Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Investment Dar, zakat fund, SRI and Islamic finance, IBB sees wider loss, France not ready for Islamic banks

The Investment Dar is making progress with its creditors having reached a Standstill Agreement, which will postpone the claims by its creditors as part of its restructuring plan. There is not yet final resolution of the $100 million sukuk which the Investment Dar defaulted on, but the Standstill Agreement is a step on the way to a possible resolution.

A zakat fund managed by BMB Islamic is nearing launch. However, the fund has generated some controversy from Shari'ah scholars who argue that zakat is meant to be distributed to the needy and not invested.

A publication bringing together the contributions of 19 lawyers will explain the legal and Shari'ah aspects of Islamic finance will be published by Chancellor Publications. It was edited by Humayon Dar and Umar Moghul.

The BBC has an article on Islamic finance, one which describes the growth of Islamic finance, particularly in the U.K. following 9/11 when investing in the U.S. became more difficult and was perceived as having additional riskiness.

There is an interesting article from Gulf News about the differences between ethical investing and Islamic investing. While there are similarities in many of the screens used by Islamic and socially responsible investment funds, there are differences that may make some Shari'ah-compliant investments not pass other ethical screens, primarily those around environmental issues because Islamic indices have an overweighting in energy companies which often are not the most green.

Dr. Abbas Mirakhor warns that Islamic finance can face systemic failure and reputation risks because it is not well enough regulated internationally and in some countries. He was speaking at the Malaysian Securities Commission and said that the Malaysian system had the most advanced regulatory system for Islamic financial industry that could serve as a model. He also spoke about the potential for a food and commodity crisis. At an Islamic Financial Services Board seminar, Dr. Zeti Akhtar Aziz, the Bank Negara Malaysia governor said that the Islamic financial industry has been resilient and continues to grow and innovate with new products. However, there remain gaps in the legal framework, Shari'ah standardization and and Islamic financial products face different risks from conventional products. A prominent scholar Mohamed Akram Laldin says that Shari'ah scholars should be held accountable for "clear mistakes in their decisions".

The Islamic Bank of Britain saw its loss widen as the economic conditions and the low benchmark interest rates hurt the profitability of their increased deposits. The bank says it may need to scale back its growth unless it raises additional capital in order to continue its compliance with prudential capital requirements.

The head of France's central bank, Christian Noyer, says that the country is not yet ready to issue an Islamic banking license yet because of concerns over safety and soundness. The French Central Bank, which does not control monetary policy following the foundation of the European Central Bank, has been approached by several institutions looking to establish Islamic banks in the country, but does not yet have the same level of knowledge and familiarity with Islamic banking as the U.K. regulator, the Financial Services Authority.

The lising of sukuk from Petronas and Cagamas could signal the continuing growth in the sukuk markets following the credit crisis. In the wake of the credit crisis as the effects spread globally throughout the financial markets and economies, the issue of new sukuk nearly completely dried up compared to 2007 when a record amount of sukuk were issued.

Other News

  • Jamelah Kamaluddin becomes the first woman to head an Islamic bank with her appointment last year as the managing director of RHB Islamic Bank.
  • South Korea is offering tax incentives to promote the use of sukuk and has changed regulations to ensure that the profits for sukuk holders receives the same tax exemptions as interest payments on conventional bonds.
  • Kuwait Energy received a $50 million murabaha financing from the World Bank Group's International Finance Corporation.
  • An article discusses Islamic ETFs, including the recently launched, U.S.-based Javelin ETF, which has not turned interest in it yet into significant trading volume. The ETF market in the U.S. will be broadened with the launch of 2 new funds from ShariahShares, managed by California-based Florentz Investment Management.
  • Bloomberg will focus on Islamic finance in its expansion in the GCC.
  • The Muslim Community Cooperative Australia launched another fund, an Income Fund, following its launch of a Mortgage Income Fund.
  • Bank Negara Malaysia, the Malaysian central bank, has signed an agreement with the Hong Kong Monetary Authority to cooperate on financial issues particularly Islamic finance.
  • The National Bank of Kuwait launched its third Kuwaiti Dinar-denominated Ijara Fund.
  • Malaysian firm Sime Darby will issue RM4.5 billion ($1.3 billion) in medium-term Shari'ah-compliant notes
  • The report I wrote for Yasaar Media is briefly described in a press release available from AMEinfo.
  • Ernst & Young is organizing a conference on Islamic finance in the Channel Islands. Islamic retail banking executives and Shari'ah scholars will meet for a conference in Dubai on October 12 to discuss the future of the industry.


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