Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Discussion on commodity murabaha, MAS sukuk, Yasaar Media and Islamic finance education

A professor of at INCIEF in Malaysia, the Managing Director of Bank Islam and a lawyer in Dubai with Vinson Elkins LLP discusses whether commodity murabaha are overused in an article from Reuters.

Three task forces will study the effect of the global credit crisis on the Islamic financial industry beginning with the Task Force for Islamic Finance & Global Financial Stability headed by Bank Negara Malaysia governor Dr. Zeti Akhtar Aziz. The three task forces were proposed back in October at an Islamic Development Bank meeting.

A media division of Yasaar, Yasaar Media, has been launched. It will be a "dedicated research and media house that produces independent in-depth reports and analysis of market sectors" according to co-founder Paul McNamara (the other co-founder is Majid Dawood, the founder of Yasaar). Paul McNamara is also one of the co-founders of CPI Financial, which publishes Islamic Business & Finance magazine.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), the city-state's central bank, completed its first sukuk. It also announced that regulations were loosened allowing banks in Singapore to engage in murabaha and ijara wa iqtina (lease-to-buy). The MAS Managing Director Heng Swee Keat described it as:
"This sukuk is the Shariah-compliant equivalent of Singapore Government Securities (SGS), and is of the highest credit standing. The sukuk will be given equal regulatory treatment as SGS, such as qualifying as an asset in the computation of capital and liquidity requirements, and as eligible collateral for tapping MAS’ liquidity."
In a speech at the Asian Financial Forum, Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang said that Hong Kong was opening up to Islamic finance. In addition, he commented on the developments already achieved:
"Islamic finance is an exciting area for us and we are making good progress in establishing a platform for Islamic finance in Hong Kong. [...] For example, our regulators have signed Memoranda of Understanding with the Dubai International Financial Centre Authority and the Dubai Financial Services Authority. This will help to foster mutual co-operation in developing Islamic finance between Hong Kong and Dubai.

In addition, we have seen the launch of a variety of Islamic financial products in the market, such as an Islamic banking window and indexes. An exchangeable Islamic bond, or sukuk, has also been listed on the local stock market. We still have much work to do. [...] A review of our tax law is underway to facilitate the launch of more Shariah-compliant products and put in place a level playing field for sukuk vis-a-vis conventional bonds. Islamic finance is a natural extension of our role as a global financial centre."

The University of Reading becomes the latest to add courses on Islamic finance. The new master's degrees will "explore topics such as the Islamic concept of money, so that students will learn the reasoning behind sharia laws, as well as the technical skills to construct sharia-compliant products."

An article in Asharq Alaswat provides a brief history of the beginning of the Islamic financial industry.

Emaar Properties (through Emaar Finance Ltd and Emaar Sukuk Ltd, respectively) listed a Euro Medium Term Note prospectus of $2 billion of sukuk and a Trust Certificate Programme for $2 billion on the London Stock Exchange.I

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