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Saturday, 27 September 2008

An overview of Sukuk

  • Basics of Sukuk
Sukuk is popularly known as an Islamic or Sharia compliant ‘Bond’ whilst in actual fact, it is an asset-backed trust certificate.
In its simplest form Sukuk is a certificate evidencing ownership of an asset or its usufruct.
The Sukuk structures rely on the creation of a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV).
SPV would issue Sukuk certificates which represent for example the ownership of an asset, entitlement to a debt or to rental incomes or even accumulation of returns from various Sukuk (a hybrid Sukuk).
The return provided to Sukuk holders therefore come in the form of profit from a sale, rental or a combination of both.
Sukuk could be based on Mudaraba, Musharaka, Murabaha, Salam, Istisna, Ijara or hybrid of these.
  • Difference between conventional bond and Sukuk
In its simplest form, a bond is a contractual debt obligation whereby the issuer is contractually obliged to pay to bondholders, on certain specified dates, interest and principal.
In comparison, under Sukuk structure the Sukuk holders each hold an undivided beneficial ownership in the underlying assets. Consequently, Sukuk holders are entitled to share in the revenues generated by the Sukuk assets as well as being entitled to share in the proceeds of the realization of the Sukuk assets.
  • Similarities between conventional bond and Sukuk
Marketability: Sukuk are monetised real assets that are liquid, easily transferred and traded in the financial markets
Rateability: Sukuk can be easily rated
Enhanceability: Different Sukuk structures may allow for credit enhancements
Versatility: the variety of Sukuk structures (as many as over 27 possibilities)allow for: structuring across legal and fiscal domains, fixed and variable income options etc.
  • Issuing of Sukuk involves a number of steps like;
Preparing a detailed feasibility study (stating clear objectives to be achieved from the proposed Sharia-compliant business) and setting up of general framework and organisational structure to support the issuance process;
Working out an appropriate Sharia structure to achieve the set objectives in compliance with Sharia;
Arranging lead manager (s) to underwrite the Sukuk issue;
Arranging legal documentation around the agreed Sharia structure (both from the Issuer’s as well as arranger’s perspective);
Setting up the SPV to represent the investors (Sukuk holders); and
Putting the Sukuk into circulation.
  • Role of Sharia Advisors in Sukuk
Sharia advisor (Sharia scholars or Sharia advisory firms with recourse to Sharia scholars) have a significant role to play. Amongst others, following may be listed as examples:
Advising on proposed Sukuk structure and suggest a Sharia structure which otherwise fulfils the set economic aims;
Working closely with legal counsel of the issuer to ensure that the legal documents are in line with
Sharia requirements;
Working closely with legal counsel of the arranger to ensure that the legal documents are in line with Sharia requirements;
Issuing Fatwa on the whole Sukuk deal before the same can be put into circulation.
  • Sukuk in the context of UK and Europe
UK is all set to introduce new framework to support the issuance of Sukuk, through parliamentary legislation. Treasury minister, Ed Balls, has been quoted in media recently: “We are looking to place domestic Sukuk on the same footing as conventional products”
It is indeed an encouraging step by the UK. But it is important that such a framework is designed involving industry practitioners with experience in Sukuk issues.
In sum, future of Islamic finance (including Sukuk) is becoming more and more viable in the UK and wider europe.
Source: Dar Al Istithma

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