Neil D. Miller to retire from Norton Rose, three regional heads to lead Islamic Finance practice

Norton Rose (Middle East) LLP confirms that Dubai-based partner and Global Head of Islamic Finance, Neil D Miller will be retiring from the practice on 2 April 2011.
Neil will be joining one of the big four professional services firms in Dubai, where he will lead the establishment of a global Islamic financial advisory business.
Norton Rose Group’s award winning global Islamic practice will be led by three partners who will act as regional heads. Mohammed Paracha, based in Bahrain, will be responsible for the Middle East and Africa, Farmida Bi in London for Europe and Davide Barzilai in Hong Kong for Asia Pacific.

Emirates REIT eyes London listing

A new REIT was established Dubai this week, and is likely to list in London within the next 18 months.
The REIT is a collaboration between Dubai Islamic Bank and Eiffel Management.
Before undertaking a dual listing in the next 18 months, Emirates REIT will initially list on the Dubai Nasdaq stock exchange.

Sukuk Drop Most in 6 Months on Ireland Crisis

Islamic bonds slumped last week by the most since May.
Sales of Islamic bonds dropped this year due to debt restructurings and falling property prices in the Middle East.
The difference between the average yield for sukuk and the London interbank offered rate widened eight basis points last week to 341 basis points.

Jersey looks to build stronger relationship with Middle East and India

In order to strengthen its relations with the Middle East and India, Jersey Finance wants to open a new overseas office.
The plan is to succeed this in the first quarter of 2011.
The organisation has two other overseas offices, in London and Hong Kong.
HSBC Middle East is regulated on Jersey, while Emirates NBD, the National Bank of Kuwait and the National Bank of Abu Dhabi all run elements of business on the island

Gatehouse completes acquisition of InterContinental Hotels Global HQ

Gatehouse Bank plc (Gatehouse), a wholesale Shariah compliant investment bank in the City of London, recorded another successful property acquisition with the completion of the £32.65 million acquisition of the InterContinental Hotels Group Global Headquarters in Denham, Greater London, UK; to bring Gatehouse’s total property acquisition value to more than £160million.
In association with GSH Kuwait, Gatehouse has acquired the InterContinental Hotels Group headquarters building, a 97,340 sq. ft. property that is fully occupied by InterContinental Hotels Group until July 2022, providing a 12 years term certain income with no breaks.
Gatehouse continues to provide client service excellence through its nimble ability to respond to client requests for annualised returns with low risk.

Bank of London and The Middle East Launches Fully Sharia'a Compliant On-Line FX Trading Platform

Bank of London and The Middle East plc , London's leading wholesale Sharia'a compliant bank, today announced the launch of BLMEFX, one of the world's first Sharia'a compliant web-based FX trading platform to provide clients with direct access to multiple currencies in order to undertake overseas transactions.
In a Sharia'a compliant environment, currency trading is used to support cross-border transactions rather than to realise a profit. Under Sharia'a all currency transactions must be backed by a commodity, which has historically made currency trading, as well as related transactions, complex and expensive. Through BLMEFX, corporate and private clients have instant access to a large number of currencies as easily as if they were using a conventional system, thereby making the process much simpler and more cost effective.
BLMEFX, which uses the latest secure Java-based technology with full audit-transparency, has been designed with the emphasis on ease of use. Once a client has been permitted access they can trade on the platform using any of the major Internet browsers available today.

Banking on Sharia in Kerala

Kerala offers huge potential for setting up financial institutions based on Islamic tenets, given its strong historical ties with West Asia and a large Muslim population that adheres to investment norms prescribed by Sharia. Islam prohibits giving or receiving of interest, which it categorises as usury. It does not prohibit trading and investment but advises followers to share risks. It tells the investor to share the loss, just as he would have shared the profit, in case the investment makes a loss. The West has successfully repackaged this investment process as Islamic banking. Kerala is trying to follow that path.

Moody's assigns MQ2 rating to Jadwa Asset Management

Moody's Investors Service has today assigned an Investment Manager Quality (MQ) rating of MQ2 to Jadwa Asset Management, a division of Saudi Arabian investment bank Jadwa Investment. This is the first MQ rating in the Middle East region and reflects Moody's opinion of the firm's very good investment management capabilities, financial profile and investment performance. At the same time, the rating also takes account of the firm's limited operating history, exposure to "key man" risk and the challenges the firm may face in managing growth.
Moody's believes that Jadwa's challenge to grow is primarily personnel-driven. A shortage of local investment talent and the challenge of retaining key members of the intestment team are likely to test Jadwa's ability to maintain the high standard of its personnel.
However, Moody's notes that Jadwa has been successful in attracting talent both locally as well as from outside the GCC. Moreover, the firm also reinforces the team's capabilities through internal and external training, and offers equity-based incentives to align interests and minimize turnover of key staff.

UK firms may opt for sukuks

Corporate sukuks by UK organisations are expected in the coming few months following the recent launching of the first corporate sukuk out of United Kingdom by Gateshead-based International Innovative Technologies, or IIT.
A major GCC-based sukuk arranger, which is reportedly working on a corporate sukuk issuance for a UK healthcare company for the last year, hopes to launch the issuance in September. A London-based Islamic bank is also working on a sukuk issuance for a UK client which is near to being finalised. Tom Wilkinson, chairman of IIT, is confident that there is potential for other UK companies to access Islamic finance including sukuk as an alternative source of funding.
The sukuk issue was placed privately with Millennium Private Equity Ltd, leading private equity firm based in the Dubai International Financial Centre and regulated by the Dubai Financial Services Authority. The sukuk is essentially a convertible sukuk, whereby Millennium Private Equity Ltd can convert the sukuk into equity.

BLME First Half 2010 Financial Results

Bank of London and The Middle East, the London based wholesale, Sharia'a compliant bank, today reported a healthy return to profitability for the first half of 2010.
BLME's results were spurred by the:
* strong performance by the Markets division, particularly the management of the Bank's investment portfolio and capital;
* continued top quartile performance of the US Dollar Income Fund;
* cash recoveries from assets that were subject to credit impairment provisions in 2009; and
* strengthening of the Corporate Banking team, resulting in a steady acceleration in earnings and improved contributions from the three financing areas: Property, Leasing and Trade Finance.

BLME plans Shariah-compliant fund

Bank of London and the Middle East (BLME), the totally-Shariah based bank, is currently working on the development of a Shariah-compliant Absolute Return Fund. The bank, which has its own Shariah Supervisory Board (SSB), has been doing quite well since opening just three years ago and has been providing Islamic investment and finance services to the 15 million Muslim population in Western Europe, as well as customers in Turkey. Nigel Denison, director and head of asset management, explained that the bank's customer base includes people of all faiths who want a trustworthy place to bank. The bank currently has predominantly Kuwaiti shareholders and would someday like to build a presence in the Kingdom.

Understanding the sensitivities of Islamic mortgages

Islamic mortgages may be regarded as a niche market but they offer opportunities for brokers who work close to large Muslim populations, especially to those who understand the products and the sector.

As with all areas of lending finance for Islamic mortgages suffered in line with the market downturn. A lack of confidence, funding and a reassessment of risk with lower LTV criteria have all contributed to consolidation in what was a growing area of mortgage broking and lending.

Alburaq was a dedicated resource to brokers referring clients to Alburaq’s team in London. Islamic Bank of Britain offers training to ensure a full understanding of the market and there are competitive processing fees for packaged or introduced cases.

The important thing to remember is that this sector is growing through difficult times. Brokers will find this sector interesting and it will provide them with a loyal client base who will be keen to recommend knowledgeable and sensitive advisers to members of their community.

IDB gears up to launch sukuk offering under MTN program

The Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank (IDB) is gearing up for its latest sukuk offering under its Medium Term Note (MTN) or Trust Certificate Issuance Program. The IDB, according to Mohamed Tariq, senior adviser to the President Ahmad Mohamed Ali, was poised to go to the international financial markets in September this year. In Kuala Lumpur last week, Abdul Aziz Al-Hinai, vice president, finance, IDB, confirmed that the IDB plans to go to the market in the last quarter of 2010. Another international rating agency, Moody's Investors Service, last month had already reaffirmed for a fifth consecutive year the Islamic Development Bank's Aaa long term and P-1 short term foreign currency issuer rating with a stable outlook. Moody's stated that the IDB's rating is strongly supported by the commitment of its member countries, and highlighted that the capital base of the bank is strong, its operational assets continue to perform well, it has a high level of liquidity and very low level of debt. Moody's concluded that the bank's risk profile is likely to remain healthy over the medium term.

IIT debut sukuk in UK may lead to spate of new issuances

The recent launching of the first corporate Sukuk out of the UK by Gateshead-based International Innovative Technologies (IIT) may have taken the Islamic capital markets by surprise, but the signs are that a spate of other UK originations may follow over the next few months. A major GCC-based sukuk arranger confirmed that it has been working on a corporate sukuk issuance for a UK healthcare company for the last year. The company hopes to launch the issuance next month. A London-based Islamic bank is also working on a sukuk issuance for a UK client which is near to being finalized. Tom Wilkinson, chairman of IIT, is confident that there is potential for other UK companies to access Islamic finance including sukuk as an alternative source of funding. The proceeds of the IIT sukuk, according to Wilkinson, will be used as growth capital for the company. The sukuk issue was placed privately with Millennium Private Equity Ltd., leading private equity firm based in the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) and regulated by Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA). Millennium Private Equity Ltd. is co-owned by United Gulf Bank (UGB) and Dubai Islamic Bank (DIB).

Gatehouse buys student accommodation

Gatehouse Bank, has bought two student accommodation properties for £29.2m.

UK banks, govt bodies launch Sharia finance lobby

A group of British Islamic banks and government bodies launched on Wednesday a lobby group to further the industry's development and push for the issuance of the first UK sovereign Islamic bond. The UK Islamic Finance Secretariat will incorporate Islamic finance experts currently operating within committees of government organisations such as the UKTI, the government's international business development organisation, the Treasury and the Financial Services Authority (FSA), to strengthen the UK's position as an Islamic finance hub.

Asya Bank makes mark in cards

Asya Participation Bank is now directly accessing the international financial markets for financing. Asya Bank is also innovating new products including a new card family, under the "DIT Pratik" brand. The DIT Pratik card is a EMV contactless card.

Faith in Capitalism - 16th June 2009, 09:30 – 12:30, London

16th June 2009, 09:30 – 12:30
Islamic Cultural Centre - London Central Mosque, Regents
Park, London

Faith in Capitalism
A ground-breaking conference for financial representatives
of faith institutions and thoughtful investment management

Increasing awareness of the social impact of investment is
driving many thoughtful investors, especially private
clients, family offices, endowment funds and those having
strong faith values, towards a new philosophy of “Making
money and stewarding it responsibly”.

The morning’s presentations will include a Keynote Address
on “Faith in Capitalism” and panel discussions debating
“What does faith tell us about responsible investing?” and
“How can investors do good while making money?”

Do not miss this exceptional opportunity to gain a fresh,
inspirational perspective from renowned experts on
faith-based and sustainable investing. The conference will
be open to questions and comments from the audience, and
promises to be a uniquely informative event with
unprecedented opportunities for networking. There is no
charge to attend, thanks to the following sponsors:

Bank of London and the Middle East plans three funds

Bank of London and the Middle East, or BLME, plans to launch at least three funds in 2009 targeting a US dollar based fixed income fund, a UK real estate distressed assets fund and an equities fund according to Adrian Gayler, the newly appointed head of private banking at BLME, told Zawya Dow Jones.

Bank of London and the Middle East plc completes GBP 31.5 mn refinancing for client

Bank of London and The Middle East plc (“BLME”), has announced on 7 January the completion of a 3-year GBP 31.5 mn finance transaction for Premio Group Holdings to refinance Premio’s property portfolio in Mayfair, London. This is the first Islamic finance transaction completed by Premio Group Holdings.

Premio Group Holdings is a joint venture between Chelsfield Partners LLP and Rollpost established in December 2005. Premio owns over 50,000 square ft of prime residential and commercial property in London’s Mayfair.

Advisers to both firms were Alexander Marks, SJ Berwin and KPMG for Premio and Herbert Smith LLP for BLME.

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