Tag Archives: Sukuk

S&P Reports ‘Sukuk’ Market is Growing, Despite ‘Some Roadblocks’

Insurance Journal: S&P Reports Sukuk Market is Growing, Despite Some Roadblocks


A report from Standard & Poor’s Paris office – The Sukuk Market Has Continued To Progress In 2009 Despite Some Roadblocks – notes that new issues of "sukuk (bonds compliant with Islamic law) topped $9.3 billion in the first seven months of 2009 compared with $11.1 billion during the same period in 2008.

"The smaller amount of issuance was due not only to the still-challenging market conditions and drying up of liquidity, but also to the less-supportive economic environment in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, particularly in the United Arab Emirates," explained credit analyst Mohamed Damak.

"The medium-term outlook for the sukuk market remains positive, though, in our view, given the strong pipeline–with sukuk announced or being talked about in the market estimated at about $50 billion–and efforts to resolve the major difficulties impeding sukuk market development."

Malaysia has taken the lead as the major country of issuance for sukuk, accounting for about 45 percent of sukuk issuances in the first seven months of 2009. Issuers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have contributed another 22 percent of sukuk issued during the same period.

S&P pointed out that the "default of a couple of sukuk was possibly partly responsible for the slowdown in issuance. The silver lining was that these defaults should provide the market with useful information on how sukuk will behave following default."

Doctors of law needed to take Islamic finance forward

Doctors of law needed to take Islamic finance forward


With the global financial crisis exposing the limitations of traditional banking systems, there is now a big push in the banking sector worldwide to incorporate Islamic banking, the total assets of which are expected to reach $2 trillion (Dh7.34trn) in 2015, according to experts.

However, Islamic banking is not without its challenges, the most prominent of which is to find adequately qualified Islamic scholars for the Shariah governance boards of Islamic banks and financial institutions.

Two experts that Emirates Business spoke to said a PhD in Shariah law should be a mandatory requirement for any member of a governing board of an Islamic bank. They also proposed a system of issuing operating licences for the scholars after testing them to ensure they met all the required criteria.

Dr Mabid Al Jarhi, President of the International Association for Islamic Economics, Financial Expert and Head of Training at Emirates Islamic Bank, said Islamic banking faces a number of challenges that need to be closely considered to help increase reliability and authenticity. One of the most serious challenges is represented in the need for set standards and criteria for the governance of Shariah boards at Islamic banks, said Dr Al Jarhi.

The market demands the development of new innovative Shariah-compliant financial products. However, currently there seems to be a lack of adequate qualified practitioners to do so. "The market requires professionals who not only have excellent financial knowledge, but also a good understanding of Islamic law," Dr Al Jarhi said.

"Many members of governing Shariah boards are not qualified enough to study and generate Shariah-compliant products and this reduces the reliability of Islamic banking and finance," he said.

Central banks should intervene to issue a set of eligibility criteria for joining governance boards to help produce genuine Shariah-compliant products that have positive impacts, Dr Al Jarhi said. At the same time, there should be control over products that are listed as Shariah compliant but are not – such as "Tawarroq" – and products based on debt and risk trading. There is an urgent need for the members of Shariah governing boards to be holders of PhDs from recognised universities, such as Al Azhar of Egypt, University of Islamic Shariah in Syria and Umm Al Qura University in Saudi Arabia.

"Unfortunately, some Islamic banks appoint Muslim scholars who are not even holders of high degrees in Islamic Shariah," Dr Al Jarhi said. "The market is unable at this point to meet the demand for innovative financial products to meet all types of investment requirements." Economic advisors of these boards, too, should be holders of PhDs from recognised universities and the Shariah board should comprise an odd number to ensure a majority in voting.

Licencing Shariah personnel
Dr Abozaid also called for issuing licences to Shariah scholars engaged in Islamic banking, similar to the ones given to engineers or doctors before they are allowed to start their practice. An independent body should be set up to licence scholars for the membership of Shariah boards, he said. It should be made mandatory for scholars to clear a test in the Islamic law of transactions and the basics of Islamic finance in order to obtain the licence. A possible licencing body could the Bahrain-based General Council for Islamic Banks & Financial Institutions, he suggested.

"This is the core necessity for correcting the current anomalies in the Islamic banking and finance sphere," said Dr Abozaid.

In addition, scholars would also be required to have sufficient knowledge of the English language, as all contracts were in English, he said, and added that a non-profitable institution for training scholars should be set up to help increase their expertise.

It is also unprecedented in Islam that a scholar is paid by the party that seeks his opinion on Shariah laws, Dr Abozaid said.

"Currently, the scholar who is assigned to give an Islamic Shariah opinion, or ‘fatwa’, is paid by the bank – the party that seeks this legal opinion. This opens the door for violating and manipulating Islamic principles to favour the bank," he said.

In addition, it falls under the duties and responsibilities of the Shariah boards to arbitrate any dispute between the Islamic bank and its clients. It is unprecedented in the Shariah that an arbitrator or a judge takes his fees from one of the parties involved in a dispute. Such a practice is prohibited under Shariah, as it may open the door to malpractices that favour the party paying the fees.

To ensure that Islamic principles and teachings are implemented in banking transactions with honesty and integrity, scholars should not be paid by a party that needs a "fatwa" but rather by a third party, which could be the central banks, Dr Abozaid said. Central banks, in turn, may collect an amount from the allowances payable by Islamic banks to the Shariah boards members.

Read the rest …

DIFC Authority releases updated version of ‘Guide to Islamic Finance’

DIFC Authority releases updated version of ‘Guide to Islamic Finance’

dubai tower

The Dubai International Financial Centre Authority today announced the release of the updated version of its ‘Guide to Islamic Finance in or from the DIFC’.

Apart from incorporating the new landmarks in the evolution of its model Islamic insurance regulatory framework and operating practises, the latest publication also takes into account the changing overall scenario as a result of the ongoing financial crisis that is gripping the world.

At the same time, the publication retains and expands on its original aim of assisting those parties from within the region and outside, who are interested in learning about the rapidly expanding world of Islamic finance.

The publication provides a summary of the underlying concepts in Islamic finance and examines the issues facing the Islamic financial services industry, both in DIFC and beyond; now and in the future.

The Islamic Financial services industry is growing at a phenomenal rate. What emerged as a niche industry has now pervaded almost every major financial market in the world. Markets are seeking to introduce Islamic products under various labels like Islamic Finance, Shariah-compliant Finance, or even Alternative Finance, but whatever title is used, it is without doubt one of the fastest growing financial sectors in the world. Most global banks either have a subsidiary or a division dedicated to Islamic Finance.

Abdulla Al Awar, Chief Executive Officer of DIFC Authority, pointed out that the DIFC had identified Islamic Finance as one of its major pillars even before it became globally popular. “Since then the DIFC has successfully worked towards becoming a hub for Shariah-compliant finance.

“Perhaps now is the opportunity for Islamic Finance to come out from the shadows of conventional finance and provide financial products in line with Shariah to an investor base that is currently unsatisfied and unsure of the conventional financial system,” he said.
There are many factors for this phenomenon. Many conventional forms of banking and insurance have been prohibited or restricted in the Islamic World on the grounds that they contravene the tenets of Islam.

But, in recent years, there has been a dramatic growth in Islamic or Shariah-compliant financial products, reflecting a number of trends including changes in Islamic law such as the approval in 1985 by the Grand Counsel of Islamic scholars of the Takaful system as the alternative form of insurance written in compliance with Islamic Shariah and the emergence of an international market in Sukuk (Shariah-compliant) bonds.

Other factors are economic development giving rise to infrastructure and other projects which require Shariah-compliant forms of financing, rising incomes among the Arab population resulting in the need for Islamic consumer financial products such as insurance, mortgages, pension plans and investment funds, and changing demographics resulting in the growing need for pensions and other retirement savings products.

The publication points out that the total size of the Islamic Banking industry is currently estimated to be between US $800 billion to $1trillion, and is estimated to have a global potential of $4 trillion. It is growing at 15-20 per cent per annum and within the next 8-10 years Islamic banking industry is projected to capture half of the savings of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims.

Currently, market penetration amounts to an estimated 20 per cent of the Arab population. This figure is expected to rise dramatically and it is expected that within the next decade, 50 to 60 per cent of the total savings of the world’s 1.2 billion Muslims will be in the form of Shariah compliant products.

More interestingly, as conventional banking faces troubled times, Islamic banking, which is asset-backed as opposed to debt-based, offers a viable alternative and is becoming increasingly popular in global financial capitals such as London, which ranks second after Dubai in terms of the number of listed sukuks.

The publication says assets under management in Islamic Funds are estimated to be between $50-70 billion and the total value of sukuks issued is valued at more than $88 billion, of which $13 billion is listed on NADAQ Dubai.

Hari Bhambra, Senior Partner, Praesidium, said: “Islamic Financial Institutions based in the DIFC are clearly ready to respond to this opportunity and this publication provides information on the manner in which Islamic Finance can be offered in or from the DIFC.

“Praesidium has developed this publication with the DIFC Authority to assist those parties interested in learning about Islamic finance generally and gaining an understanding of the operating environment of the DIFC,” he said.

Bhambra said the publication provides a summary of the underlying concepts in Islamic finance and examines the issues facing the Islamic financial services industry, both in DIFC and beyond; now and in the future.

It also sets out the regulatory environment developed by the Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) for Islamic finance and the scope for the application of such requirements to new product offerings, such as Shariah-compliant REITs.

Read the guide here

Bahrain sukuk attracts $4 billion

Bahrain sukuk attracts $4 billion


Bahrain’s $750 million sovereign sukuk issue attracted an order book of about $4 billion with strong demand from the Middle East, a lead manager said, giving a promising sign to cash-stripped corporates to tap markets.

Bahrain, the first sovereign to issue a sukuk in the Arab region this year and only the second globally.

The initial size of the sukuk offering was $500 million, but the issue was oversubscribed by almost eight times. As a result, the value of the sukuk was raised to $750 million, a Central Bank of Bahrain statement said.

“One of the major reasons behind this issue was to establish a yield curve benchmark for longer-term Islamic securities,” said Shaikh Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa,  executive director, banking operations, CBB.

“This is a testament to Bahrain’s strong credit and the confidence which International markets place on the kingdom’s financial sector,” added Shaikh Salman.

The sukuk was priced at the low end of expectations at 340 basis points over US Treasuries.

Islamic bonds, or sukuk, are underpinned by physical assets whose returns are used to pay bond-holders, to account for Islam’s prohibition of interest.

Some 55 percent of the issue went to Middle Eastern investors, with Europe accounting for 26 percent and Asia for 15 percent of the investor base of almost 200 accounts, Dawood said.

Read the rest …

Introduction to Islamic Finance: Interview with Rod Ringrow of State Street Global Advisers

Introduction to Islamic Finance: Interview with Rod Ringrow of State Street Global Advisers

State Street Global Advisers senior vice president and managing director of the Doha Office, Rod Ringrow, tells Business Spectator’s Isabelle Oderberg how Islamic finance works and why it is set for enormous growth amid the meltdown of western style financial systems.

Isabelle Oderberg: I was wondering if just to start with for some of our readers who aren’t familiar with Islamic finance if you could just go through the fundamentals of it?

Rod Ringrow: The underlying principle for Islamic finance is it’s based on Islamic law and there are a number of key tenets that are critical to how the whole thing hangs to together. So, there’s the underlying premise that social and economic justice go hand in hand. There is a ban on interest. There is a ban to the extent possible on uncertainty. There is the promotion and the concept of risk and profit sharing between the provider of the finance and the recipient. Ethical, socially responsible investments.

So for example, nothing in gambling, armaments, alcohol, pork, obviously for Muslims, and in almost all cases there’s an underlying financial and physical asset that go with the transaction, so the concept of money making money is really what’s behind what is prohibited. So, in many ways it appeals to the Muslim community and also I think a great number of non-Muslims, in the fact that it is back to basics almost in terms of Western finance where there’s a physical asset underlying it, there’s not excess of leverage, etc.

IO: So you can’t invest in, for instance, bonds or anything like that because they pay interest. What kinds of investments would an Islamic fund manager be making?

RR: Well, there’s short-term and longer-term and we’ll come to the bond concept later, but a good example of a short-term fund would be a trading transaction, so the promoter buys a shipment of sugar or iron ore and pre-sells it at a predetermined price, so you buy it at 100 and sell it for 120 and that’s considered acceptable, because as I say, there’s an underlying physical asset and you’re pre-financing that shipment. The uncertainty element’s gone, because you know what you’ve bought it at and you know what you’re selling it at. That’s one example.

You’re right in the true sense of a bond not being able to be invested in, but there are some instruments called sukuks, which are really referred to as ‘Islamic bonds’ and there’s been a huge interest in those. In 2007 there were US$47 billion issued. The market took a bit of a tumble in 2008, but there’s a lot of potential demand out there for sukuk issuance.

There are 14 different kinds of sukuks and that creates another problem which we can come back to later, but in the 14 kinds of sukuks, there’s one called an ijara and that’s more like a lease transaction. Again, there has to be a physical asset underlying the financing here, but that ijara is closest probably to a leasing transaction in western finance. So somebody buys the asset then leases it for a monthly fee to the user. There are bonds issued, backed by that kind of structure, and there are a number of fund management houses beginning to look at how to create investment funds using sukuk as the kind of underlying investment. The traditional sort of Islamic investment funds have traditionally been equity based investment.

Read the rest …