Saturday, January 24, 2009

The fall in sukuk in depth, new Islamic bank planned

The IFIS report on sukuk issuance in 2008 is out and it provides a deeper look in the 66% decline in sukuk issuance (with the fourth quarter seeing the lowest quarterly issuance since 2002). One particularly interesting part relates to the idea that Islamic finance was immune from the global credit crisis, which IFIS describes as the Islamic version of the now discredited decoupling theory:
"As the GCC bond market flourished even after the initial impact of the subprime mortgage crisis in 2007, there were those who thought that Islamic finance can withstand this downturn intact due to the nature and features of Islamic banking and finance, and therefore of the sukuk market. This led to some unreasonable expectations for the industry. Some industry observers thought that Islamic finance had successfully separated from global conventional credit markets, which was an Islamic variation on the now debunked decoupling theory. Others claimed that Islamic markets were now mature, independent markets, not related to the price of oil. A third view that was sometimes expressed was that lower leverage and emphasis on holding and selling real, tangible assets will save the industry from the full impact of the subprime crisis and subsequent credit crunch. Essentially, all of the above emphasises the fundamentally different natures of Islamic finance and conventional finance. But the evidence counters this. Sukuk have not done well in the past year. Total issuance in 2008 dropped by 66% compared to 2007, showing no immunity from the global downturn."
As the sukuk market succumbed to the credit crisis, some of the debt finance provided by sukuk was replaced by syndicated lending, according to IFIS.

Despite evidence to the contrary, there are still claims that the Islamic finance system is 'unscathed' by the credit crisis and a belief that if the financial system was structured along the lines of the Islamic financial system, there would not have been a credit crisis.

An un-named Islamic bank with $11 billion will be launched by June despite the challenging market conditions. I would foresee great difficulty for this launch, especially since $10 billion of the initial capital is expected to come from an IPO. The bank's role is compared with that of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which is a regional development bank for Central and Eastern Europe established after the fall of Communism.

Other News
Correction: I mentioned the $4 billion in debt that Emaar listed on the London Stock Exchange. Of this amount, the European MTN were conventional debt and $2 billion were sukuk.

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