Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Sukuk issuer quality, M&A, JAFZ downgraded

One of the areas of the Islamic finance industry that has been noticeable recently is the dearth of sukuk from non-high-quality issuers. This is particularly noteworthy in the GCC where a large supply of sovereign issues has not been followed by a comparable level of corporate issues. This trend was noted at a conference in Malaysia. The reasons commonly cited focus mostly on the pricing of sukuk and many even from sovereign issuers have priced considerably higher than they did prior to the financial crisis. With a pipeline of sukuk estimated to be $45 billion, a real recovery in the sukuk market should not be measured by the aggregate value of all sukuk, but by the ratio of sovereign versus corporate issuers.

Another area where the Islamic finance industry has yet to see much activity is in merger and acquisition activity between Islamic financial institutions. This is due to several factors, described well in the Yasaar Media Islamic Investment Banking 2009 report I summarized recently, but according to most industry participants there are simply too many Islamic banks and a majority of them are small. M&A activity could expand Islamic banks' balance sheets which would enable them to provide financing to more big projects as well as achieve greater diversification. in this light, it is noteworthy that Malaysian-based Bank Islam is reported to be 'actively seeking' a merger partner.

Jebel Ali Free Zone was downgraded by Moody's over concern about what support the Dubai government will provide to government-related entities. Jebel Ali Free Zone is a part of Dubai World. The downgrade puts a new light on the issue of valuation or illiquidity for the JAFZ Sukuk when looking at secondary market prices. Back in early February, I wrote a blog post on my blog at Zawya when the secondary market price was 66 . While the price has rebounded some to 77, that is still well below par and suggests that some price discovery may have been in fact occuring in sukuk secondary markets.

Other News

  • Dow Jones Islamic Market Indexes named Tariq Al-Rifai, the founder of Failaka Advisors, to head its Islamic Index family following the departure of Rushdi Siddiqui last year to head Reuters' Islamic finance division.
  • Gatehouse Bank combined two business units--its asset management and capital markets divisions--in the UK under new management to 'create an even stronger business' according to a company press release.
  • Mayfair Wealth Management launched a Shari'ah-compliant UAE-focused distressed property fund and hope to raise $50 million.
  • A UAE-based law firm Agha & Shamshi became likely the first Shari'ah-compliant law firm.
  • South African fund manager has run into problems launching its planned Islamic equity funds, following the departure of its sole Islamic fund manager who remains as an external manager of their sole Islamic equity fund.

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