Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Oman's CMA releases draft sukuk rules

Last week, in a post I questioned whether there was scope for arbitrage between the restrictions on tawarruq for banks and the rules on sukuk, which were laid out in descriptive form in the Islamic Banking Regulatory Framework, subject to final rulemaking by the Capital Markets Authority (CMA).  In the letter to banks from the Central Bank of Oman (CBO) sent with the rules which I had not seen (and a reader of the blog helpfully sent me), the CBO highlighted that with respects to sukuk, "Licensees shall note that business, authorized under IBRF will be subjected to general/specific approvals and restrictions.  Licensees should, in particular, note that certain enabling provisions/reference to Sukuk, Securitization, subsidiary etc., in-built for possible roll-out, do not accrue to Licensees automatically and shall depend upon future policies/authorizations/enablers"

Now that the CMA released rules, there are a few additional safeguards to avoid murabaha sukuk to be used by non-banks as backdoor sources of tawarruq which are interesting not only for Oman, but for Islamic finance in general in providing sufficient transparency for both regulators and for sukuk holders, that will provide more benefit than just cutting off potential for regulatory arbitrage.  The CMA draft rules (PDF) state:
The Sukukholders' agent shall monitor the Obligor's and the Sukuk Issuer's performance in respect of their obligations as mentioned in the prospectus, and shall seek to protect Sukukholders' interests. In particular, it shall be responsible for the following:
[...]ascertaining that the funds raised through the issue of the Sukuk are utilised in accordance with the prospectus;
The rules from the CBO already restrict sukuk issuers from issuing sukuk for "general unspecified purposes".  Whether or not that limits the use of sukuk for 'general working capital', there will be some oversight from the CMA on each individual sukuk, since they must be reviewed and approved by the CMA, and the Sukukholders' agent has an obligation to ensure that the funds are used for the approved purpose. 

It will be interesting to see the first few sukuk issued from Omani companies to see how specific they are on the use of the proceeds, and whether it could be applied in other countries to make sukuk offering documents more transparent. 

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