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Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Islam: interest in 'halal' finance growing in Italy

(ANSAmed) - MILAN, MARCH 19 - Islamic finance has existed in Europe for more than forty years, with the United Kingdom one of the world's leading countries in the field, and others, such as Malta and Luxembourg, also at the forefront. In Italy, where the sector is more or less non-existent, results of the first experiments are now beginning to be seen.

In 2009, for instance, Deloitte set up a sector dedicated to Islamic finance. ''At the moment, we are developing products compatible with Italian regulations,'' says Alberto Liotta, a director at the consultancy firm, a guest at a conference organised by Islamic Relief Italia. ''Attention is mainly focussed on conventional financing instruments, such as leasing, the concept of which can be brought closer to those of Islamic finance''.

''In the West, there is strong financing demand based on religious principles as a result of the growth of the Muslim middle-class, due to interest in ''halal'' products by ethical finance and because there is a serious amount of money to be made,'' says Alberto Brugnoni, a director at Assaif, another consultancy firm. ''Major investment funds are also focussing on this not so much for interests as to diversify their portfolio''.

Yet although the issue has been discussed for a few years now, the time appears not yet right for the birth of a retail Islamic bank in Italy following the model of the Islamic Bank of Britain. ''In truth, it would be possible to create it in Italy because the regulations here are harmonised with the rest of Europe,'' says Valentino Cattelan, a sector expert and professor at Rome's Tor Vergata University. ''From an investor's point of view, the problem is that it would not yet be very profitable business because of tax problems and because there is not yet a market considered to be useful''. 

(EnpiInfoCentre / 20 March 2012)

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Sudan eyes up to $1.5 bln with pipeline-backed sukuk

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan aims to raise $1 billion to $1.5 billion this year with Islamic "sukuk" bonds that offer stakes in an oil pipeline, a move the African country hopes will draw more Gulf Arab investment to its debt market, a senior official said on Monday.

Sudan Financial Services Co., which issues Islamic bonds on behalf of the government, wants to offer the dollar-denominated sukuk within two months, General Manager Azhari Eltayeb Elfaki told Reuters.

The debt agency is also preparing to issue sukuk that will be repaid with profits from gold exports and which investors will be able to buy in foreign or local currency, he said.

Sudan lost about three quarters of its oil output when South Sudan seceded in July, aggravating a foreign currency shortage, budget gap and high inflation in the north.

Depreciation of the Sudanese pound on the black market has dampened demand for debt denominated in local currency, raising the appeal of debt issued in foreign currencies.

"Now, inshallah (God willing), we are going to make sukuk for the pipeline," Elfaki said in an interview, referring to an oil pipeline running from oil fields including Heglig to a Red Sea terminal at Port Sudan.

"Now they (the finance ministry) are making the technical studies and the evaluation of the pipeline itself. I think they will finish it, inshallah, by the end of this month."

Elfaki said he expected the sukuk to draw mostly investors from Gulf Arab states like Saudi Arabia and would total $1 billion to $1.5 billion.  

(Reuters / 19 March 2012)

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