk market. Dubai is still deliberating with the federal government to establish the board, according to Abdulla Mohammad Al Awar, chief executive officer of the Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre (DIEDC). While Islamic financial assets are set to almost double to $3.4 trillion by 2018, regulations in the industry are underdeveloped. Malaysia is one of the first countries to set up a Sharia authority as part of its central bank. The UAE Federal National Council, a half-elected advisory council with some parliamentary powers, plans to push for a central Sharia board.

Al Madina expects robust takaful insurance growth in Oman

Al Madina Insurance anticipates a robust growth in takaful insurance business in Oman, if the trend in neighbouring countries is any indication. Al Madina expects the market to grow between OMR60 million to OMR70 million in worst case scenario and OMR150 million to OMR180 million in best case scenario in the next three to five years, the company's chief executive officer Gautam Datta said. He added his company did not change the premium, after converting it into an Islamic insurance company from January this year. Referring to re-insurance, he said Al Madina has a re-insurance programme of over 55 per cent and is planning to expand its retail and personal lines portfolio.

Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank inks $2b debt overhaul agreement

Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (ADIB) agreed a $2 billion debt overhaul with mortgage company Amlak Finance. ADIB, part of a six-member creditor committee negotiating Amlak's restructuring, signed a tentative agreement that's being considered by the decision-makers on the Amlak side, CEO Tirad Mahmoud said. The prospective accord includes a temporary waiver on a certain part of the principal that you recapture later if Amlak achieves certain targets, he said. Amlak sought an extension on $2 billion of loans after property prices in Dubai slumped during the credit crisis that began in 2008.



Pakistan mulls $5.6b sukuk sales this year

Pakistan looks set to end a year-long drought in sovereign sukuk issuance to support its goal of doubling Sharia-compliant banks' market share by 2020. The government may offer as much as Rs542 billion ($5.6 billion) of local-currency sukuk in 2014, including notes backed by a highway and an airport. That compares to one sale of Rs43 billion in 2013. Lenders including MCB Bank and National Bank of Pakistan, are converting branches to respond to rising demand for banking that complies with the religion's ban on interest, which now has a market share of 10 per cent. The Rs323 billion of sovereign sukuk outstanding is less than a third of the amount of Sharia-compliant bank assets.



Qatar sukuk poised to recover from November's drop

Qatari Islamic bonds are poised to rebound from their steepest weekly drop since November as investors bet issuers' credit strength will resist the country's spat with its neighbours. The yield on Qatari government sukuk due in January 2023 jumped six basis points last week to 3.27 per cent after the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain withdrew their ambassadors. The three neighbours of Qatar, keen to maintain stability in the wake of the so-called Arab Spring, are critical of the gas-rich nation's support for Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood. The ability of issuers to make all payments is not expected to be affected. Although the longer this goes on, the more likely it will have an impact on pricing of new issuance.

Launch of Sharia-compliant products in ODB’s agenda

Oman Development Bank (ODB) is considering the launch of an Islamic window to offer Sharia-compliant products to small and medium-sized firms. After Oman adopted Islamic finance in December by issuing regulations for the sector, developing Islamic finance and smaller firms are two policies which the government hopes will cut unemployment. Government-owned ODB is likely to opt for an Islamic window instead of a full-fledged conversión into an Islamic bank. The Islamic window is not expected to start operating before the end of this year. Under the rules for Islamic windows, ODB would only be able to offer Islamic products through stand-alone branches, which would require converting some of its existing 15 branches or opening new ones.

Tax Law amendment proposal for Islamic banks submitted

KPMG has submitted its recommendations for amending the country's tax law to the Ministry of Finance. The recommendations aim to ensure that Islamic financial institutions are on a level playing field with their conventional counterparts. According to Ashok Hariharan, partner and head of Tax for KPMG in Oman, the recommendations aim to ensure that Islamic financial institutions are put in neither an advantageous nor a disadvantageous position compared to its conventional peers. The recommendations of the international audit firm will circulate among different ministries and agencies to finalise the amendments. Apart from the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Legal Affairs Majlis A'Shura will also look into the KPMG report and put forward their recommendations. If everything goes well, the amendments will be announced sometime towards the end of the year.

Bank Nizwa seeks relaxation for investing funds overseas

Bank Nizwa is going to request the Central Bank of Oman (CBO) for allowing the bank to get relaxation in deploying funds in overseas markets for a certain period, until Sharia-compliant products are available within the domestic market. Dr Jamil Jaroudi, Chief Executive Officer of Bank Nizwa said there are restrictions in the new law that do not allow Islamic banks to achieve their full potential. The law for sukuk and takaful need to be issued, and the banking regulations have to be adjusted in order to attract Islamic investment, he added. The CBO needs to frame regulation for short-term instruments, which will allow Islamic banks to deploy their excess liquidity.

Vision launches Sharia-compliant GCC fund in Oman

The first Sharia-compliant fund will be introduced in Oman by Vision Investment Services. All financial instruments of the fund are in compliance with Sharia principles and policies. It is the perfect tool for conventional investors who are seeking capital appreciation with lower risk.

BankDhofar’s Islamic branch opening soon

According to an announcement by BankDhofar, its Maisarah Islamic banking branch in Azaiba is planned to be opened in the coming weeks. The new branch shall further cement its commitment to putting its customers first, Oman's community and economic stability. A team of highly skilled Islamic banking specialists will operate at the new branch. Most advanced technology aiming to ensure Maisarah operates smoothly will be utilized and a complete suite of services compliant with the Sharia-law will be offered.

Bank Muscat hosts ESRA workshop

Bank Muscat together with the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) were hosts of a workshop on January 15th. The topic of the workshop was Environmental and Social Risk Analysis (ESRA). The event was held under the auspices of Sheikh Mohammed bin Said Al Kalbani, minister of Social Development. The goal of the two-day event at the headquarters of the bank is to identify environmental and social risks in lending and investment projects as a consequence of the activities of the financial and banking sector. Among the participants there were risk managers and analysts from banks, CSR and sustainability professionals, government representatives and consultants.

UK-based Islamic bank seeks tie-up with Oman banks

Gatehouse Bank is making efforts to attract Oman's Sharia-compliant institutions to invest their funds in the UK and vice-versa. They are showing keen interest in establishing a business relationship with all Islamic banks. Gatehouse already have treasury services, capital market products like sukuk and real estate financing. There will be an official meeting between Gatehouse Bank's officials and such of Bank Nizwa and Bank Muscat. The goal of the meeting will be to explore cooperation possibilities and opportunities.

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