Category Archives: Current trends and news

Ernst & Young projects mixed outlook for the Islamic finance industry

Ernst & Young projects mixed outlook for the Islamic finance industry

Islamic financial institutions are at cross roads entering 2011, said Ernst & Young. The industry is expected to continue to show resilience in the face of a challenging economic scenario. This is despite the fact that growth levels of the Islamic finance industry, at more than 20 per cent per annum for the past several years, came under tremendous pressure in 2010.

Ashar Nazim, Executive Director and MENA Head of Islamic Financial Services Group at Ernst & Young says: “Having achieved the critical volume estimated at US$1 trillion in Islamic assets, the question reverberating across board rooms, and among users of Islamic financial services, is about differentiation, or the lack thereof, that Islamic financial institutions have on offer.  Effectiveness of the existing Shari’a governance framework, as well as synthetic product structures commonly in use are especially under discussion.”

No longer business as usual

Scarcity of data and under-investment in analytical tools means that Islamic banks’ focus remains limited to a handful of asset classes while their operating costs are, in many cases, higher than their conventional peers. Future opportunities may no longer come from traditional captive clientele. Instead, Islamic financial institutions urgently need to upgrade their business models to tap mainstream segments.

Ashar Nazim added: “Decision makers at Islamic financial institutions need research and tools to assist in making informed decisions on the future growth trajectory of their businesses. Implications of Shari’a rulings on governance, product structures and markets need to be appropriately incorporated at the planning phase itself.”

Ernst & Young was voted the Best Islamic Advisory Firm and also won the award for Best Islamic Research at the 2010 Islamic Business and Finance Awards organized by CPI Financial. Ernst & Young’s Islamic Financial Services team was acknowledged for its original thought leadership to help steer the industry through the difficult business environment.

Ernst & Young also recently joined hands with AAOIFI*, the leading standard-setting body for Islamic finance industry, to provide product and contract certification that would strengthen universal acceptability of Shari’a compliant products offered by Islamic financial institutions.

New direction for the industry

Ernst & Young’s World Takaful Report highlighted the fluid nature of the takaful industry, as well as tremendous growth potential. The industry is expected to grow three-fold from an estimated US$9 billion in 2009 to $25 billion by 2015. “The biggest challenge for the takaful operators is to bring out the differentiation, its unique Islamic proposition, for its stakeholders. This was the key message for the industry during 2010,” said Ashar.

Ernst & Young’s Islamic Funds and Investment Report 2010 confirmed that more than half the Islamic fund managers may be operating with less than the minimum assets under management needed to remain viable. The opportunity is for global fund managers as well as for consolidation within the industry. Islamic endowment, or Waqf, with an estimated US$105 billion wealth pool, was highlighted as a key emerging sector that could potentially stimulate strong liability generation for Islamic banks, as well as help revive the Islamic fund management industry.

Source: http://www.zawya.com/story.cfm/sidZAWYA20110109091715

Yemen Plans First Sukuk Offering to Fund Budget Deficit

Yemen Plans First Sukuk Offering to Fund Budget Deficit

Yemen, the poorest country in the Middle East, plans to sell $500 million of local currency Islamic bonds for the first time to fund the budget deficit and spur the Shariah-compliant finance industry.

The central bank may offer sukuk in the domestic market from the first quarter, Deputy Finance Minister Jalal Yaqoub said in a telephone interview Dec. 29 from Sanaa, the capital. The government is seeking technical assistance on the sale from the International Monetary Fund.Tadhamon International Islamic Bank, the largest Islamic bank in Yemen, and Cooperative & Agricultural Credit Bank said they will participate in the sale.

“The issuance of the sukuk will create investment opportunities and diversify banks’ portfolios, both Islamic and conventional banks,” Masood Ahmed, director of the IMF’s Middle East and Central Asia Department, said in a telephone interview from Washington Jan. 4. “It will help the government to diversify the sources of budget financing.”

Yemen, which is battling al-Qaeda, an uprising in the north and a secessionist movement in the south, needs funds to bridge its fiscal gap, the biggest on the Arabian Peninsula. Muslims make up the majority of the population of 23.5 million, according to the Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook. Growth in the $30 billion economy will slow to 4.1 percent this year, from 8 percent in 2010, the IMF said in its October Regional Economic Outlook report.

Financing Deficits

The government’s 1.84 trillion-rial ($8.6 billion) budget for 2011 forecasts a deficit of 316.4 billion rials, state-run news agency Saba said Dec. 29. The government plans to fund the gap through domestic borrowing including sales of Islamic bonds and from external loans such as a three-year, $369.8-million credit facility from the IMF, according to the organization.

Foreign debt rose to $6.49 billion last September from about $6 billion a year earlier, Saba news agency reported Dec. 29, citing a central bank report. Yemen received a total of $808 million in loans from the Arab Monetary Fund, a unit of the 22- member Arab League, the fund said Dec. 26 on its website.

Yemen’s proposed Islamic notes will target individual investors and local banks, the Finance Ministry’s Yaqoub said. The government will determine sale details by the end of the first week of February, he said. The central bank currently sells 91-day, 182-day and 364-day treasury bills, according to data on its website.

Savings

“Yemeni citizens have a reasonable amount of savings, but the funds haven’t been used in projects,” Yaqoub said. “We want the savings that go to the Islamic banks to go to big development projects like electricity, roads, water and schools.”

Other governments are also seeking to benefit from growing interest in Islamic finance.Afghanistan drafted an Islamic banking law to permit standalone Shariah-compliant banks,Sudan sold Islamic bonds to local banks last month and the Palestinian Authority plans to sell its first sukuk this year. Global assets held by Islamic financial institutions may climb to $1.6 trillion in 2012 from about $1 trillion, the body said in April.

Shariah-compliant bonds returned 12.8 percent last year, the HSBC/NASDAQ Dubai US Dollar Sukuk Index shows. Debt in emerging markets gained 12.2 percent, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s EMBI Global Diversified Index.

Global sales of sukuk, which pay returns based on asset flows, dropped 15 percent to $17.1 billion in 2010, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Sukuk Investments

The yield on Malaysia’s 3.928 percent Islamic note due June 2015 fell 9 basis points to 3.02 percent today, according to Royal Bank of Scotland Plc prices. The extra yield investors demand to hold Dubai’s government sukuk rather than Malaysia’s was little changed at 319 basis points, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The difference between the average yield for emerging market sukuk and the London interbank offered rate narrowed six basis points to 284 yesterday, according to the HSBC/NASDAQ Dubai US Dollar Sukuk Index.

Yemen has 17 banks, including three Islamic banks, Saba Islamic Bank, Tadhamon International Islamic Bank and Islamic Bank of Yemen for Finance and Investment, according to central bank data. Islamic banks in the country have “ample liquidity for an instrument like a sukuk,” which will help spur demand, the IMF’s Ahmed said.

Needing Sukuk

Sanaa-based Cooperative & Agricultural Credit Bank will buy the bonds to diversify holdings, economic and investment adviser Moneer Saif said in a telephone interview Jan. 5 from the capital. The bank’s Shariah-compliant unit CAC Islamic is seeking a license from the central bank, he said.

“Of course we will buy,” Saif said. “It will be one of our priorities. Islamic banks need Islamic products as an alternative to achieve good profits and compete with conventional banks.”

Oil accounts for 60 percent of government revenue and 90 percent of exports, the IMF said in a report on Aug. 19. Oil reserves are expected to be depleted within a decade, the Washington-based lender said.

U.S. pressure on Yemen to crack down on al-Qaeda has intensified since the local wing of the group claimed responsibility for a failed attempt to blow up a U.S. airliner on Dec. 25, 2009. In October, two parcel bombs sent from the country to U.S. synagogues were seized in the U.K. and Dubai.

The country’s economic “challenges are compounded by a difficult security situation and civil unrest, a rapidly growing population, poor infrastructure, and weak institutional capacity,” the IMF said.

‘Failure’

The government’s plan to finance infrastructure with Shariah-compliant funds may not succeed because existing electricity and water projects are “already a failure,” Rasheed al-Sakkaf, head of treasury at Tadhamon International Islamic Bank, said in a telephone interview Jan. 3.

Al-Sakkaf said his bank would only buy if the project is economically viable. “If the profit is good, we will buy more.”

Islamic bonds are typically backed by assets or cash flow because of the ban on interest. Investors earn any profit from the assets instead.

Yemen delayed the sukuk sale from last year because the government had difficulties “getting well-skilled staff to run the sukuk project,” Yaqoub said.

The 15 percent increase in oil prices last year, economic growth and a recovery in the rial have set the stage for a sukuk offering this year, the IMF’s Ahmed said. The currency has gained 12 percent since reaching a 2010 low of 239.98 on Aug. 4, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“The conditions should be there for them to be able to diversify their domestic debt instruments by introducing their sukuk in the market,” he said.

Source: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-01-05/yemen-plans-first-sukuk-offering-to-fund-budget-deficit-islamic-finance.html

To contact the reporter on this story: Dana El Baltaji in Dubai delbaltaji@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Claudia Maedler at cmaedler@bloomberg.net

Basel III in support of the Islamic banking principal

Basel III in support of the Islamic banking principal

By Dr. Aly Khorshid

basel iii

The Group of Governors and Heads of Supervision, the oversight body of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, announced a substantial strengthening of existing capital requirements and fully endorsed the agreements it reached on 26 July 2010. These capital reforms, together with the introduction of a global liquidity standard, deliver on the core of the global financial reform agenda and will be presented to the Seoul G20 Leaders summit in November.

The Committee’s package of reforms will increase the minimum common equity requirement from 2% to 4.5%. In addition, banks will be required to hold a capital conservation buffer of 2.5% to withstand future periods of stress bringing the total common equity requirements to 7%. This reinforces the stronger definition of capital agreed by Governors and Heads of Supervision in July and the higher capital requirements for trading, derivative, and securitization activities to be introduced at the end of 2011.

Islamic banks are among the best capitalized banks in the world, and historically comply with inflexible standards of capitalization, Islamic Bank for capital requirements means that local banks already exceed norms set by the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) as part of the Basel III accord.

Islamic banks already have stricter capital requirements than what are proposed in Basel III. With the Islamic banks being amongst the best capitalized on a global scale, they are on the safe side compared to their European or US counterparts, Tier 1 and total capital requirements currently stand at 8 per cent and 12 per cent, respectively, which are already higher than the target 2019 ratios set by Basel III.

The BIS reported this week that it has reached an agreement to increase key capital ratios for banks. The minimum requirement for common equity, the highest form of loss absorbing capital, will be raised from the current 2 to 4.5 per cent after the application of stricter adjustments. This will be phased in by January 1, 2015. The total Tier 1 capital requirement, which includes common equity and other qualifying financial instruments based on stricter criteria, will increase from 4 to 6 per cent over the same period. There will also be a ‘buffer requirement’ of 2.5 per cent that can be drawn down to the 4.5 per cent minimum requirement during times of stress. This effectively will raise common equity requirements to 7 per cent.

If a bank draws below the 7 per cent common equity requirement, including the buffer, distribution of earnings must be curtailed until the 7 per cent level is recovered. These restrictions would apply to dividends and executive compensation, including bonuses.

These changes are intended to reinforce banks’ capacity to absorb future potential losses. The transition period for the world’s banks to comply with these rules has been extended to January 2019 vs. the end-2012 deadline set by the regulators last year. This news was positively welcomed by the investor community as evident through the climb in banks share prices in Europe and Asia.

President of the European Central Bank and Chairman of the Group of Governors and Heads of Supervision, said that "the agreements reached today are a fundamental strengthening of global capital standards." He added that "their contribution to long term financial stability and growth will be substantial.
The transition arrangements will enable banks to meet the new standards while supporting the economic recovery. The Chairman of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision and President of the Netherlands Bank, added that "the combination of a much stronger definition of capital, higher minimum requirements and the introduction of new capital buffers will ensure that banks are better able to withstand periods of economic and financial stress, therefore supporting economic growth."

Islamic Banks comply with Basel III
Islamic banks are among the best capitalized in the world, and historically stringent standards set , Islamic Bank for capital requirements means that local banks already surpass norms set by the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) as part of the Basel III accord, which has a 2019 deadline.

Islamic Bank already has stricter capital requirements than what is proposed in Basel III.

With the Islamic banks being amongst the best capitalized on a global scale, they are on the safe side compared to their European or US counterparts, Tier 1 and total capital requirements currently stand at 8 per cent and 12 per cent, respectively, which are already higher than the target 2019 ratios set by Basel III (of 6 per cent and 8 per cent, respectively)."

The BIS reported this week that it has reached an agreement to increase key capital ratios for banks. The minimum requirement for common equity, the highest form of loss absorbing capital, will be raised from the current 2 to 4.5 per cent after the application of stricter adjustments.

This will be phased in by January 1, 2015. The total Tier 1 capital requirement, which includes common equity and other qualifying financial instruments based on stricter criteria, will increase from 4 to 6 per cent over the same period. There will also be a ‘buffer requirement’ of 2.5 per cent that can be drawn down to the 4.5 per cent minimum requirement during times of stress. This effectively will raise common equity requirements to 7 per cent.

If a bank draws below the 7 per cent common equity requirement, including the buffer, distribution of earnings must be curtailed until the 7 per cent level is recovered. These restrictions would apply to dividends and executive compensation, including bonuses.

These changes are intended to reinforce banks’ capacity to absorb future potential losses. The transition period for the world’s banks to comply with these rules has been extended to January 2019 vs. the end-2012 deadline set by the regulators last year. This news was positively welcomed by the investor community as evident through the climb in banks share prices in Europe and Asia.

It appears that while actual implementation won’t start until 2013, the accords will not be fully implemented until 2018.

At this point we believe it is too early to assess the full consequences of these new regulation changes especially that Islamic banks have been complying with Basel II.

"However, until further analysis is made, we believe local banks could elect to conserve capital through constrained dividend payout," they said.

Source: http://www.english.globalarabnetwork.com/201012228432/Finance/basel-iii-in-support-of-the-islamic-banking-principal.html

Islamic banking thriving

Islamic banking thriving

Islamic banking has emerged as one of the most rapidly expanding sectors of the global financial industry, with expectations that it will play a growing role in the years to come.

Banks and financial institutions that comply with Islamic law (sharia) showed impressive resilience during the financial crisis that hit the world economy at the end of 2008, knocking out dozens of conventional banks, particularly in the United States.

This encouraged even countries with Muslim minorities, such as Britain, Germany, the US and France, to add Islamic banks to their conventional banking industry.

The size of the global Islamic banking industry is believed to have grown from about 820 billion dollars at the end of 2008 to more than 1 trillion dollars in 2010.

Latest studies indicate that the steadily growing Islamic banking system could reach 1.5 trillion dollars in 2012 and 3

trillion dollars by 2015.

“I believe Islamic banks stand to gain more ground in future, thanks to the confidence they have come to enjoy during the financial crisis,” Jordanian economist Jawad Anani told the German Press Agency dpa.

He attributed their recent successes to the abundant liquidity that they managed to secure in spite of the financial meltdown.

“The successful performance of Islamic banks during the world crisis enabled them to attract funds from foreign conventional banks, which hurried to open windows for Islamic finance and bonds,” said Anani, who runs an economic consultancy bureau in Amman.

Islamic banks play a similar role to those performed by conventional banks. But there are fundamental differences.

The underlying concept in Islamic banking and finance is justice, which is accomplished through the sharing of risk. Stakeholders are under obligation to share profits and losses and to refrain from dealing with exorbitant interest rates, which Islam consider tantamount to usury.

The Islamic financial system emerged more or less unscathed from the global financial crisis, mainly due to its strict prohibition of investments in risky instruments like toxic assets and derivatives, which have adversely affected their conventional competitors.

“The Islamic financial system has proved to be the least affected by the fallout of the global crisis, thanks to its strict management of financial instruments, its focus on financing real operations and keeping away from speculation,” Kholoud Saqqaf, deputy governor of the Central Bank of Jordan said in early December during a conference in Jordan to assess the success of the Islamic financial system.

Not only rich countries were impressed by the performance of the Islamic finance. Cash-stripped states have also shown interest in the fledgling system.

Jordanian Finance Minister Mohammad Abu Hammour said recently that his government was mulling the issuance of hundreds of millions of dollar-denominated sukuk Islamic bonds “as a new window of borrowing on the basis of the Islamic sharia.”

According to a recent study by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Islamic banks “contributed to financial and economic stability during the crisis, given that their credit and asset growth was at least twice as high as that of conventional banks”.

The IMF attributed this growth to the Islamic banks’ “higher solvency, and to the fact that many Islamic banks lent a larger part of their portfolio to the consumer sector, which was less affected by the crisis than other sectors in the countries studied.”

Despite the strong growth displayed by Islamic banks in the first year of the crisis, they suffered a significant decline in profitability in 2009, mainly due to what economists describe as a weakness in risk management.

“I believe one of the challenges facing Islamic banks is innovating methods for developing the management of risks that face the application of Islamic law to the financial industry,” Anani said.

“If Islamic banks fail to develop such mechanisms, I think they will continue to attract deposits but will be unable to lure clients and investments, particularly when global interest rates go up with an economic upturn,” he added.

Anani, a previous cabinet minister and economic advisor to the Jordanian government, detected another shortcoming for the Islamic financial industry – a failure by Islamic banks to improve understanding with central banks regarding certain issues.

“A problem still exists with the insistence of central banks to treat Islamic banks as ordinary commercial banks that should abide by their monetary policy rules,” he said.

Source: http://www.iol.co.za/business/international/islamic-banking-thriving-1.1004227

Standardisation of Islamic finance industry: Expert calls for setting up watchdog

Standardisation of Islamic finance industry: Expert calls for setting up watchdog

regulation

Standardisation of the Islamic banking policies, procedures and regulatory framework on a global level is important to propel the growth of the industry.

That is the view of BBK investment banking arm Capinnova Investment Bank chief executive officer Jamal Hijres.

"An important effort towards achieving international consistency was the creation of two multilateral institutions, the Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions and the Islamic Financial Services Board.

"The growth of such institutions will definitely improve and propel the industry at a faster pace.

"The Islamic banking industry is a fast growing sector that offers an array of opportunities yet to be exploited," he said.

"Although the Middle East still represents the biggest share of the total Islamic banking sector, Western countries are gearing towards this new trend that presents a unique opportunity to diversify.

"With a growing market share and a considerable growth rate recorded over the past decade, it is essential for a unified global Islamic banking authority to be established.

"This authority can be entrusted with standardising Islamic banking operations and facilitating communication between the different entities, leading to the full exploitation of the sector’s potential.

"One of the most important challenges faced by the Islamic banking sector is the unavailability of experts in both banking and Islamic issues.

"An Islamic banker must possess a profound knowledge of Sharia rules and principles, in addition to finance.

"The shortage in experienced and qualified scholars is forcing them to field positions on multiple Sharia boards, which in turn increases the risk of a conflict of interest."

"Even though the financial crisis did not affect the Islamic banking industry in particular, the drop in Gulf real estate and oil prices had repercussions on the industry," he said.

"However, now with oil prices back in the normal range it has definitely brought confidence back to the industry.

"While Islamic finance is one of the big success stories in finance today, it is worth looking at the current credit crunch in conventional finance to see how easily one problem can spiral out of control.

"This is something that Islamic finance practitioners need to take on board and make sure they are prepared to expect the unexpected.

"Rigid corporate governance programmes, transparency on compliance, learning from conventional banking successes and failures and achieving greater market penetration are all goals that will help sustain this area of Islamic finance."

Source: http://www.gulf-daily-news.com/NewsDetails.aspx?storyid=294232