Sunday, November 15, 2009

Islamic and ethical finance, Nakheel sukuk, sukuk markets

The CEO of Noor Islamic Bank highlighted the opportunity for Islamic banking to compete with conventional banking in the wake of the financial crisis. He suggested that the financial crisis has created additional demand for ethical and more risk averse financial services, which would benefit Islamic finance. I think that Hussain Al Qemzi, the CEO, is making an important point for the Islamic finance industry by recognizing the two selling points for Islamic finance, especially if it is going to be able to attract non-Muslim customers, is the ethical framework (which has many similarities to the ethical/sustainability-focused mindset that goes beyond just Muslims) and the relatively more risk averse structure of Islamic finance. A focus on these areas could assist Islamic financial institutions in expanding outside of the main areas where Islamic finance exists.

The Nakheel sukuk is now trading above the redemption value on maturity, reflecting the additional premium payable to sukuk holders if there is no qualified public offering before the sukuk matures. This also reflects confidence that the sukuk will be redeemed in full upon maturity, which has been a longstanding concern given the property market collapse in Dubai since the sukuk was issued. Nakheel is currently in talks with Dubai World, which has guaranteed the sukuk that mature in December. Bloomberg also has an article on the subject.

The sukuk market has rebounded by about 40% compared to the first ten months of 2008. However, the issuance has been mostly by sovereign or government-related entities (GREs). This means that the credit quality of new issues has improved, which Moody's believes is a positive because it will help develop a "more detailed yield curve" which will benefit corporate issuers in the future. However, the lack of many corporate issuers, besides the most highly rated issuers like Saudi Electric Company (which was forced to pay far more than their sukuk of 2007) is potentially problematic for the market. Without a variety of issuers across the credit ratings scale, there will be few opportunities for companies to enter the market and the continued growth in the market will be limited. Only time will tell whether this persists, but the first signs of a rebound in the corporate sukuk area should come from the secondary markets. If trading of listed corporate sukuk becomes more liquid, it may begin to entice new issuers into the market.

Islamic Finance Resources, another blog, has some great material posted up and one of the recent is a collection of webcasts and podcasts on Islamic finance. This site is definitely recommended as a source of invaluable resources on Islamic finance.

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