Saturday, March 01, 2008

Sukuk, UAE to head council on Islamic finance, Islamic finance in Canada & the U.K. and growing interest in Islamic microfinance

The Islamic Development Bank is planning a $150 million sukuk issue in Malaysia that it expects to use within two years to finance projects in Malaysia, mostly relating to education, healthcare and basic infrastructure. The IDB also plans on another sukuk to be issued elsewhere to fund the bank's operations. Moody's expects the global sukuk market will reach $200 billion by 2010 (Moody's also expects to see significant growth in the number of Shari'ah-compliant funds). The GCC sukuk market has focused on larger sukuk issuance (like the $3.5 billion sukuk from DP World used to fund the purchase of UK-based P&O Ports), while small and medium sized companies have more luck issuing in Malaysia.

2008 will see first sovereign sukuk issuance from the U.K., Indonesia and Hong Kong.

The UAE will head a council with representatives of the Islamic financial industry as well as finance ministers, central bankers, the IDB, accounting and audition agencies the Islamic Financial Services Council, the World Bank and the IMF.

Further response to the Archbishop of Canterbury's comments about allowing some Shari'ah courts in the U.K. uses the example of how Islamic finance has incorporated Shari'ah principles into modern finance.

Ethical investing guided by faith is growing rapidly in Canada, with mutual funds that select investment based on religious principles. The most common faith-based funds appeal to Christians or Muslims. A range of additional services are available to Muslims in the U.K. including banking and home finance that have only limited availability in Canada.

Islamic microfinance is succeeding in Afghanistan where non-profits like FINCA offer Shari'ah-compliant microfinance. The success of Islamic microfinance has led to people like Joyce Lehman, a microfinance program officer for the Gates Foundation, to say that there should be greater availability of Shari'ah-compliant products: "Out in the field, MFIs are losing clients to other organisations that provide Shariah loans and it’s that type of market competition that is making MFIs look into providing Shariah products," she says.

Recently, a microfinance institution in Nigeria converted to only offer Shari'ah-compliant microfinance products.

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