The head of Malaysia’s state-owned trade financier said he plans to tap the global sukuk market for a second time, as Shariah-compliant assets look set to reach 40 percent of the bank’s total in 2015.
Export-Import Bank of Malaysia Bhd.’s assets that comply with religious tenets will rise to 2.4 billion ringgit ($718 million) this year, representing a 30 percent portion, from 2013’s 1.5 billion ringgit, Chief Executive Officer Adissadikin Ali said in an interview yesterday. The company is aiming to sell dollar-denominated Islamic bonds in the second half of next year, he said.
The state-owned entity became the world’s first trade financier to issue U.S. currency sukuk with its debut offering in February that helped plug a shortage of corporate Islamic dollar debt in Asia. The lender started providing Shariah-compliant loans in 2009 to support demand in an industry whose assets Bank Negara Malaysia projects will triple to $6.5 trillion worldwide by 2020.
“We are not short of business,” Adissadikin said in Kuala Lumpur. “Our plan is to grow by 30 percent every year and we have been beating the target consistently.”
The lender is expanding its Islamic finance business as part of Prime Minister Najib Razak’s drive to make the nation a global Shariah-compliant hub by 2020, Adissadikin said. Exim Bank met its full-year target of 5 billion ringgit for Islamic and conventional loans at the end of October and the figure may now climb to 6 billion ringgit this year, he predicts.
The company’s planned sukuk will be its third in the international debt market and Exim Bank faces the prospect of higher yields as the Federal Reserve gears up to raise interest rates next year.
The bank will probably offer $200 million to $300 million of dollar sukuk with a maturity of five years or more sometime in the second half of 2015, Adissadikin said.
“Timing is not a priority as we can pass the cost to our clients,” he said.
Exim Bank sold $300 million of dollar Islamic notes due in 2019 at a coupon of 2.874 percent in February. The yield on the securities rose eight basis points, or 0.08 percentage point, to 2.55 percent today, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The lender is rated A3, the fourth-lowest investment grade, by Moody’s Investors Service and A- by Fitch Ratings.
Average yields on global sukuk, which pay returns on assets to comply with the religion’s ban on interest, dropped 57 basis points this year to 2.85 percent, according to a Deutsche Bank AG Index. That’s down from 2014’s high of 3.44 percent on Jan. 2 and compares with the low of 2.77 percent in September.
Worldwide sales of the debt rose 10 percent to $38.8 billion in 2014 from a year earlier after reaching $43.1 billion in 2013 and an unprecedented $46.8 billion in 2012, data compiled by Bloomberg show.
Exim Bank’s total banking assets may end the year around 8 billion ringgit, up from 5.3 billion ringgit in 2013, Adissadikin said. The company posted a net profit of 144.7 million ringgit last year, compared with 123.8 million ringgit in 2012, according to its annual report. Adissadikin declined to give an earnings forecast for 2014.
Badlisyah Abdul Ghani, chief executive officer of CIMB Islamic Bank Bhd., said it makes sense for Exim Bank to be offering Shariah-compliant financing given that it’s a significant part of the Malaysian economy.
“Exim Bank Malaysia acts as a strong ambassador for Islamic finance,” Badlisyah at the unit of CIMB Group Holdings Bhd., said in a phone interview in Kuala Lumpur yesterday. “The very fact that they issued a dollar sukuk this year and are able to offer wider solutions to their clients also allows them to stand out.”
The Bahrain-based Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI) has issued two new sharia standards, revised three others and said it will review at least five more in coming months.
The move appears to signal a more proactive approach by AAOIFI, which is one of the world's top standard-setting bodies for Islamic finance but has acted only gradually to address some of the industry's big issues and controversies in recent years.
Before its latest announcement, AAOIFI had issued only two of its 88 standards in the last three years, while other Islamic finance organisations have stepped up their activities as the industry expands around the globe.
AAOIFI may now be picking up the pace after it appointed a new secretary-general in September, Saudi Arabian national Hamed Hassan Merah.
After a meeting of its 20-member sharia board last week in Riyadh, AAOIFI said it had issued a standard for arboun (down payments) and another on conditional termination of contracts, following a public hearing held in October.
AAOIFI has also revised standards covering the conversion of conventional banks into Islamic ones, debt transfers (hawala) and murabaha - a common sharia-compliant sale contract.
In murabaha, an institution agrees to purchase merchandise from a counterparty, who promises to buy it back with an agreed mark-up at a later date. Murabaha contracts can take several forms, some of which may resemble interest-bearing loans, which has attracted criticism from some scholars and regulators.
AAOIFI did not publicly reveal details of its new and revised standards, so it was not immediately clear whether the murabaha change was minor or substantial.
The organisation is also developing a new standard on repurchase agreements, a key liquidity management tool to which most Islamic banks currently have limited access. It will review existing standards for several widely used contracts, including those on ijara, salam, istisna, musharaka and mudaraba.
As part of the review, it will seek industry feedback before its next sharia board meeting, to be held next March. AAOIFI will hold its annual conference, organised in partnership with the World Bank, on Nov. 17 and 18 this year.
Under its previous secretary-general, AAOIFI had said it would look to develop a new framework for disclosing financial data, while possibly revising standards for takaful (Islamic insurance), investment accounts and other products.
Established in 1990, AAOIFI issues guidelines that are followed wholly or in part by Islamic financial institutions around the world. AAOIFI standards have been used by or influenced regulation in jurisdictions including Bahrain, the Dubai International Financial Centre, Jordan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Pakistan, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia.
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