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Monday, 13 October 2008

Islamic Finance is a safe sector

Foreign companies are looking at new Islamic bank initiatives in order to increase their capital and the resources with which to serve their clients.
Given the earthquake that has shaken global finance and the general collapse of Western and Asian stock markets, ''Islamic'' characteristics which make up one part of Arabic financial activity could turn out to be an effective way to soften the blow.
The West is taking ever greater interest in Islamic finance, which is founded on Koranic teachings, as a way to take shelter from the global crisis.Until now, Arabic finance has not been at all immune from the crisis unleashed by sub-prime mortgages.
At the start of last week, for example, there were multi-point falls on consecutive days in the markets. Last Thursday however, on the last day of trading before Friday's closure (due to national holidays), most Arabic markets closed up - thanks in part to injections of fresh liquidity.
The Dubai Financial Market (DFM) finished the day at +3.67% to 3.198 points, while the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADX) closed at +0.94. The Kuwait Stock Exchange closed up by +3.8%. The small Muscat Security Market registered the biggest growth of the day, closing +8.3%. There were also good days for Qatar (+1.9%) and for the small Bahrain Stock Exchange (+0.45%). The Egyptian 'Case-30' market was also up, having lost 16.47% on Tuesday and 7.1% on Wednesday, doing well yesterday to finish at +3.45% after an initial +7% surge.
The only market to lose ground was the principal one in Gulf, the Saudi market, which closed with a loss of -1.5%, despite battling back from an initial -8%.
In the same week the three major Saudi finance houses, Al Rahji Bank, Samba Financial Group and Riyadh Bank, reassured clients by saying that they were in no way exposed to the global mortgage market.
The Governor of Saudi Arabia's Central Bank, Hamad Saud al-Sayari has affirmed that the country's banks have not been harmed by the international crisis since they have great reserves of liquidity.
The relatively tranquillity that finance on the Arabian peninsula is enjoying is due to two factors: the first is that part of the enormous reserves of liquidity is made up of revenue from the sale of crude oil; and the second factor, according to many experts, is the ''Islamic'' roots of many banks, insurers and local finance companies.
Observance of the precepts of the Koran, in fact, represents an effective antidote against excessive speculative risks typical of the so-called ''paper economy''.
In fact the religious teachings of the Koran forbid not only interest on debts but also investment in particularly risky sectors or economic activities that are not doing well or whose funds are too exposed.
The ex-Foreign Minister of Thailand, Surin Pitsuwan, has also spoken out about the solidity of finance based on ''sharia''. Whilst addressing the Asean summit in Dubai, Pitsuwan emphasised how many Western companies, now unable to guarantee themselves through debts to conventional sources of finance, are turning to Islamic bonds, known as 'sukuk'. '
'Foreign companies'', he explained - according to Arabian Business online - ''have realised that there are alternatives and they are exploring them further. They are looking at new Islamic bank initiatives in order to increase their capital and the resources with which to serve their clients'', adding that this ''is a growing phenomenon''.
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