HONG KONG: Hong Kong legislators passed a bill that will allow the AAA-rated government to raise around $500 million via sukuk, or Islamic bonds.
A debut sukuk from Hong Kong would help boost its Islamic finance credentials and position itself as a gateway between mainland China and investors in the Gulf and Southeast Asia.
The task of issuing the sukuk now rests with the Hong Kong Monetary Authority under the territory's Government Bond Programme, which has a borrowing ceiling of HK$200 billion ($25.8bn).
As of February, the programme had 14 listed bonds currently outstanding worth a combined HK$94bn, with tenors of up to 10 years.
Hong Kong's sukuk plan comes at a time of increasing competition among financial centres for a slice of Islamic finance business, which is centred in southeast Asia and the Middle East.
A $500m sukuk issue would be larger than debut sovereign issues planned by Luxembourg and Britain, which are at different stages of development.
Legal filings describe the proposed sukuk issuance as "inaugural", suggesting it would not be a one-off like Britain's plan for a £200m ($333m) sukuk issue.
Sukuk proceeds would be placed with the territory's Exchange Fund, which is managed by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority.
(Gulf Daily News / 28 March 2014)---
Alfalah Consulting - Kuala Lumpur: www.alfalahconsulting.com
Islamic Investment Malaysia: www.islamic-invest-malaysia.com