Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Green sukuk herald new era of environmentally responsible investment

The Paris Agreement on climate change with its tougher rules on reducing the emission of greenhouse gases is seen by many analysts as a driver for the advancement of so-called green bonds, and with them green sukuk, a new variety of Islamic bonds for investments in environmental-friendly and clean energy projects. 

The new climate agreement prompted a number of Islamic banks to consider an expansion of their product ranges in socially responsible investments towards “green finance” in order to catch up with their conventional peers, many of which are already placing green bonds for years quite successfully. And, notably, two of the six signatory Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations, Saudi Arabia and UAE, which are also the region’s largest sukuk issuers, surprisingly quickly ratified the Paris accord, enforced it on November 4 and December 3, respectively, and are supposed to take respective “green action’ in a variety of fields, including financing.

In a nutshell, green bonds evolved in the conventional finance world as a specific sub-set of bonds used for clean energy projects, mainly issued by renewable energy companies or by corporations for the construction and operation of green assets. They were introduced by the World Bank as early as in 2008 to give investors an innovative method to support clean energy and other low-carbon projects. Since then, conventional financial instruments supporting green projects have been on an impressive upward growth trajectory, with financial heavyweights such as Goldman Sachs, Blackrock, Norway’s sovereign wealth fund and many other large conventional asset managers jumping upon the bandwagon.

In the Islamic finance world, the development was a bit slower. Reasons are that, namely in the oil-rich Gulf States, the perception of environmental problems has not been particularly distinct in the past, and initiatives against climate change long had no priority in government policies or in civil society. But with the slump in oil and gas prices, the need for economic diversification and the growing advantage of the West, particularly Europe, in environmental technologies, the Gulf States noticed a need for action. Some of the Gulf banks are now embracing the green bond concept by starting to include green sukuk, realising in the process that ethical requirements of green projects fit in well with Shariah-compliance.

The Bahrain-based General Council for Islamic Banks and Financial Institutions found in a survey released last month that Islamic banks indeed want to increase green financing options. The survey, based on responses from 86 Islamic finance institutions across 29 countries mainly from the Middle East and Southeast Asia, as well as Africa, said close to one-third of small Islamic banks cited a “moderate exposure” to the green and renewable energy sectors, compared to 15.5% for large Islamic banks which means there is still considerable potential for Shariah-compliant green financing across the industry.
Technically, a green sukuk is not a complicated Islamic finance product.

“The structuring of a green sukuk wouldn’t be much different from that of a normal sukuk. The sukuk’s structure would largely depend on the available green assets to support the sukuk or the environmentally friendly project to be financed,“ says Hari Rai, Dubai-based partner of international law firm Latham & Watkins. “Given the size of the global sukuk market, it is almost surprising that Islamic banks and sovereigns have so far not really tapped into the potential of a green sukuk,“ he adds.

There have been some recent examples, though. In Malaysia, the largest sukuk issuer globally, a local lender has introduced green mortgages to facilitate installation of solar systems, while an Islamic bank in Jordan is developing alternatives to medium-term loans to fund energy efficient and renewable energy projects. There have also been new initiatives to promote green sukuk, namely the Green Sukuk and Working Party (GSWP), jointly established by Masdar City’s Clean Energy Business Council, the Mena branch of the Climate Bonds Initiative and the Gulf Bond and Sukuk Association. It aims to promote and develop Shariah-compliant financial products to invest in solutions that seek to prevent climate change. 

The scope of green sukuk can be quite substantial. They can not only be used to finance construction of green developments or infrastructure, but also to refinance construction or project debt or to finance the payment of a government-granted green subsidy. Eligible assets for green sukuk as per the international Climate Bond Standards include solar parks, bioenergy plants, wind energy, clean water, hydropower and agricultural irrigation projects, energy efficiency applications and low-carbon buildings, low-carbon land use, electric vehicles and infrastructure, geothermal energy and marine-related environmental projects.

However, who is eager to contribute to a cleaner environment by investing into a green sukuk should also take into account the challenges as with any other investment, for that matter. While demand for green sukuk will certainly grow in the future and Gulf governments are likely to promote them more intensely, they entail a higher risk profile than conventional sukuk while the secondary market for them is still small and performance measurement standards for the segment aren’t developed yet.

SOURCE: Gulf Times/6 Dec 2016

Sukuk market long way from 2012 heyday - report

The market for sukuk, or Islamic bonds, is struggling to recover from last year's dip in issuance and it could take years for supply to return and even longer to address pent up demand, a report released on Tuesday showed.
Sukuk have become an important funding tool for both banks and corporates across the Middle East and Southeast Asia, but a reliance on sovereign issuance and an economic slowdown due to lower oil prices have taken their toll.
Issuance of sukuk is down 18 percent for the first nine months this year compared with the same period last year, while the year-end figure could exceed $50 billion, according to a report by Thomson Reuters.
Issuance is estimated to gradually recover over the next few years to $54 billion in 2017 and $59 billion in 2018, but this is well below the record $134 billion seen in 2012.
This is largely due to the lasting effects of Malaysia's central bank decision to stop issuing short-term sukuk in 2015, opting instead for targeted Islamic treasury bills reserved for domestic Islamic banks, the report said.
Several Gulf countries including Saudi Arabia have also opted to fund their budget deficits with conventional bonds, amid lack of new names such as Britain and Hong Kong, which tapped the market in 2014.
Despite this, there has been a shift in the structures used to design sukuk, which could appeal to new issuers.
Sukuk are Islamic investment certificates that pay returns on money invested, instead of interest, to obey Islam's ban on interest, with over a dozen different structures in use.

An agency-based structure known as wakala had the highest value of sukuk issued in 2016 at $12.1 billion, a hybrid format that allows issuers to use a smaller level of tangible assets to underlie a sukuk transaction.
This has displaced sukuk based on ijara, a sale and lease-back contract popular among Gulf issuers, which saw $7.3 billion worth of issuance this year.
Ijara requires tangible assets for the full amount raised via sukuk, restricting its use by firms with fewer eligible assets on hand.
Diversification of funding sources remains the most appealing reason to issue sukuk, according to the report's survey of investors and sukuk arrangers conducted during August.
Sukuk still lack active secondary markets while governments have yet to incorporate them into their debt management strategies, steps which could increase their appeal, the survey found. 
SOURCE: Reuters/6 Dec 2016

Monday, 5 December 2016

Global sukuk issuance exceeds RAM’s projection, Malaysia still leads

KUALA LUMPUR: RAM Rating Services Bhd said global sukuk issuance as of end-November 2016 totalled US$72bil (RM319.9bil), surpassing its earlier projection of US$55bil to US$65bil (RM244.3bil to RM288.8bil) for the year.

In a statement on Monday, RAM said Malaysia retained its top spot with a 41.7% market share, followed by Indonesia (16.4%), the United Arab Emirates (11.0%), Turkey (7.1%) and Pakistan (6.7%).

The ratings agency noted that the corporate sector posted a 35.5% year-on-year jump in global sukuk issuance to US$30.6bil (RM135.9bil) as of end-September this year versus US$22.6bil (RM100.4bil) in the same period last year.

The top three issuers were originated from Malaysia, the UAE and Qatar, namely the Public Sector Home Financing Board (US$0.96bil), Emaar Sukuk Ltd (US$0.75bil) and the State of Qatar (US$0.72bil), respectively. 

A total of US$5.9bil of global sukuk was issued in September, bringing the year-to-date (YTD) issuance to US$58.9bil for the month.

RAM also highlighted that a total of RM9.6bil of domestic sukuk was issued in September, leading to a YTD issuance value of RM99.5bil.

“True to tradition, local-currency sukuk issues were dominated by the financial services and infrastructure and utilities sectors,” it said.

RAM head of Islamic finance, Ruslena Ramli, said large issuances from the financial and infrastructure sectors had been a boon to the sukuk market, and were likely to remain a key catalyst of future growth.

“As of end-November this year, the issuance value of domestic Islamic debt securities stood at RM125.3bil, exceeding RAM’s full-year projection of RM100bil to RM120bil,” she said.

SOURCE: Bernama/5 Dec 2016

Monday, 28 November 2016

The rise of the Sukuk

The financial crisis of 2008-09 once again proved that the structural flaws of conventional system result in its frequent collapse. Among the multiple quoted reasons, one of the most prominent ones is excessive leveraging and low transparency owing to the absence of the mandatory requirement of complete information. Hence, the focus in the post-financial crisis has shifted towards having greater accountability, enhancement in transparency, improvement in governance and a strict limit on leveraging. This has persuaded the world to look towards Islamic finance as a viable financial alternate.

The prohibition of usury and encouragement of risk-sharing forms a financial system that creates a direct link with the real sector. This demonstrates that there exists a strong link between the performance of the asset and return on the capital used to finance it. The asset-backed nature of Islamic financial transactions, in addition to the prohibition on speculative activities and the key pillars of equity, justice and transparency on which the Islamic financial system is based make it a more stable and prudent system than its conventional counterpart. Sukuk, the most popular global instrument of Islamic finance, is being used by many developing countries as a tool of fiscal policy for economic development.

Broadly there are two types of Sukuk: (i) Asset-based Sukuk – raising finance where the principal is covered by the capital value of the asset, and the returns and repayments to Sukuk-holders are not directly attached to those assets; and (ii) Asset-backed Sukuk – raising finance where the principal is covered by the capital value of the asset but the returns and repayments to Sukuk-holders are directly linked to the performance of these assets. In terms of structure, 14 different types of Sukuk structures have been recognised by the Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI), a Bahrain-based standard Setting organization.

These structures are mainly based on the underlying modes of Islamic finance, namely murabahah, musharakah/mudharabah, wakala, istisna and ijarah among others, or combinations of these. Since its inception, various structures of Sukuk have been successfully used by corporates and governments to raise funds. Projects like roads, railways, airports and hospitals etc, which generate revenues from tangible assets and are consistent with the Islamic rules of finance, are particularly appropriate for Sukuk financing. Given the importance of infrastructure development for sustainable economic growth, there is a large demand in emerging markets for Sukuk. Sukuk enhance the stability of financial institutions by providing them with improved portfolio diversifications and liquidity. Sukuk also encourage genuine transactions as these are based on real, identifiable, existing assets. This results in the development of a stable and sound economy, founded on real assets and productive activities as opposed to artificial paper based transactions. Strict adherence to Shariah principles of ownership, transparency and risk-sharing ensure a relatively resilient position of Sukuk than conventional bonds.

 According to research, it has been proven that Islamic securitisation –particularly due to its ethical foundation and its reliance on real tangible assets if implemented – would have, arguably, reduced some of the unfavourable outcomes of the 2008 financial crisis, as real collateral limits the possibilities of speculative activities. Pakistan joined the global Sukuk market with the issuance of its first international sovereign Sukuk of $600 million in 2005. In the domestic Sukuk market, the first Sukuk was issued in 2006. Since then more than 90 Sukuk (including corporate Sukuk and Government of Pakistan Sukuk) have been issued. However, in terms of volume, GoP Ijara Sukuk dominate the overall Sukuk market of the country. Al-ijara Sukuk, the most popular structure, represent ownership of equal shares in a rented real estate or the usufruct of the real estate. For Sovereign Ijara Sukuk of the government of Pakistan, a special purpose vehicle (SPV) known as the Pakistan Domestic Sukuk Company Limited (PDSCL) was established; the PDSCL issues Sukuk.

The PDSCL raises funds from Sukuk-holders to acquire assets from the government and declare trust on these assets for the benefit of Sukuk-holders. Each Sukuk certificate represents an undivided beneficial ownership interest in the trust assets. Subsequently, the trustee leases the assets for periodic payment of rentals for the life of the Sukuk. The rentals are received periodically by the trustee and distributed to the Sukuk-holders over the life of the Sukuk. On maturity of the Sukuk, the trustee sells the trust assets and the government purchases the assets while the proceeds are paid to the Sukuk-holders. Till now the government has issued total 18 domestic Sukuk and three international Sukuk. However, the share of Pakistan in the global market is still very low. According to the International Islamic Financial Market (IIFM), in the Sukuk database of December 2015 Pakistan’s share was below three percent (the issuance of two domestic Sukuk of Rs196.6 billion and one international Sukuk post-December 2015).

Given that Pakistan has identified the country’s infrastructure needs in its Medium Term Development Framework, the financing for carrying out such developmental projects can be achieved through issuance of Sukuk. Owing to its inherent strengths along with infrastructure requirements in the world, the global Sukuk market is expected to remain buoyant. The issuance of Sukuk is a complex process, and detailed documentation is required at each stage which ensures transparency. The expansion and progression of the Sukuk industry requires coordinated efforts from all stakeholders including issuers, regulators and investors. The potential of Sukuk for economic growth, strengthening financial stability and catalysing inter-regional investment flows makes it an attractive asset class for issuers and investors. Going forward, it is hoped that the government will exploit the potential of Sukuk for broad-based development of the country. The writer is a joint director at the Islamic banking department of the SBP.

SOURCE: The News / 28 November 2016

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Jordan looks to sukuk to bolster financial toolkit

Building on recent growth in Islamic finance, Jordan is expanding its funding options and tapping a rising market through the issuance of sukuk (Islamic bonds).

Two issuances

This year the Central Bank of Jordan (CBJ) issued two rounds of sharia-compliant sovereign bonds for the first time in the country’s history. 
The first offering, released in May, used a murabaha (cost-plus financing) structure and was valued at JD75m ($105.7m). The sale successfully attracted JD205m ($289m) in bids from investors at a coverage ratio of 2.73. Meanwhile, the second sukuk, issued in mid-October, used an ijara (leasing) structure and was valued at JD34m ($47.9m). The latter sale was more than three times oversubscribed.
The bonds have a five-year maturity, with expected profit rates of 3.5% and 3.01%, respectively.
While both issues have been termed sovereign, the May sukuk – which was designed to provide liquidity to finance the operations of two government-owned companies, the National Electric Power Company and the Water Authority of Jordan – is backed by the utility companies rather than the government, whereas the October issue – which will be used by the Ministry of Finance (MoF) – is guaranteed by the government.
The sales were accompanied by a move in September, when the government signed an agreement with the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation to finance basic imports with sharia-compliant funds.
The Jordanian government expects net domestic borrowing will reach approximately JD896m ($1.26bn) this year, according to press reports.

Market snapshot

The recent sukuk offerings are part of a broadening of Jordan’s Islamic financial services industry in the past couple of years.
At the end of July last year the Governorate Development Fund (GDF) – which was established in 2011 to finance small and medium-sized projects, as well as entrepreneurial initiatives – partnered with the Hajj Fund to offer sharia-compliant financing options.
The GDF plans to use a variety of Islamic financial structures, such as murabaha, ijara and istisnah, to fund industrial and service projects that aim to increase employment in the country.
Last year also saw the Jordan Dubai Islamic Bank (JDIB) launch sharia-compliant investment certificates of deposit, the first to be offered by an Islamic financial institution in Jordan.
Earlier this year flagship carrier Royal Jordanian finalised a $275m, five-year loan facility, which will be partially funded through Islamic financing, to pay down its incurred debt and restructure the company.

Strong foundations

Islamic finance is not new to Jordan, with local lenders Jordan Islamic Bank (JIB) and the Islamic International Arab Bank operating in the country since the 1970s and 1990s, respectively.
Yet, while Jordan introduced a framework for the sector as early as 1978, with the implementation of the Jordan Islamic Bank for Finance and Investment Act No. 13, it was not until more recently that the government began to proactively encourage the burgeoning industry.
Last year the CBJ took another regulatory step, issuing the Corporate Governance for Islamic Banks Instructions No. 61, which aim to increase accountability and transparency among Islamic financial institutions.
The Islamic finance industry in Jordan, though small, has been steadily growing since 2010, when JDIB – established by the Dubai Islamic Bank and its partner Jordan Dubai Capital – began its operations. One year later local company Al Rajhi Cement offered Jordan’s first sukuk, a seven-year, JD85m ($119.6m) issue.
In 2012 Parliament passed the Islamic Finance Sukuk Law, enabling both private and public entities to issue sukuk in dinars and foreign currency. The long-awaited legislation had been in development since 2010.
Building on this, in April 2014 the government passed new by-laws specifying the structure and transfer framework for issuance of sukuk. This was followed in July of that year by the Jordan Securities Commission’s introduction of rules allowing the issuance of sharia-compliant debt.

Future growth

The legislation has helped the Islamic financial sector bolster the country’s debt market.
In May local real estate developer Al Tajamouat for Touristic Projects, also known as Taj Mall, sought to shore up its finances, with the JDIB and investment bank JordInvest jointly issuing JD45m ($63.6m) worth of sukuk on behalf of the company.
Meanwhile, the government has introduced proposals to further develop Jordan’s Islamic financial services industry.
In a bid to make sukuk available at the retail level, the MoF commissioned the establishment of the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector last year with the objective of providing sukuk-related technical help to private sector companies.
Signalling future growth, in September the Economic Policy Council – a 15-member body chaired by King Abdullah II – proposed to expand the targeted sukuk market to individuals, as well as create a JD150m ($212m) private equity fund, to be partially financed by Islamic banks.
SOURCE: Oxford Business Group / 22 November 2016

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Bahrain approaches banks about sukuk sale in Q1 2017

The Kingdom of Bahrain is in talks with lenders for an Islamic bond, or sukuk, which is expected to be issued in the first quarter of 2017, banking sources told Reuters.
No banks have been appointed yet to arrange the debt transaction, the bankers said on condition of anonymity because the information has not been made public. The size of the debt issuance will be a minimum of $500 million, one of the banking sources said.
Bahrain's Ministry of Finance was not available for immediate comment.

The Kingdom has some $5 billion-equivalent in debt maturing in 2017, mostly consisting of short-term local currency treasury bills. It has no U.S. dollar bond expiring next year, Thomson Reuters data shows.
Bahrain's latest U.S. dollar debt issuance was in October, when it sold a $2 billion comprising a $1 billion sukuk and a $1 billion conventional bond.
The $1 billion long seven-year sukuk, maturing in February 2024, carries a 5.625 percent coupon rate, while the conventional bond, with a 12-year maturity period, was issued with a 7 percent interest rate.
The bonds were arranged by Bank ABC, BNP Paribas, Credit Suisse, JP Morgan and Standard Chartered.
Bahrain is rated BB by S&P and BB+ by Fitch.
(Editing by Jason Neely)
SOURCE: Reuters/16 Nov 2016

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Azimut and Maybank to jointly manage sukuk fund, seek new markets

Nov 15: Italian money manager Azimut Holding SpA will jointly manage its Islamic bonds fund with Maybank Asset Management Group to cater to growing demand for hard currency sukuk products, the two firms said on Tuesday. The partnership will allow the fund to penetrate new markets including Malaysia and Singapore, where Maybank Asset Management already operates, the firms said in a joint statement. 

Azimut, through its wholly-owned Turkish asset management arm, launched its global sukuk fund in 2013 which has over $130 million in assets. Maybank Asset Management launched a U.S. dollar-denominated sukuk fund of its own in 2014. Sukuk funds remain tiny compared to their conventional fixed-income counterparts, but the sukuk market has widened in recent years thanks to an increasing number of issuers and investors. Turkey, Pakistan, Bahrain and Malaysia are among the sovereigns that have issued dollar-denominated sukuk in the past year. (Reporting by Bernardo Vizcaino; Editing by Eric Meijer)

SOURCE: Reuters/15 Nov 2016

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Saudi boost for sukuk market

The international sukuk market, of which Malaysia accounts for some 66 per cent of global issuances, received a major boost when Saudi Finance Minister Ibrahim Al Assaf confirmed at a meeting with Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), late last month in Riyadh that the kingdom’s public debt issuance programme will not be limited to conventional bonds and that sukuk will play an important role. 

The global sukuk market had a flat year in 2015, impacted by the slump in the price of crude oil and other commodities and the sluggish global economic recovery. The value of sukuk issued last year fell to US$60.7 billion (RM255 billion) from US$107 billion in 2014 partly because of Bank Negara Malaysia’s decision to stop issuing short-term ringgit sukuk. Nevertheless, the Malaysian capital market continued its impressive growth across all segments last year, expanding by 2.1 per cent to RM2.82 trillion, equivalent to 2.5 times the size of the domestic economy. Of this, according to the Securities Commission Malaysia, the Islamic Capital Market (ICM) grew by 6.7 percent to RM1.70 trillion last year, compared with RM1.59 trillion in 2014. 

The signs are of a rebound this year, with sukuk issuances already reaching US$50 billion in the first four months of the year. Since then, there has been steady traction in sukuk issuance by sovereigns in the international and domestic markets and by corporates. In this context, the Saudi announcement and those by other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, such as Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain and United Arab Emirates, indicating that they will also tap the international sukuk and bond markets to part finance their budget deficits, augurs well for the sukuk market next year. 

The Saudi Finance Ministry had also stressed that the kingdom plans to raise US$120 billion from the international markets by 2020. The kingdom’s budget deficit last year was US$98 billion. This follows the successful issuance last month by the Saudi government of a record US$17.5 billion conventional bond through three tranches in the international market — the single largest emerging market bond sale to date, surpassing the US$16.5 billion issuance by Argentina in April. The price of oil is hovering at US$50 per barrel, which is about US$10 per barrel higher than last year. 

The IMF expects gross domestic product growth in Saudi Arabia to bottom out at 1.2 per cent this year, rebounding to 2.0 per cent next year. Given these economic and public financing dynamics, Islamic bankers in Malaysia and the GCC region I have spoken to are optimistic about the prospects for the sukuk market, especially over the next two years, given the increased demand for financing in these countries, including for infrastructure and in the GCC for allied development partly in the context of Dubai Expo 2020 and FIFA World Cup in Doha in 2022. Al Assaf recently stressed that stabilising the kingdom’s net foreign assets held by the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA), the central bank, is a priority and that its debt issuance programme in the international markets would be an orderly process. By September, SAMA foreign holdings totalled US$546.7 billion, which, according to Al Assaf, is in “a healthy position”. 

Saudi bankers have welcomed this first public announcement by the finance minister on the role of sukuk in the kingdom’s debt issuance programme. They expect a debut Saudi sovereign sukuk early next year and stress the need for a well-structured public borrowing policy in the international market, which will give confidence and certainty to international and domestic investors. As such, the outlook for the Islamic capital market in the kingdom looks very positive. The fact that the bond was oversubscribed to the tune of US$67 billion reflects the robust latent demand in a global market starved of such papers. This was further highlighted by the fact that the pricing was tight, especially for the 30-year tranche, which was priced at 210 basis points over United States Treasuries, the same for a similar bond issued by Qatar in May. 

The pricing for a Saudi sovereign sukuk could be even tighter because of the latent demand for syariah-compliant papers given that Islamic investors could not partake in the US$17.5 billion bond offering. The challenge for Saudi Arabia is to build up a yield curve. The best way to do this is to become a frequent issuer of government papers with varying maturities, sizes and even currencies in the international markets. Frequent issuances will make the pricing tighter and at the same time offer decent yields to investors. “The issuance was clearly aimed at international investors in China, the US and Europe, who are not familiar with sukuk. 

The Saudi authorities preferred a conventional issuance this time because this is what they are most familiar with and they wanted a quick closure. Perhaps in the next issuance they may opt for a mixed issuance, comprising bonds and sukuk tranches, or an entirely sukuk offering,” explained a senior Saudi banker. SAMA supports the development of a robust ICM in the kingdom, which is the second largest issuer of sukuk after Malaysia. Government-linked entities — such as Saudi Aramco, the largest oil company in the world, and its various subsidiaries; Saudi Basic Industries Corporation, the world’s largest petrochemicals producer and exporter; and, the General Authority for Civil Aviation, in addition to a host of corporates and banks — are regular issuers of sukuk. 

Sukuk as a unique fundraising instrument has a potential beyond its traditional markets and to become a truly globalised financing instrument for monetary policy and liquidity management, infrastructure and urban regeneration financing, and even for social causes, such as immunisation and monetising waqf assets. It’s up to Malaysia and Saudi Arabia to nurture this ambition and put sukuk on the global map! 

Mushtak Parker is an independent London-based economist and writer

Source: NST 9 Nov 2016

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Sukuk issuance to drive growth in Islamic finance

Dubai: Much of the growth in Islamic finance is expected to come from capital markets business relating to sukuk (Islamic bond) according to Standard Chartered Saadiq.
“Sukuk is now mainstream component of capital markets in core Islamic finance markets such as Malaysia and the UAE. While Malaysia dominates the local currency issuance, the GCC leads in international sukuk issuance. There is a healthy pipeline of issuance across the world while we expect more issuers to come to the market over the next year,” said Ahsan Ali, Global Head of Islamic Origination.
Growing financing needs of sovereigns, sovereign related entities, corporates and financial institutions are expected to increase demand for capital market issuance across GCC in the future. Although a significant share of capital market issuance in the recent past have been dominated by conventional bond issuance and loan syndications, Ali expects GCC issuers to issue sukuks along with conventional bonds.
“Bulk of the further capital market issuances will be primarily driven by sovereigns and financial institutions. While sovereigns in the oil exporting countries will be seeking market funding for budget needs, the demand from financial institutions will be driven largely by liquidity and liquidity management needs,” said Ali.
Global sukuk issuance has been moderating since 2015 is expected to remain subdued this year and in 2017 according to rating agencies Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s.
The sukuk market experienced a correction in 2015 when Bank Negara Malaysia (the Malaysian central bank) decided to stop issuing short-term sukuk and switch to other instruments for liquidity management for Islamic financial institutions.
Challenging conditions
New sukuk issuance volumes have remained subdued so far for the first half of 2016 at $40 billion (Dh14.7 billion). This has been driven by more challenging economic conditions in emerging markets and the GCC’s move to tap conventional liquidity from international investors, as quantitative easing has been driving yields to zero or even negative rates in various markets.
The volume of issuance in the first half of 2016 was not that encouraging, particularly when compared with conventional issuance. Muslim-majority countries, such as Malaysia, Indonesia and the GCC countries account for around 90 per cent of total sukuk issuance, this is expected to remain unchanged in the near future.
Going forward, a pickup in issuance from Bank Negara Malaysia, coupled with the deficit financing needs of the GCC members and their drive to promote Islamic finance, is expected to boost issuance.
Saudi Arabia, despite strong religious affinity and a very prominent Islamic banking sector, remains relatively underweight in both international and domestic sukuk volumes. Like Malaysia, the country enjoys a deep base of local investors, issuers, intermediaries and service providers.
Source: Gulf News/19 Nov 2016

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Sharjah Islamic Bank lists $500m sukuk on Nasdaq Dubai

Sharjah Islamic Bank’s (SIB) $500 million sukuk was listed on Nasdaq Dubai today.

Ahmad Saad, Deputy CEO of SIB, rang the opening bell to celebrate the listing.

The listing adds further momentum to Dubai’s growth as the global capital of the Islamic economy and underlines Nasdaq Dubai’s stature as the largest exchange in the world for sukuk listings by value, currently standing at $43 billion.

The bell-ringing took place in the presence of Abdul Wahed Al Fahim, chairman of Nasdaq Dubai, and Hamed Ali, chief executive; and senior executives of SIB.   

Saad said: “Our listing on the region’s international exchange supports our visibility among global and regional investors as well as providing first class regulatory standards. The sukuk was issued on September 8, 2016 and was oversubscribed by 3.2 times. It follows two earlier Sukuk listings by SIB on Nasdaq Dubai in April 2013 and April 2015, each of $500 million.”

Essa Kazim, Governor of Dubai International Financial Centre, secretary general of Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre, and chairman of Dubai Financial Market, said: “SIB’s listing demonstrates the continuing growth of Dubai as the global capital of the Islamic economy, under the initiative launched in 2013 by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minster, and Ruler of Dubai. This expansion is supported by the UAE’s long tradition of pioneering the development of Islamic finance and the depth of its expertise in the Sharia’a-compliant capital markets sector. ”

Abdul Wahed Al Fahim, chairman of Nasdaq Dubai, said: “SIB’s listing underlines the close and mutually beneficial connections that the exchange enjoys with leading Islamic financial institutions. Nasdaq Dubai is committed to further enhancing its Sukuk listing procedures and framework, to ensure streamlined access to the exchange for issuers.” 

SOURCE: TradeArabia News Service/3 Nov 2016

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Djibouti sees Islamic finance sector expanding, aims for sukuk

Nov 2 (Reuters) - Djibouti expects to see new entrants in its Islamic finance sector and the government plans to work on a framework to allow the use of sukuk, or Islamic bonds, to fund infrastructure projects, its central bank governor said. 

Djibouti, a country of less than a million people located on the Horn of Africa, is a relative newcomer to Islamic finance, having introduced sector-specific legislation in 2011, but authorities hope it can increase banking penetration in rural areas while also attracting foreign investment. 

The government has established a national sharia board to help oversee the sector, appointing five members to the independent body last week, central bank governor Ahmed Osman said in an interview. 

The move could help Islamic finance by improving consumer perception of the industry and providing greater clarity on contracts which follow religious principles such as bans on interest and gambling. 

The government is in discussions with the Saudi-based Islamic Development Bank to secure a technical mission to help establish a framework to issue sukuk for either the government or state-owned enterprises, said Osman. 

"We will be looking a lot at sukuk in the next few years," said Osman, adding that there are around 10 projects which could be financed via sukuk - ranging from railways, pipelines to new roads. 

One likely candidate is the state telecom operator due to the availability of assets to structure a sukuk, Osman said on the sidelines of the International Islamic Banking Summit Africa, which the central bank is hosting this week. 

The central bank has avoided double-taxation of Islamic contracts through temporary exemptions, but it is in discussions with the Ministry of Finance to make those exemptions permanent, Osman added. 


The central bank is also in discussions with two lenders seeking to open Islamic windows of their own. Currently three of Djibouti's 10 banks are Islamic: Saba Islamic Bank, Salaam African Bank and East Africa Bank. 

The sector is attractive due to its faster growth - estimated at around 16 percent versus 10 percent for conventional banks - but also for its low levels of bad debt. 

"Islamic finance is more secure, as there is a direct link between financing and the underlying assets," Osman said. 

Islamic banks held 16.2 percent of banking assets and 14.3 percent of deposits as of September, central bank data shows. 

Their non-performing loans reached 3.1 percent of total lending as of June, compared to 19.5 percent for conventional banks. 

SOURCE: Reuters/2 Nov 2016

Friday, 28 October 2016

Indonesia unveils ‘waqf’ based 'sukuk'

Bank Indonesia (BI) unveiled on Thursday a waqf (Islamic endowment)-based sukuk (Islamic bond), aimed at developing social property assets to be commercially self-sustaining.
BI Deputy Governor Hendar said the sukuk could further finance the development of commercial buildings such as office towers or shopping centers over waqf land. The coupon will be paid from the recurring income of the assets.
"There are many prospective waqf plots of land in Indonesia. If we build something productive there, it will generate more economic activity," he said during the Indonesia Sharia Economic Festival in Surabaya.
Hendar highlighted the Menara 165 office tower in Jakarta, a commercial building that was built over mortmain properties under waqfSukuk, he further said, could be issued by using the building as the underlying asset and the proceeds could be used to develop other assets.
According to Muhammad Anwar Basori, BI head of the sharia economic and finance department, waqf land was traditionally used for social and public purposes such as cemeteries, mosques, or pesantren (Islamic boarding schools).
Due to maintenance needs, the waqf asset manager usually collects money through spontaneous crowdfunding mechanisms such as asking for donations at the Mosque and even on the street. Waqf-based sukuk could be a solution for that, providing cash to cover maintenance costs.
"There are 400,000 hectares of waqf land in Indonesia, 90 percent of which are cost centers. In Kuwait and Singapore, they have built many productive assets on waqf land," he said. (ags)
SOURCE: The Jakarta Posts/28 October 2016 

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Why African Sukuk Still Faces An Uphill Battle

Growth in African Sukuk Shows Positive Momentum, but Structural Challenges Remain
Many African countries are working to develop their legislative and regulatory frameworks to establish Islamic finance and sukuk as a sustainable funding alternative. With Africa’s demand for infrastructure financing solutions and its significant Muslim population, such an opportunity might be well received.

Islamic finance is already present in more than 20 African countries, with Sudan having a fully-fledged 100% Islamic financial system. However, the size of the Islamic finance industry in Africa is still small in relation to the industry as a whole. Fitch estimates around USD1bn of sukuk total issuance from the whole of Africa in 2016 compared to USD21.74bn in 1H16 across the Gulf Cooperation Council, Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey, Singapore and Pakistan.

When considering the reasons Why? Africa is less developed in its Islamic financial system, two common themes emerge. The first theme is the complexities of sukuk. Second is the emerging capital market infrastructure of African countries.  Both factors pose significant challenges for sukuk in general, particularly in establishing a legal structure and legislation that is acceptable to governments, investors and the Sharia boards. Also, structuring sukuk compared to issuing a traditional Eurobond remains a relatively complex and time consuming process.

Two main examples of these sukuk complexity challenges can be tax neutrality for sukuk and the ability to establish a special purpose vehicle (SPV) that acts as a single issuer for the sukuk. Although this is not Africa-specific, taxation is often challenging for sukuk due to their asset-backed/based nature. What this means is several asset transfers for a sukuk transaction, creating a dense tax load for issuers when there is not special sukuk legislation in place.

Regulations often need to be amended to provide some sort of exemption to taxable gains on the transfer of assets and tax on rental income earned by a sukuk issuing SPV. This is also true for withholding taxes linked to the transfer of underlying assets in sukuk transactions.

In most African countries, there are no specific comprehensive sukuk laws, though some initiatives have now materialized. One example is South Africa, which has introduced Islamic compliant financial structures with further amendments to the Taxation Act to widen the definition of sukuk. This comes following the issuance of its sovereign sukuk during 2014.

Regarding the second theme of the nature of Africa burgeoning capital markets, there are encouraging signs. That said, the development is still modest relative to their potential and compared to more developed countries. There are numerous limitations and challenges in developing bonds and sukuk alike. However, the regional/local currency sukuk market is an area where we have seen increased sukuk activity.

The choices in issuance are usually domestic versus international and the currency denomination of their sukuk (or bonds) are local versus foreign. These two features are often interlinked, as many issuances are denominated in the currency of the market in which they are issued.

Africa has seen success in issuing sukuk in sub-Saharan Africa, and West Africa in particular in the West African CFA franc (XOF), which minimises exposure to FX risk for domestic issuers and investors.

The continuation of sukuk activity this year is a positive development that allows the sukuk footprint to widen and foster greater acceptance of this instrument globally. Reuters reported that in 2016, Togo’s initial sukuk was XOF 150 billion (USD255 million). 

This comes after Senegal launched its second XOF200 billion (USD341.5 million) sukuk towards the end of June and Côte d’Ivoire’s second phase of its XOF300 billion (USD510 million) sukuk program. Similarly, it has been reported by Reuters that Nigeria has convened multi-agency meetings to organize its maiden sovereign sukuk issuance, expected by in 2017.

With global financial reform, we have seen the transformation of banks’ willingness and ability to lend. This, combined with recent events and uncertainties globally like about interest rates increase and appetite of investors to emerging market, has highlighted the limitations of heavily relying on foreign investments alone and regional and local currency could make this complex process easier.

Conclusion  Challenges lie ahead for the sukuk market despite continued momentum. The time needed to tackle these obstacles will in turn lead to a longer time frame of Islamic finance implementation and potentially higher costs in relation to more conventional forms of funding until a standardised framework is established. 

However, several important trends could provide the necessary impetus for the development of Islamic finance in Africa. This includes growing government support for Islamic finance, increasing acceptance of Sukuk and Islamic finance more broadly and existing large investment and financing requirements in Africa.

Furthermore, Islamic finance could enable African sovereigns to broaden their investor base while providing some diversification away from traditional Eurobond investors and towards regional/local market participants. 

As African governments tap the Islamic finance market, it is anticipated that other issuers such as state-owned companies and African banks could, in time, benefit from this additional source of funding.

SOURCE: ProshareNG/15 Oct 2016

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