Monday, July 05, 2010

Late payment penalties, liquidity management, creating secondary markets in sukuk

An article in Arab News discusses the issue of a fee charged by an Islamic financial institution for late payments. In May, Bank Negara Malaysia's Shari'ah Advisory Council said that charging a fee in case of late payment is allowable and separated out the cases where the bank can and cannot keep it and recognize it as income. In the case where the fee is charged as a fine or penalty (gharamah), it must be donated to charity and not recognized as income. Where the fee is for compensation (ta'widh) for actual loss by the Islamic bank, it can be kept and recognized as income. While the distinction is clear between the two concepts, it seems likely to be difficult to distinguish in practice. Perhaps it might be a better practice for Islamic banks that use this to treat everything as ta'widh until the actual costs of collections are met and only then be able to treat any fees as allowable income. However, it is unlikely that such a solution could be approved because it would not be possible to provide ex ante certainty in the contracts between the bank and its customers. Whether this is used or not, it could allow Islamic banks to increase the total fees to Islamic banking customers, which would make the products less competitive and probably result in a slower growth rate for Islamic banking. It would also complicate the Shari'ah audits because it would require that the fees be reviewed to determine whether the bank has basis for compensation if it used the principle of ta'widh.

A fantasstic article from Islamic Business & Finance discusses the challenges facing Islamic finance in developing short-term liquidity management products, despite their importance. The article specifically looks at the UAE commodity murbaha Islamic CDs, the idea of Shari'ah-compliant repo transactions and an electronic wakala/murabaha platform.

Rushdi Siddiqui has another interesting article in Gulf News, this one covering the issue of where is the hub of Shari'ah transactions, which quickly morphs into the discussion of the lack of a hub. One point that he makes, which I agree with and have made before on this blog, is the lack of secondary markets for sukuk. He takes it one step further adding that even where there are secondary markets for sukuk, they are not deep enough or liquid enough to provide much information. He suggests that the Islamic finance industry needs to 'institutionalize' and 'internationalize' itself, primarily by moving from bilateral price discovery through over the counter (OTC) trading to "multiple price discovery". As much as the effort towards creating secondary market platforms for sukuk will help lay the groundwork for this in the future, it is impossible until there is enough supply to sate the demands of hold-to-maturity investors and leave enough exchange-listed sukuk that can be traded in secondary markets to develop meaningful liquidity that provides more information than bilateral trades in illiquid markets can.

Other News

  • Sorouh raised $640 million in conventional and Islamic debt, of which $400 million (AED1.47 billion) will be used to redeem the remainder of the sukuk issued in 2008 which I described about a month ago in a blog post. At the time, there was AED1.5 billion remaining of the AED4 billion securitization sukuk.
  • Malaysia's central bank, Bank Negara, issued its fourth Shari'ah Parameter Reference which covers musharaka. The previous SPRs covered ijara, murabaha, and mudaraba. The bank also issued a concept paper on takaful.
  • Bloomberg compares the performance of Shari'ah-compliant equity indices with sukuk indices. Equities have lagged sukuk in the past 2 quarters due to an agreement to restructure $23.5 billion of debt by Dubai World and its creditors.
  • Japanese firm Nomura Holdings plans to issue a $100 million sukuk in Malaysia, the first Japanese company to do so.
  • The proposed Islamic Bank of Thailand THB5 billion ($154.5 million) is likely to be issued in the second half of 2010 depending on market conditions. The sukuk will have a 5 to 7 year maturity.
  • Deutsche Bank's Shari'ah-compliant platform is investing in a foreign exchange strategy, based on "investor demand" according to the managing partner of the advisory firm which will create the strategy using a structured note. Deutsche Bank previously created the controversial Total Return Swap structure that allowed investors to receive a return benchmarked to a group of conventional hedge funds.
  • Singaporean REIT company Mapletree Investments is launching an Islamic REIT whose IPO may be up to $713 million (S$1 billion). The REIT will be marketed in the GCC by Arcapita.

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