Islamic branding: Is Bangladesh ready to cash in?

Mishu Rahman

THE world is slowly but surely realising the importance of the “halal” branding as major companies around the world move in to capture a global Muslim community, where the “ummah” brings together nearly 1.8 billion people around the world.

The majority of those people are in Asia, particularly South and East Asia. It’s also a very young demographic — 52% are under 24. This means a trend-setting, ambitious, and internationally connected market is at hand here.

“The third one billion market” after China and India has attracted a lot of attention given its economic potential. The gathering momentum is obvious with leading international banking giants creating HSBC Amanah and Standard Chartered’s first “saadiq” Visa gold card to Ogilvy and Mather’s May 2010 launching of Ogilvy Noor, “offering expert, practical advice on how to build brands that appeal to Muslim consumers, globally.”

This all shows how the western world and a global audience are taking the Market of Islam seriously.

The Saïd Business School, Oxford University, will host its inaugural Islamic branding and marketing forum in July 2010. The forum aims to bring together over 250 business leaders, branding and marketing experts and thought leaders to discuss the key issues that face this growing market.

According to the Pew Research Center a comprehensive demographic study of more than 200 countries finds that the market for Shariah-compliant products or services totals $2 trillion annually and is growing by $500 million annually.

Only 20% of the 1.8 billion Muslim population belong to the Arab world, with the majority in growing Asian economies that carry Muslim values and are open to adopting hi-tech lifestyles at par with any western country.

No wonder, therefore, that there is massive interest amongst non-Muslim owned companies about how to enter and penetrate this global market, which spans many industries, including finance, food and beverage, cosmetics, healthcare, pharmaceuticals, logistics, tourism, fashion, and others.

The halal appeal, depending largely on core values, calls for consumers to trust the authenticity and cleanliness of the product, and thus, draws on a brand loyalty which will be difficult to shake off — it’s a brand builder’s dream tool it seems!

At the 6th World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) in Malaysia this month, leaders of a diverse political, economic and ethnic arena agreed on the strength of the Islamic branding and the need to cash in on the significant interest it is generating in the world today.

Bahrain’s Ethmaar Bank’s vice-chief pointed out that when the Islamic finance history will be written in the future, two non-Muslim names will be featured as its biggest drivers, instead of any Muslim individual.

One individual is Britain’s former Prime Minister Gordon Brown who pioneered plans to make Britain the most Islam-friendly nation in the world and London a global centre for Islamic finance.

The other is French finance minister Christine Lagarde who announced France’s intentions to make Paris the capital of Islamic finance.

Islamic countries have always worked more than conventional banking counterparts in regulating and tightening the industry specially after a crisis, and in today’s global economy reeling from financial meltdown, the relevance of Islamic finance has gone up in leaps and bounds.

Even the Duke of York Prince Andrew, speaking at the WIEF said that there is no scope to stay aloof and not share ideas and best practices of Islamic finance with a global audience to avoid another meltdown in future.

He also said that the new UK Islamic Finance Secretariat (the first Islamic finance trade body in the UK), was launched at the end of March to promote and develop Islamic finance in the UK further, with 22 Islamic banks already operational, 20 Sukuk issues in the London Stock Exchange and 20 law firms in London providing specialist services on Islamic finance in London.

Bangladesh has seen how the “halal” branding can appeal to our local market when in the mid 90s the halal soap concept threw a leading international soap brand into dire straits.

Islamic finance started off in the early 90s in Bangladesh. However, the industry suffers from a lack of unified Shariah rulings, absence of an Islamic inter-bank money market , absence of courses in universities on Islamic financial products, shortage of skilled personnel who are well-versed in the complexities of this specific sector, and difficulty in identification of Shariah-compliant production and service chains are holding back potential of local financial institutions, local manufacturers, and service providers from signing up on this new economic wave.

Bangladesh has been working with Malaysia’s Halal Development Corporation and other partners of the D-8 (eight developing Islamic countries) for a few years now, without much result.

A halal certification board, whether locally set up or integrated with OIC standards, could bolster our access to export markets. Bangladesh is frequently cited in global summits for its success in micro-finance and the success of economists from Bangladesh in changing the way the global economy will be shaped in the future.

Yet we are failing to set more such success milestones in bringing about great case studies in halal products and services production, marketing and distribution, while Japan, Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, China and India are fast setting up infrastructure, guidelines and facilitative bodies to cash in on the Islamic branding potential.

Surely, the local market and export market combined, and with eager non-residents waiting for investment opportunities that build bridges, our economy needs to arm itself with all necessary platforms and guidelines immediately to move on to “greener” pastures

source : daily star

Steps towards Islamic banking in Malta

Research into the implications inherent in the regulation of banking activities based on Islamic principles, as well as the accounting of such activities, is still ongoing, Finance Minister Tonio Fenech told Parliament in reply to a question by Labour MP Leo Brincat. Such research involved close examination of various banking aspects in the context of current legislation, regulations and legal principles at local, European and international levels.

Mr Fenech said one should appreciate that this was a long-term project, and anybody would be wrong to think that it was an easy project or that it should be quickly finalised.

The Malta Financial Services Authority had finalised and published a Guidance Note on Sharia Funds in March. The guidance note explained how Islamic investment funds could be set up and managed within the Maltese legal framework.

source : times of malta

Finance Academy discussed the theory and practice of Islamic financial model in Moscow

The international conference “Problems and prospects of Islamic finance and international monetary and financial relations” was hel  at the Finance Academy under the Government of the Russian Federation in Moscow.

Within the framework of the presentations and discussions a wide range of issues was talked over, from the history of modern Islamic banking, experience of implementation of Islamic financial institutions in various countries (including the post-soviet Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan) to the prospects of their development in Russia.

It was mentioned that Islamic banking in its modern interpretation initiated in 1963 with the opening of the Mit Ghamr Local Savings Bank in Egypt, 30 years later – in 1993 – there were already more than 100 banks of that kind, and nowadays there are more that 300 Islamic banks or Islamic windows in conventional banks in the world.

Nowadays within the bounds of the Islamic financial model are used Islamic analogues of insurance, bonds, investment funds, project financing. The growth of Islamic analogues of traditional financial transactions occurs rapidly. As F.Gadzhiev, the representative of the department of project and structural financing of PC “Gazprombank” said, the total project financing that was carried out on the principles of Shariah in 2005 made up 15 billion dollars, and in 2008 – more than 70 billion dollars, while this was implemented only in 1994.

In 2008 the International Monetary Fund held a study of activity of 397 conventional banks and 77 of their Islamic analogues. The study revealed that Islamic banks with a capitalization of less than 1 billion dollars are one-third more effective than their traditional counterparts, and banks with a capitalization of more than 1 billion dollars are 25% more effective.

That’s why, as well as because of the greater stability of Islamic financial institutions during the global economic crisis, a lot of people pay attention to the Islamic financial instruments. As A.Mukaman, the representative of the National Bank of the Republic of Kazakhstan, said, amendments to the existing legislation, including the Civil Code, that allow the functioning of Islamic financial institutions, were introduced in his country, and in early 2009 a special law was passed. Nowadays the bank “Al-Hilal”, the insurance company “Takaful” and the investment fund “Fattah Finance” are open in this country.

M.Kalimullina, the representative of the Russia Muftis Council, talked about what steps had been made in Russia in order to develop alternative financial institutions in our country. Among these activities is a public inquiry for the purpose of ascertaining the need for Islamic financial products, educational programs. In June 2010 the exhibitions “Moscow Halal Expo 2010” and “Arabia-EXPO 2010” will be held in Moscow. In the near future standards for various types of Islamic financial products, prepared by the Accounting and Auditing Organizations for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI) will be published in Russia. While the economic suitability and the demand for these products on the territory of Russia are obvious, the problems of legal regulation and compliance with the Russian legislation require further study and discussion. N. Tkachyov, the company lawyer of the LLC “Transtelekombiznes” spoke on this subject at the conference. According to him, for the implementation of the operation mudaraba can be used the organizational form of unit investment trusts, fur musharaka – society in participation, for murabakha – consumer crediting.

On the results of the conference participants adopted a resolution.

source : muslimco.ru

Active year for Islamic Finance

 Judging by the number of deals closed, funds launched and the presence of new institutions, 2010 is turning out to be a very active year for the Islamic finance market in Saudi Arabia.
The Kingdom, in terms of pool of funds, is the largest player in the global Islamic finance market, although its industry, like elsewhere, is subject to traditional bottlenecks, scarcity of human capital resources and underdeveloped market awareness.

There is no doubt that the Saudi market is underpinned by its economic fundamentals — that the Kingdom is the world’s largest oil producer and exporter. In addition, while the official foreign reserves held by the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) are just under half a trillion US dollars, private liquidity in the Kingdom is estimated at $1.2 trillion.

The Kingdom has also weathered the storm of the current global financial crisis, with 2009 real GDP growth estimated at 0.2 percent and expected to accelerate to 3.2 percent in 2010. According to Omar Al-Jaroudi, chief executive officer of SHUAA Capital Saudi Arabia, for instance, “The Saudi government’s timely and appropriate fiscal and monetary policies have helped to support growth and the stability of the financial system. The key drivers behind our macro view are a sustained global recovery and the associated higher oil prices, continued expansionary fiscal policy and the resumption of local bank lending, easing financing constraints on the private sector. We forecast nominal GDP will reach SR1.5 trillion this year.”

The room for optimism in the Islamic finance sector is underlined by a number of developments. Bank AlJazira, which has converted all its activities to Islamic banking, for instance, has recently received approval from the SAMA to set up a Takaful (Islamic insurance) company. The bank’s Takaful Ta’awuni Division will be spinned off into a standalone Takaful joint venture with the UK’s Prudential PLC, one of the world’s largest insurance and asset management companies.

The Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank (IDB), on the other hand, has recently approved its first financing facility — a $120 million co-financing as part of a larger Islamic financing facility for the strategic Jubail Refinery and Petrochemical Project (JRPP) in Saudi Arabia.

The project, which has a total capital cost of $12.8 billion and which is scheduled to be completed in four years, is owned by Saudi Aramco Total Refining and Petrochemical Company (SATORP), a joint venture between Saudi Aramco (62.5 percent) and Total of France (37.5 percent). Technip of Italy is acting as the technical and project coordinator. The facility marks a growing involvement of the IDB Group in financing Saudi utilities and corporates, especially in trade and project finance. The Kingdom is by far the largest equity subscriber to the IDB.

The timing of the project, stressed the IDB, “is strategically important, indicating that Saudi Arabia in particular and the region in general, have remained resilient to the economic crisis and back on track for growth”.

Two other major developments include the recent launch of “the world’s first Shariah-compliant portfolio based on the Fundamental Index(r) methodology” developed exclusively for Saudi Economic Development Company (SEDCO) Group in Saudi Arabia by Swedish based investment manager IPM Informed Portfolio Management (IPM).

SEDCO is the dedicated Islamic private investment firm of the Bin Mahfouz family, formerly the major shareholders in National Commercial Bank (NCB).

The IPM Global Shariah screened portfolio based on the FTSE RAFI (Research Affiliates Fundamental Index) Global Index weightings, according to SEDCO, will benefit those institutions seeking the additional returns that RAFI offers, but that were previously excluded from existing Fundamental Index platforms.

The Fundamental Index methodology, according to IPM, is “a unique approach to portfolio construction, in which index weights are determined by fundamental measures of company size (cash-flow, book value, dividend and sales), instead of being based on price and valuation.”

In the housing finance sector, pursuant to the imminent adoption of a Saudi mortgage law, Deutsche Bank AG and a group of Saudi investors led by Fahad Abdullah Al-Rajhi, launched in April 2010 Deutsche Gulf Finance (DGF), a joint venture Shariah-compliant home financing company owned 40 percent by the Deutsche Bank’s Riyadh Branch and 60 percent by a group of prominent Saudi-based investors.

Fahad Al-Rajhi, who is also the head of Al-Rajhi Bank, is confident that DGF, which is capitalized at $110 million, will benchmark itself against international best practices and looks forward to contributing to the growth of home ownership in Saudi Arabia initially and later in Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait.

Doug Naidus, managing director and global head of residential mortgage backed securities lending and trading at Deutsche Bank, stressed that “Saudi Arabia is a key country in our emerging markets strategy. Islamic home finance continues to be an important part of Deutsche Bank’s global mortgage platform. Deutsche Bank’s global expertise coupled with the Al-Rajhi family’s local prominence and experience makes this an ideal and complementary business relationship.”

The launch of Deutsche Gulf Finance comes at a pivotal time for consumer finance in Saudi Arabia. According to Deutsche Bank Research, the total outstanding home finance provided by the private sector in Saudi Arabia aggregates to less than 1 percent of GDP compared with well over 50 percent in most developed countries, and approximately 6 percent in Kuwait and 7 percent in the UAE.

Deutsche Bank Research projects Saudi Arabia will need 1.2 million additional housing units by 2015. In addition, based on market assumptions, it estimates that when the new Saudi mortgage law is enacted it will contribute to incremental demand of approximately 55,000 additional units per year.

Other recent Islamic finance market developments include the $500 million (SR1.875 billion) ARC Real Estate Income Fund launched by Al-Rajhi Capital, the investment banking subsidiary of Saudi Arabia’s Al-Rajhi Bank, and Arcapita Bank, the Islamic investment bank incorporated in Bahrain, is potentially an important development and indicator in the revival of the GCC Islamic real estate market.

The Kingdom’s largest realty developer, Dar Al-Arkan Real Estate Development Company (DAAR) closed its fourth sukuk issuance — a $450 million issue — in February 2010. This latest sukuk was lead arranged by Unicorn Investment Bank, Deutsche Bank and Goldman Sachs.

The fund, which is registered with the Capital market Authority (CMA) in Saudi Arabia, brings together for the first time Al-Rajhi Bank, the largest Islamic bank in the world in terms of its balance sheet, and Arcapita Bank, the former First Islamic Investment Bank, which has pioneered Shariah-compliant real estate and private equity transactions especially in the US market, the UK, Germany and the GCC market. At its peak, Arcapita’s real estate and private equity portfolio in the US market alone totaled over $3 billion.

In March 2010, SHUAA Capital Saudi Arabia closed its first land acquisition situated at the Jeddah Corniche on behalf of the SHUAA Saudi Hospitality Fund I, a SR2 billion Shariah-compliant private equity fund, which will be developed into a luxury hotel tower with affiliated serviced hotel apartments to be managed by Rotana Hotel Management Corporation, the leading hotel management company in the MENA region.

source : arabnews.com

Sudan Backs Central Bank of Nigeria On Non-Interest Banking

The monetary authority in Sudan has expressed its readiness to supportthe Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in implementing non- interest banking in the country.A statement by the CBN and signed by its Head of Corporate Communications, Mr Mohammed Abdulahi, stated that the support, which isfrom the Central Bank of Sudan (CBOS) would be through experience sharing and capacity building.

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According to the statement, a CBN delegation led by the CBN Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi , had visited the CBOS where the CBN Governor intimated officials of the CBOS on the on-going efforts to develop a regulatory and supervisory framework for non-interest banking inNigeria. The Advisor to the CBOS Governor on Non-interest Banking, Dr. Ahmad Ali Abdullah, assured the CBN of the readiness of the CBOS to support CBN in the implementation efforts.

Non-interest banking is provided for in Nigeria in Sections 9, 23 and52 of the Banks and other Financial Institution Act 1991 as amended. The visit to the CBOS coincided with the participation of the CBN delegation to the 16th Meeting of the Council of Islamic Financial Services Board (IFSB) in Khartoum, Sudan, this month. That was thesecond meeting attended by Nigeria since the CBN became a full member of the Council in January 2009.

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The meeting was preceded by an international conference with the themes, the Changing Landscape ofIslamic Finance – Imminent Challenges and Future Directions andDeveloping Capacity Building to Enhance Financial Stability in theIslamic Financial Services Industry.

According to the CBN, the Council deliberated on several issuesincluding strengthening of Islamic financial system and approved inprinciple to establish an inter-governmental special purpose entity tohelp in building liquidity management infrastructure at both domesticand international levels.

“This is to be achieved by facilitating cross-border liquiditymanagement among Non-interest financial institutions through theacquisition and maintenance of global pool of sovereign assets,” CBN said.According to the Council, said the Nigerian apex bank, such sovereignassets must be suitable for use as underlying asset on which it wouldbenchmark the issuance of highly rated Islamic bonds to be tradedglobally.

“Other areas which the council deliberated and agreed upon include theissue of capacity building among the operators and regulatoryauthorities with a view to strengthening their operations and ensuringefficient service delivery in the industry.The CBN delegation to Sudan which comprised the Governor, MallamSanusi Lamido Sanusi; Deputy Governor, Financial System Stability, Dr.Kingsley Chiedu Moghalu; Director, Financial Policy and RegulationDepartment, Mr. ChrisChukwu and others returned to the country last week.

source : allafrica

‘Islamic Banking is the Answer’ for Nigeria’s economy

Islamic banking is the answer to Nigeria’s economy because it “promotes infrastructural development which Nigeria critically needs,” says Mrs. Hajara Adeola, the managing director and chief executive officer of Lotus Capital Limited.She said the establishment of Islamic financing in Nigeria is rife following the plan by the CBN to discontinue universal banking for specialised banks.

The Jaiz International Bank has not been able to take off due to the N25billion compulsory capitalisation benchmark for banks. She said it is possible to have Islamic banking with the CBN relaxing the capitalisation base for banks. She said banks categorisation will: “bring banks nearer to the people and offering specialised service. Not all banks are international banks everywhere in the world” she said. Adeola spoke yesterday at the five-day training workshop on Islamic finance and investment products put together by Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN) and Lotus Capital Limited.

source : allafrica

Islamic banks must aid industrialisation – Dr Mahathir Mohamad

Islamic banks and financial institutions must play a role in the industrialisation of Muslim countries to be able to withstand future challenges in the global financial system.

In making the call, Former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said banks’ role in the industrialisation of developed countries in Europe and East Asia cannot be understated.

“There is no reason why Muslim banks and financial institutions cannot play the same role. In fact, considering the lack of knowledge and initiatives in this area among Muslims generally and Muslim investors specifically, the Islamic banks must play an even bigger and more aggressive role than conventional banks,” he said in his special address at a Malaysia Showcase dinner in this capital city of Bahrain Monday.

Dr Mahathir said currently there was not a single Muslim country that was fully industrialised, with some of these countries having no natural resources to support industrialisation.

 
However, they make up by having the most valuable resources of all — they have people who are intelligent, knowledgeable and skilled in the development of industries.

Dr Mahathir said Islamic banks and institutions must have staff who are qualified not just in financial management but also in technology and intricacies of setting up and managing numerous industries that can create wealth and employment.

“Assuming that Islamic banks have these expertise, they can help with the industrialisation of Muslim countries through the promotion of selected industries and businesses and through introducing innovative ways of financing the enterprises,” he said.

Dr Mahathir, who was in the driver’s seat of the Malaysian economy for the past 22 years, said despite the availability of Islamic finance and banking, the Muslim World had not shown the kind of progress the western countries have.

One of the reasons could be lack of knowledge in the wealth management for growth, he said. Furthermore, the very rich Muslim countries have shown an unwillingness to invest their money in a way that could improve the situation in the Muslim world, he said.

“If the availability of Islamic finance is to help create a better future for the Muslim world then the financial institutions themselves must come up and aggressively promote Islamic compatible ways of investing the great wealth of the Muslims,” said Dr Mahathir.

Among the ways are by identifying secure investment opportunities which give fair returns but transgress no Islamic injunctions, he said. He also said Islamic banks have not shown any aggressiveness in promoting their services.

While promoting, he said, it could be better if products offered do not match any product in the Western banking system.
“The Islamic banking and financial system should not follow in the footsteps of the Western financial system in terms of Islamic financial market products.

Admittedly, it is not the Western system that has gone wrong. It is the abuses perpetrated by market players, the speculators and the gamblers who have done this,” said Dr Mahathir.

On this matter, he said, the banking and financial system in the Muslim world must be regulated and must remain under government supervision even if this stifles the performance and the role of the banks in ensuring a better future for Muslims.

At the same time, he said, the very rich Muslims and Muslim countries should value and take care about their management of wealth to prevent any abuses by managers who are usually foreigners.

In this case, the Islamic banks and financial institutions can help in raising awareness of the dangers of being dependent on others, he said.

“It is only if the Islamic financial institutions are aware of the full extent of the role they can play and they are willing to look beyond merely making money available to those who need it, will they be able to represent hope for a better future for the Muslim world,” he added.

The Malaysia Showcase dinner, attended by some 450 industry players and regulators, was organised in conjunction with the Seventh Islamic Financial Services Board Summit, which starts today.  

Source : Bernama