Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Gulf sukuk market recovering, Asia leads; asset-based vs. asset-backed sukuk

The Gulf sukuk market may begin to open up as yield spreads fall with the issuance of sukuk from highly-rated issuers. This is one step in the process of recovering following the effect of the financial crisis which was most noticeably manifested by the Dubai debt crisis. Since the Dubai debt standstill, most of the few GCC-based issuers have been investment grade with the exception of Dar Al Arkan. GCC-based sukuk represented 30% of the Q2 and previous four quarters total global sukuk issuance value according to data from Zawya's Sukuk Quarterly Bulletin. HSBC expects to see a recovery in sukuk led by Asia as it has during the past year. [UPDATE: Bloomberg released an article about the shrinking yield spreads on Asian sukuk]

As the GCC market opens up and high-grade corporate and multilateral institutions like the Islamic Development Bank issue sukuk, it will provide somewhat of a benchmark for pricing other sukuk, particularly those from lower rated issuers. However, the benchmark from new issues will only become meaningful for encouraging new sukuk if there is liquidity in the secondary markets. In contrast to Malaysia, secondary market liquidity in sukuk is low. However, the new issuance is a start. Bloomberg provides a list of forthcoming or planned sukuk. One of those issuers is Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, which filed a base prospectus for up to $5 billion in sukuk with the London Stock Exchange on July 8th.

Sheikh Yusuf DeLorenzo is quoted in an article in Bloomberg that suggests investors are more likely to demand asset-backed rather than asset-based sukuk based on the recent defaults. The difference is similar to the difference between a secured and unsecured debt and would also tackle the criticism that using an asset-based structure is fitting the round peg of Islamic finance into the square hole of conventional debt structures.

The European travel firm Thomas Cook failed to place $50 million in sukuk in the GCC because of its small size and investor's belief that the coupon of 7% was too low. It would have been the first European corporate sukuk. Based on its small size, I would tend to minimize the impact of the failure on future European corporate sukuk. If a larger European issuer fails to issue a sukuk, particularly if it is of benchmark size, then it may dissuade other European companies from issuing sukuk.

Indonesia auctioned only Rp246 billion ($27 million) in 15 year (Rp7 billion) and 20 year (Rp 239 billion) sukuk compared to the target of Rp1 trillion. As in previous failed acutions, investors submitted enough bids to cover (Rp 1.18 trillion) but the yields were higher than the Finance Ministry was willing to accept. The higher yields have been attributed to the lack of liquidity in secondary markets.

Other News

  • Cagamas, the national mortgage company in Malaysia is expected to issue the first tranche of its sukuk which it developed with Al Rajhi Bank to be in compliance with AAOIFI standards. Many Malaysian sukuk are not accepted in the GCC. The sukuk is an al-Amanah Li al-Istithmar (ALIm). It will be backed by a mixed asset pool, but contain enough ijara assets to be tradable. The remainder of the assets will be based on bai, wakala and bai' bithaman ajil (BBA).
  • A blog post notices the growth of Islamic banking and wonders if it could take a bigger role than it has. I think it can if Islamic banks decide that supporting and financing Islamic microfinance is a good way for Islamic banks to engage in corporate social responsibility.
  • Malaysian bank Agrobank announced it plans to go fully Islamic by 2015. It has offered Islamic banking products since 2008. The bank reported that 60% of its non-Muslim clients choose Islamic banking products.
  • Barwa Bank is close to completing its acquisition of First Finance Company.
  • Gatehouse Bank acquired One Sovereign Street, a building in Leeds, for GBP40.175 ($60.9 million).
  • Malaysian property developer LBS Bina is issuing a RM135 million ($42.1 million) sukuk to finance a housing project.

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