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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs    22 August  2012

Malaysia retains lead in Islamic finance


Malaysia continues to lead in Islamic finance as Singapore strives to make inroads into the sector, according to a report in the Singapore Business Times.

HSBC Amanah (M) Bhd chief executive officer and Global Markets Amanah managing director Rafe Haneef was quoted by the daily as saying Malaysia had a large volume of Islamic investors looking for syariah-compliant investments like sukuk (Islamic bond) compared with the Singapore market.

“Along with Islamic investors, Malaysia has a large number of Muslim-owned companies, most of which are looking for syariah-compliant financing and sukuk issuance. Again, there is not a high demand for such financing in the Singapore corporate environment,” Rafe said.

Malaysia accounts for 60 per cent of global sukuk deals.

Rafe said the global sukuk market was expected to expand to US$44 billion this year. For the first half of 2012, the global sukuk market was worth $20.5 billion, up from $15 billion a year earlier.

According to a statement from the Securities Commission (SC), fund-raising activities in the second quarter continued to be robust with the regulator receiving a total 56 applications for equity-related proposals and issuances of private debt securities (PDS) – three times the applications received in the first quarter.

The SC said a total 42, or 75 per cent, were PDS applications, and the balance were for equity-related proposals.

The regulator said the debt market in Malaysia remained active with the number of approved PDS applications in the second quarter increasing to 24 compared with 16 in the first quarter. The total amount of funds approved to be raised from ringgit-denominated PDS issues also increased by 4.9 per cent to 23.01 billion ($7.37 billion) versus 21.94 billion ringgit in the first quarter.

The SC said that at end-June, the total amount of bonds outstanding stood at 941 billion ringgit, reflecting the continued growth of the Malaysian bond market. The figure included $165.2 billion in sukuk outstanding, which represents two-thirds of the total sukuk outstanding globally of $243.4 billion.

In 2011, corporate bond issuances in the Malaysian capital market totalled 70 billion ringgit. In the first half of 2012, total corporate bond issuances reached 66 billion ringgit, including PLUS Bhd’s 30 billion ringgit sukuk earlier this year – the single largest corporate sukuk in the world.

Just last week, Celcom Axiata Bhd announced it had successfully priced its sukuk issuance of 5 billion ringgit in nominal value, of which 3 billion ringgit received a final book of 10 billion ringgit via bookbuilding process. Celcom said the 5 billion ringgit sukuk was the largest rated sukuk murabahah issuance based on a tawarruq arrangement in the Malaysian debt capital market to date.

The Singapore Business Times also quoted bankers as saying Singapore was hobbled by a lack of domestic market for Islamic finance products, while Middle East investors were still US dollar-based and conservative.

The situation appeared to be improving when in 2010 Khazanah sold S$1.5 billion ($1.2 billion) sukuk in Singapore, and Sabana, the world’s largest syariah-compliant real estate investment trust (Reit), raised S$664 million ($530 million) through its initial public offering.

Since then, the Islamic finance landscape there has been rather barren. It said Singapore appeared to be missing out on one of the fastest-growing financial markets, with Islamic finance growing at an estimated 15 per cent to 20 per cent a year.

Islamic banking assets with commercial banks globally will hit $1.1 trillion in 2012, up a third from $826 billion in 2010, according to figures from the 2011 Ernst & Young World Islamic Banking Competitiveness Report.

The business daily said another problem for Singapore was that conservative Middle Eastern investors tended to invest only in familiar companies and preferred to make those investments in US dollars.

Maybank Singapore’s head of Islamic banking Mohd Ismail Hussein was quoted as saying the expected demand from Middle East investors did not materialise because of economic and liquidity issues at home. (US$1 = 3.12 ringgit)

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It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

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