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Thursday, 30 July 2015

Malaysia sukuk sale lures weakest demand in 2015 on 1MDB concern

KUALA LUMPUR (July 30): Malaysia attracted the weakest demand at a sovereign sukuk auction in almost eight months amid concern it will need to bail out a state-owned investment company.

The Treasury sold 3.5 billion ringgit ($916 million) of Shariah-compliant bonds due October 2025 to yield 4.105 percent on Thursday, according to data published on the central bank’s website. The bid-to-cover ratio of 1.85 was the lowest since Dec. 5, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

Prime Minister Najib Razak removed his deputy Tuesday as he seeks to head off a public rift within his cabinet over his handling of financial probes into debt-ridden 1Malaysia Development Bhd. The state-owned entity’s borrowings totaled 41.9 billion ringgit ($11 billion) at the end of March 2014.

“There is less interest because people are unsure of the contingent liabilities from 1MDB,” said Nizam Idris, the Singapore-based head of foreign-exchange and fixed-income strategy at Macquarie Bank Ltd. “The domestic political uncertainty also has a part to play.”

The yield on the existing 3.99 percent Islamic government bonds due October 2025 declined three basis points to 4.1 percent as of 2:18 p.m. in Kuala Lumpur Thursday, according to Bursa Malaysia prices.
The ringgit weakened 0.1 percent to 3.8150 a dollar, prices from local banks compiled by Bloomberg show. That took its decline in 2015 to 8.3 percent, the worst performance in Asia.

(The Edge Markets / 30 July 2015)

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Wednesday, 29 July 2015

South Africa proposes extending sukuk to corporate issuers

South Africa's Treasury has proposed extending tax reforms to facilitate the issuance of sukuk, or Islamic bonds, by listed companies after the government did a $500 million debut deal last September.

Sukuk transactions in Africa have been few and infrequent but this is gradually changing as governments see an opportunity to tap cash-rich Islamic investors from the Gulf and Southeast Asia.

Senegal issued sukuk for the first time in June last year while Niger, Nigeria and Ivory Coast are planning debut deals.
South Africa introduced tax amendments in 2011 to allow the government to issue sukuk and this was extended to public entities in April this year. The proposed changes will come into effect in January 2016.
"It has always been the government's intention to ensure that these financing arrangements are accessible to other entities as well as an additional source to raise capital," the Treasury said in the draft of the legislation.
Taxation is often problematic for sukuk because of their asset-backed nature, which means multiple asset transfers may be required for a transaction to take place, creating a heavy tax burden for issuers unless special legislation is in place.
Firms such as South African National Roads Agency Ltd (Sanral) and power utility Eskom have been considering following the government's sukuk deal, which attracted an order book of $2.2 billion.
Sanral has studied sukuk for years but has faced some challenges relating to the transfer of assets and its tax status, the company told Reuters in May.
Both Sanral and Eskom have said they would only sell sukuk if this was cost-effective versus other funding sources.
(Reuters / 28 July 2015)

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Five years ago this month, Congress took a step toward reining in elements of a troubled financial system when it passed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. The move was touted as an end to the laissez-faire principles embodied in the repeal of Glass-Steagall, which had previously protected against many of the excesses the banking industry is now notorious for.

A Pew poll from earlier this year found that 63% of Americans said the US economic system is no more secure today than it was before the 2008 economic crisis. One explanation for this may have to do with inadequacies in the legislation. How can we continue to make things better? One answer can be found in the principles of Islamic finance.

Almost everyone remembers that high-risk loans, speculation, and leverage fueled the run-up to the Financial Crisis. As the financial sector began to collapse in mid-September 2008, the aggregate default and the trading of mortgage-backed securities (MBS) was a major liability. Banks bought and sold MBS products of all types, keeping some on their books but shifting most of the credit risk to bank trading partners. Although Dodd-Frank provides for securitizing banks to retain an economic interest in the credit risk of any asset transferred, sold, or conveyed to a third party, the amount is less than 10% and exemptions to this rule abound. Islamic finance expressly prohibits the buying and selling of debt and elevates lending (without interest) to be a charitable activity, incentivizing instead risk-taking ventures in partnership with customers in order to produce a tangible impact in communities.

At its core, the credit and housing market crisis was caused by a banking industry that issued loans at excessive interest rates to home buyers who ultimately defaulted. Families with adjustable-rate mortgages were left vulnerable to fluctuating interest rates. These unsound banking practices are still condoned by Dodd-Frank in various forms.

Islamic finance, which recognizes the consequences of charging a gain without sharing the risk, prohibits these practices due to the inherent inequity this arrangement causes between the parties. According to Islamic finance, riba, which is usually translated as “interest,” “usury,” or both, is considered a tool of oppression, as it exploits the needy by unjustly taking their money and enabling those who receive it to -illicitly hoard wealth. Over time, the effects of riba take a toll on society, limiting upward mobility and creating an entrenched financial elite.

The principles of Islamic finance are steered by the need for justice and fairness in financial arrangements. Dodd-Frank was an attempt to move us closer to correcting the excesses of a banking sector still desperately in need of structure, or at the very least a conscience. There’s something to be said for the stability brought by a system centered on justice. Until we have a banking system that more fully participates in a partnership with customers—instead of treating them like nameless, faceless numbers on a spreadsheet—we distance ourselves from the ideals of a just society.

Finally, one of the biggest reasons we still sit on the precipice of crisis five years after Dodd-Frank is that many of its components still need to be written. Doubtless, this has created an environment of uncertainty and timidity in the banking industry. Politicians talk about making lasting reforms but have yet to follow through. This regulatory limbo cannot abide.

Talk is cheap. Dodd-Frank can be better, and the principles of Islamic finance can help.

About the author
Joshua Brockwell is the Director of Investment Communications at Azzad Asset Management. Azzad Asset Management is investment advisor to the Azzad Funds, halal mutual funds that follow investing criteria outlined by the Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI). Azzad is renowned both for its advocacy of the Seven Tenets of Halal Investing and as sponsor of the first Shariah-compliant, socially responsible fixed-income mutual fund in the United States, the Azzad Wise Capital Fund.

(Oil And Gas Financial Journal / 27 July 2015)
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Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Female banker takes on Islamic industry

DUBAI: Samina Akram left her job at Merrill Lynch International Bank eight years ago to start her own consultancy in London specializing in Shariah-compliant finance. Now she’s seeking to empower women in male-dominated Islamic banking.

What started as an informal ladies lunch club with other women in the industry will this week become the first global Women in Islamic & Ethical Finance Forum, a conference for more than 200 people at KPMG LLP’s Canary Wharf offices in London. Shariah-compliant finance forbids interest and typically relies on deals in which the buyer and the seller share risk as well as profit.
Akram, 36, who set up Samak Consultants LLP, is seeking to support women in an industry where they face more obstacles than in conventional banking because of religious conservatism, restrictions on mixed-gender working environments and stereotypes about women in Islamic finance.
In the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council a shift may already be underway, as the banks aim to draw more female clients and recognize they need more female bankers to do so, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers LLC. Women’s net worth in the GCC may grow as much as 15 percent to about $258 billion in the 10 years through 2023, according to Kuwait Financial Center, an asset manager and investment bank.
“There is opportunity, absolutely,” Ashruff Jamall, the Dubai-based head of the Islamic finance division at PwC, said on July 21. “It’s a question of priorities. Islamic banks are now beginning to focus on the women’s segment. Developing female leadership also serves as a catalyst in attracting women as customers.”
Having started at Merrill Lynch in an administrative role, Akram rose to run the lender’s Islamic finance wealth management business. She left the bank in April 2009 as investment banks were shifting focus to outside Islamic finance consultants rather than in-house experts.
“I was an outsider with no direct industry experience and being a woman certainly did not help,” Akram said this month. “My personal struggle in the industry made me realize the obstacles women face and what needs to be done to overcome them. This is where the Women in Islamic Finance idea came from.”
Unemployment among women is five times higher than for men in the GCC, and women hold less than 1 percent of top executive positions, among the lowest figures worldwide, according to a report by McKinsey Middle East last year.
In more conservatives countries, such as Saudi Arabia, there are religious and social constraints that for example forbid the mixing of genders in the work environment. While women in the kingdom make up the majority of university students, they account for just 21 percent of the workforce, most of them employed in education and health care, according to Emad Mostaque, a London-based strategist at emerging-markets consultancy company Ecstrat Ltd.
In other parts of the world with large Muslim populations, women have made more progress in Islamic banking. Two of Malaysia’s 16 Islamic lenders are run by women and three of the 11-member central bank Shariah Advisory Board are female.
In the GCC, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank PJSC, the UAE’s second-biggest Shariah-compliant lender, has unveiled a yearlong initiative to mentor about 40 female bankers who have spent at least four years at the bank and prepare them for more challenging leadership roles.
Shakeeb Saqlain, the CEO of, a U.K.-based online training and networking platform specializing in Shariah banking, said the lack of women in leadership roles at banks has been a miscalculated strategy.
Financial institutions “must do more to offer Islamic financial solutions to this growing female segment, who desperately welcome the idea of investing in Shariah-compliant or ethical financial products,” Akram said.
(The Daily Star Lebanon / 28 July 2015)
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Monday, 27 July 2015

RAM Ratings reaffirms MRCB Southern Link’s Senior and Junior Sukuk ratings

“The negative outlook on both ratings signals the potential for further deterioration in the ratings as a result of a weaker cashflow position should there be any delay in its refinancing exercise. The differential between the ratings of the Senior and Junior Sukuk reflects the Junior Sukuk’s subordinated status from a legal perspective.

“MRCB Southern Link is a funding conduit for the 8.62-km Eastern Dispersal Link (EDL) in Johor Bahru.

“The reaffirmation of the ratings is premised on the inroads that the Company has made with a debt-refinancing exercise. If the Company fails to complete the refinancing exercise by end-2015, a default on the Junior Sukuk is expected at end-December 2016, and a default on the Senior Sukuk at end-June 2019. As such, the ratings of the sukuk will face downward pressure if the refinancing exercise is not concluded by the end of the year. 

Elsewhere, as an interim measure to stave off a liquidity crunch, the Company procured bank guarantees (BG) amounting to MYR 90 million on 27 January 2015 to substitute the cash reserves in itsfinance service reserve accounts (FSRAs). As such, the Company was able to utilise these cash reserves for ongoing debt repayment as well as to support working-capital requirements.

“Since the commencement of tolling on the EDL on 1 August 2014, the Expressway’s monthly traffic volume has been volatile owing to toll-rate hikes on the JB-Singapore Causeway and the higher Vehicle Entry Permit fee imposed by the Singapore government. Compared to the last 5 months of 2014, the annualised average daily traffic (ADT) on the EDL had declined 1.7 per cent in the first 5 months of 2015. We anticipate a minor contraction in the volume of traffic on the EDL for 2015. 

Thereafter, we expect ADT growth to recover to between 2 per cent and 3 per cent per annum in 2016 and 2017, respectively. Elsewhere, the VEP fee planned by the Government, which has yet to be formalised, may negatively impact traffic volume on the EDL.

“Given the initial underperformance of traffic on the EDL in 2014 subsequent to the imposition of toll charges and our expectations of future traffic, the Company is envisaged to face liquidity stress. MRCB Southern Link will have to draw down the Junior Sukuk Special Reserve Account BG (of MYR 20.43 million) by end-2015 to provide the Company with temporary liquidity respite.”

(C P I Financial / 26 July 2015)
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Margin, scale issues to hit smaller Islamic insurance players

Dubai: The enhanced regulatory environment across GCC is expected to result in a surge in costs associated with the implementation of the regulations impacting the profitability of takaful players hard, especially the smaller players.

Implementing the existing regulatory developments will raise costs because of the need to hire expertise, combined with the administrative costs related to meeting the requirements for listed companies.
“We consider that introducing measures to align local regulations may mitigate some of the costs related to adopting the various regulatory requirements and would encourage insurers to focus on capital management and improve pricing discipline,” Ali Karakuyu, an analyst at Standard & Poor’s, said.
According to S&P profitable insurance companies in the GCC region (mostly large, conventional insurers) tend to rely on group medical business or policies that provide significant commission income from reinsurers. Only a few major local insurers can access this profitable commercial business; the smaller players, including the takaful companies, do not have a track record of servicing such contracts and lack the capacity to do so.
This leaves all the small players in the region, including takaful companies, reliant on retail business — mostly motor — sourced from agents charging high commissions.
“We consider that few companies will be able to build a credible business or financial profile from retail business alone, without a cost-effective distribution channel. Furthermore, we find that smaller insurers’ competitive and capital positions are more susceptible to one-off failures,” Karakuyu said.
Analysts say expense ratios of takaful players could rise even higher when additional fees charged by shareholders to manage the policyholder fund (wakala fees) are added. Shareholders at some companies are charging between 15 to 20 per cent of the gross premium (known as gross contributions).
Compared with more-developed markets, the GCC region’s insurers have high tolerance for high-risk assets. The new regulations include limits on the use of such assets, which could mean lower, but more stable investment returns for some players. In Kuwait, insurers must now hold a higher ratio of liquid assets, sufficient to cover their technical liabilities. Although the UAE still permits significant holdings in equity and real estate, which are considered as high-risk assets, liquid assets must cover gross technical reserves. In a market that makes heavy use of reinsurance, liquid asset coverage is considered a prudent measure.
Analysts say in the context of rising costs and competitive pressures, key shareholders may reconsider their long-term commitment to the takaful sector. Some of them entered the industry to maximise the returns on their real estate and equity holdings. In effect, in many cases board members consider underwriting performance secondary to investment performance. Weak technical profitability was not seen as a key threat to the capital base.
“While core shareholders have not yet indicated that they are considering selling their stakes, we see increasing evidence that they are less willing to inject more capital to help takaful providers meet the enhanced regulatory requirements, given their generally marginal results,” Karakuyu said.
“Family ownership of takaful providers remains one of the main obstacles to mergers and acquisitions. High market valuations, relative to book value, also reduce the incentive to merge, especially in Saudi Arabia.
(Gulf News Banking / 26 July 2015)
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Friday, 24 July 2015

Malaysia: Maybank Ageas aims equal contribution from takaful, general insurance

KUALA LUMPUR: Maybank Ageas Holdings Bhd, the parent company of Etiqa Insurance Bhd and Etiqa Takaful Bhd, aims to equalise the contribution from its general insurance business and that of life insurance and family takaful for the financial year ending Dec 31, 2015. 

The target would be supported by the company's new distribution channels and and plans to be more aggressive on the fire thrust of its general insurance business, said Chief Executive Officer Kamaludin Ahmad.

"We want to have a good growth in fire insurance. In addition, we are going to sell term takaful cover which is suitable for the younger generation, as well as, provide house owner insurance on our online channel.

"The challenge we are facing now is in the motor insurance sector. It has always been a challenge in the market. We will probably break even in the motor insurance," he told Bernama.

For its life insurance and family takaful, Kamaludin said Maybank Ageas has been consistent in upgrading products for medical care and was proactive in its claims servicing. 

Maybank Ageas recorded a premium of about RM5 billion last year, of which RM2.55 billion came from life and family insurance and the remaining RM2.45 billion came from general insurance. 

With its plans this year, Kamaludin said Maybank Ageas aimed to increase the number of policyholders by 50,000 new customers and at least 70,000 policies from its existing customers. 

To date, it has 3.9 million policyholders owning a cumulative 5.8 million policies. 

On overall performance, Kamaludin said the Maybank's insurance and takaful arm aimed to increase total premium by at least 10 per cent in the current financial year, driven by its life insurance, takaful business, as well as, contributions from its Singapore subsidiary. 

As at end-June 2015, Etiqa Insurance Pte Ltd's life insurance annual premium equivalent stood at SG$22.8 million (SG$1=RM2.80) against a full year target of SG$60 million. 

For general insurance, the year-to-date gross written premium is at SG$26.8 million against a full year target of SG$59.1 million.

(The Star Online / 23 July 2015)
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Malaysia: RM38bil in sukuk planned for this year

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia has more than RM38bil of sukuk issuances in the pipeline dominated by the private sector.

Data recently compiled and updated by Reuters showed that Tenaga Nasional Bhd has hired three banks to help raise up to RM9.5bil through a sukuk issue.

It is raising the amount to develop a greenfield power plant it has taken over from debt-laden state fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd.

Another notable corporate issuer was SapuraKencana Petroleum Bhd.

It said said in mid-June that it planned to raise up to RM7bil with a multi-currency sukuk programme.

Meanwhile, the country’s second largest lender, CIMB Group Holdings Bhd wants to launch a new RM6bil conventional and Islamic bond programme, a regulatory filing by RAM Ratings said in late April.

Telekom Malaysia Bhd had readied in late April a RM2.8bil, multi-currency sukuk programme. Another prominent issuer was Axis REIT.

It said in early April that it had expanded its sukuk programme to RM3bil from RM300mil.It had extended the tenure to perpetual from 15 years.

Reuters news report yesterday said the Thomson Reuters Global Sukuk Index was at 118.01254 points, up from 117.85307 at the end of last month and 115.79726 at the end of last year.

(The Star Online / 22 July 2015)
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Islamic Finance System In Turkey

The Islamic finance system has arisen due to various religious and economical reasons and, in general, it is a system where any and all kinds of financial activities and transactions are applied within the scope of Islamic rules. This market is established based on applying the principles and rules brought in by Islam to the financial transactions. Considered as an alternative field to the modern finance understanding, the Islamic finance quickly develops as an alternative field in the global finance markets in the light of the developments during the recent years. The framework of an Islamic financial system is being established in line with various rules and laws which the Islamic communities are subjected to in terms of economical, social, political and cultural aspects.

The basic difference of Islamic finance and traditional finance is that the "interest", located in the center of the traditional financial transactions, is prohibited in the Islamic finance. If the money paid for the debt instrument is different than its nominal value, then the difference between them is described as interest. The Islamic religion considers this difference as an unfair increase, therefore prohibits the trading of any debt instrument for a value other than its nominal value. With the interest prohibition in question, it's aimed to prevent any unfair capital increase at a loss of someone else. In addition to this, only partnering for profit without taking any risk and without partnering to loss is also a prohibited transaction in the Islamic world. Debt instruments issued without taking the abovementioned into account are not accepted as an Islamic debt instrument.

For the Islamic law, the provisions of the agreement should be definite for the legal transactions and particularly for the agreements putting both parties under an obligation. In other words, the subject matter of the agreement should be known and definite. Particularly the agreements with substantial uncertainties are not considered as suitable for sharia.

According to the Islamic rules, the activities based on making a gain from the loss of someone else such asgamblingbetting and games of chance are also prohibited.

Within this scope, the financing methods developed by the Islamic financial institutions can be categorized in general as Mudaraba (labor capital partnership), Musharaka (profit-loss partnership), Murabaha (cost plus profit margin sales), Ijara (lease financing), Quard-Hasan (interest-free loan), Istisna'a (order based procurement) and Sukuk.

As one of these financing methods, Sukuk is an important financial instrument suitable to the interest-freebanking principles developed for increasing the financing in the international capital markets. The basic rule in Sukuk is that it has to be based on an asset different than the traditional debt instrument bonds. In the simplest term, Sukuk shows owning an asset or benefiting from that asset. According to this system, the main company assigns the properties subject to the Sukuk transaction to a company established for a special purpose, and this company securitizes and sells these assets to the investors. In the Sukuk system, the receivables are securitized based on the asset. As a result, it allows the buyer to get a share from the revenues obtained from the assets, in addition to the proceeds arising from the sales of the assets. Sukuk has become a global investment instrument and also defined as "interest-free bond". The Turkey version of Sukuk has entered to our legislation as lease certificates as a similar instrument and is regulated in the "Communiqué on Lease Certificates" no. III-61.1 (Communiqué) of the Capital Markets Board of Turkey. Lease certificate means thesecurity which is issued by the asset leasing company in order to provide financing to any kind of asset and right and allowing the lease certificate holders to be entitled for the revenues obtained from this asset or right, in the rate of their shares.

Carried out within the scope of the abovementioned rules and principles, the operation of the Islamic financial services and products vary from country to country, and recorded a significant improvement during the recent years. Examining and considering the other examples in the world, the Islamic financial system appears as an effective system in the fund transfer process as an alternative financial brokerage.

(Mondaq News Alerts / 22 July 2015)
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Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Malaysia: West Coast’s proposed RM1b sukuk rated AAA by RAM

KUALA LUMPUR, July 21 — RAM Ratings has assigned “AAA(bg/fg)/Stable” rating to the proposed guaranteed RM1 billion Sukuk Murabahah Programme to be issued by West Coast Expressway Sdn Bhd (West Coast).

The rating reflects irrevocable and unconditional Kafalah from AAA-rated Bank Pembangunan Malaysia Bhd and Danajamin Nasional Bhd, which enhance the sukuk’s ratings beyond West Coast’s stand-alone credit strength.
The proposed sukuk, a syndicated term-loan facility, a government support loan and shareholders’ equity, will fund the West Coast Expressway, said the rating agency in a statement here today.
The 316-km highway, from Banting, Selangor, to Changkat Jering in Taiping, will be the second longest inter-state tolled expressway after the North-South Expressway.
It is budgeted for completion within five years at a cost of RM5 billion.
(Malay Mail Online / 21 July 2015)
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Tecom Investments and Amlak Finance launch off-plan Islamic financing

Dubai: Tecom Investments said on Tuesday it has signed an agreement with Amlak Finance, the UAE’s first specialised real estate finance provider, to offer Sharia-compliant financing options via its Amlak Tatweer programme to all purchasers of freehold Villa Lantana homes, including non-resident and self-employed buyers.

Amlak will offer financing of up to 50 per cent of the property value prior to project handover, with the option to re-finance up to 75 per cent upon completion for tenures of up to 25 years at highly competitive rates, enabling more investors and end-users to become part of the Villa Lantana community, Tecom Investments said in a statement.
The new Villa Lantana development of 440 freehold family villas represents an astute investment opportunity, in part due to its key location in Dubai’s Al Barsha growth corridor in addition to the established reputation of its master developer, Tecom Investments.
The contemporary Villa Lantana community also features a well-planned, beautifully landscaped family neighbourhood. Buyers can choose between 17 different villa designs, 11 floor plans and a range of 3, 4 and 5 bedroom detached and semi-attached family homes. Villas span in square footage from 2,453-square-feet of Built Up Area (BUA), up to 
6,082-square-feet BUA.
(Gulf News Markets / 21 July 2015)
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