Thursday, January 08, 2009

Sukuk issuance falls 66% in 2008, lowest since 2005

The issuance of new sukuk fell to $15.77 billion in 2008 compared with $46.65 in 2007 according to data collected by the Islamic Finance Information Service (IFIS), a drop of 66.2% year-over-year. The last time issuance was lower than the 2008 total was 2005 when $10.76 of sukuk were issued. The global credit crisis and difficult economic conditions were blamed for the fall which demonstrate that, although Islamic finance does not have exposure to the direct causes of the crisis (subprime-backed mortgages and derivatives), it is affected by the health of the conventional credit market and global economic conditions.

Cerulli Associates estimates that Shari'ah-compliant funds have $65 billion in assets under management and are expected to grow at an annualized 12% rate. The article describes this total as "a figure that’s more modest than the hundreds of billions of dollars often cited by regulators and industry players". Although there is fair criticism to the $300-$500 billion number often cited as the size of the Islamic finance industry (reliable statistics are largely unavailable), the $65 billion in the fund management industry should not be compared with the "hundreds of billions of dollars". Usually the $300-$500 billion figure is cited to account for the entire size of the Islamic finance industry worldwide which includes assets management, retail banking, sukuk and the other areas of Islamic finance like private equity.

The Dubai Shariah Hedge Fund Index was launched containing four Shari'ah-compliant hedge funds using Shariah Capital's long/short trading platform, most of which focus on commodities. Because conventional short selling is not Shari'ah-compliant because of prohibitions of selling things one does not own, the hedge fund platform has raised some criticism that the idea of an 'Islamic hedge fund' is not possible nor desirable.

The growth rate of the Islamic finance industry is expected to exceed the general economic growth rate in Malaysia. The second finance minister of Malaysia Nor Mohamed Yakcop believes the Anglo-Saxon capitalist system has failed and "If the Islamic banking system had made an impact earlier, then it may have been possible to avoid the economic disorder as the system will not bring such problems". I believe this is further expression of naivete that the Islamic financial system will not be accompanied by any of the problems of its conventional counterpart such as greed.

A real estate company in the UK used Islamic finance to refinance the debt on its property holdings in London.

Indonesia will issue a sovereign sukuk aimed at retail investors in February.

One of the conventional banks in Kuwait, the Global Investment House, has defaulted on its debt. Global Investment House along with Islamic bank The Investment Dar announced that they needed up to $1 billion in loans from the government. The Investment Dar has been reported to be selling assets including part of its stake in Aston Martin which it acquired in a Shari'ah-compliant LBO in 2007.

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