Monday 8th February 2016
NEWS TICKER: Friday, February 5th: According to Reuters, Venezuela's central bank has begun negotiations with Deutsche Bank AG to carry out gold swaps to improve the liquidity of its foreign reserves as it faces debt payments of some $9.5bn this year. Around 64% of Venezuela's $15.4bn reserves are held in gold bars, which in this fluid market impedes the central bank's ability to mobilise hard currency for imports or debt service. We called the central bank to confirm the story, but press spokesmen would not comment - The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) says official foreign currency reserves stood at $357bn (equivalent to seven times the currency in circulation or 48% of Hong Kong M3) as at the end of January, down compared with reserve assets of $358.8bn in December. There were no unsettled foreign exchange contracts at month end (end-December: $0.1bn) - BNP Paribas today set out plans to cut investment banking costs by 12% by 2019 to bolster profitability and reassure investors about the quality of its capital buffers. The bank is the latest in a line of leading financial institutions, including Credit Suisse, Barclays and Deutsche Bank which look to be moving away from capital intensive activities. BNP Paribas has been selling non-core assets and cutting back on operations including oil and gas financing for the last few years as it looks to achieve a target of 10% return on equity. Last year the bank announced a €900m write-down on its BNL unit in Italy, which pushed down Q4 net income down 51.7% to €665m - Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE)-listed tech company, Huge Group, will move its listing from the Alternative Exchange (AltX) to the JSE main board on March 1st - Moody's says it has assigned Aaa backed senior unsecured local-currency ratings to a drawdown under export credit provider Oesterreichische Kontrollbank's (OKB) (P)Aaa-rated backed senior unsecured MTN program. The outlook is negative in line with the negative outlook assigned to the Aaa ratings of the Republic of Austria, which guarantees OKB’s liabilities under the Austrian Export Financing Guarantees Act – As the first phase of talks between Greece and its creditors draws to an end, International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde stressed to journalists in Greece that debt relief is as important as the reforms that creditors are demanding, notably of the pension system. "I have always said that the Greek program has to walk on two legs: one is significant reforms and one is debt relief. If the pension [system] cannot be as significantly and substantially reformed as needed, we could need more debt relief on the other side." Greece's pension system must become sustainable irrespective of any debt relief that creditors may decide to provide, Lagarde said, adding that 10% of gross domestic product into financing the pension system, compared to an average of 2.5% in the EU, is not sustainable. She called for "short-term measures that will make it sustainable in the long term,” but did not outline what those measures might be. According to Eurobank in Athens, IMF mission heads reportedly met this morning with the Minister of Labour, Social Insurance and Social Solidarity, Georgios Katrougalos, before the team is scheduled to leave Athens today. According to the local press, it appears that differences exist between the Greek government and official creditors on the planned overhaul of the social security pension system. Provided that things go as planned, the heads are reportedly expected to return by mid-February with a view to completing the review by month end, or at worst early March. In its Winter 2016 Economic Forecast published yesterday, the European Commission revised higher Greece’s GDP growth forecast for 2015 and 2016 to 0.0% and -0.7%, respectively, from -1.4% and 1.-3% previously - Fitch says that The Bank of Italy's (BoI) recent designation of three banks as 'other systemically important institutions' (O-SIIs) has no impact on its ratings of the relevant mortgage covered bond (Obbligazioni Bancarie Garantite or OBG) programmes. Last month, BoI identified UniCredit, Intesa Sanpaolo. and Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena as Italian O-SIIs. Banco Popolare and Mediobanca have not been designated O-SIIs. This status is the equivalent of domestic systemically important bank status under EU legislation. Fitch rates two OBG programmes issued by UC and one issued by BMPS, which incorporates a one-notch Issuer Default Rating (IDR) uplift above the banks' IDRs. The uplift can be assigned if covered bonds are exempt from bail-in, as is the case with OBG programmes under Italy's resolution regime and in this instance takes account of the issuers' importance in the Italian banking sector – Meantime, according to local press reports, Italian hotel group Bauer and special opportunity fund Blue Skye Investment Group report they have completed the rescheduling and refinancing of Bauer’s €110m debt through the issue of new bonds and the sale of non-core assets, such as the farming business Aziende Agricole Bennati, whose sale has already been agreed, the Palladio Hotel & Spa and a luxury residence Villa F in Venice’s Giudecca island – Meantime, Russian coal and steel producer Mechel has also agreed a restructuring of its debt with credits after two intense years of talks. The mining company, is controlled by businessman Igor Zyuzin - Asian markets had a mixed day, coming under pressure. Dollar strengthening worries investors in Asia; from today’s trading it looks like dollar weakening does as well. Actually, that’s not the issue, the dollar has appreciated steadily over the last year as buyers anticipated Fed tightening; but it has hurt US exports and that has contributed to investor nervousness over the past few weeks, which is why everyone is hanging on today’s The nonfarm payrolls report, a bellwether of change – good or bad in the American economic outlook. Back to Asia. The Nikkei 225 ended the day at 16819.15, down 225.40 points, or 1.32%; and as the stock market fell the yen continued to strengthen. The Nikkei has shed 5.85% this week. The dollar-yen pair fell to the 116-handle, at 116.82 in afternoon trade; earlier this week, the pair was trading above 120. It is a hard lesson for the central bank, whose efforts to take the heat out of the yen by introducing negative interest rates has done nothing of the sort. Australia's ASX 200 closed down 4.15 points, or 0.08% after something of a mixed week. The index closed at 4976.20, with the financial sector taking most of the heat today, with the sector down 0.7%. In contrast, energy and materials sectors finished in positive territory, buoyed by gains in commodities. The Hang Seng Index closed at 19288.17, up 105.08 points (or 0.55%) while the Shanghai Composite was down 0.61%. down 17.07 points to 2763.95. The Shenzhen composite dropped 20.36 points (1.15%) to 1750.70, while the Kospi rose marginally by 0.08% to 1917.79. Today is the last day of trading on the Chinese exchanges for a week.

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Malaysia offers tax breaks to secure dominance of sukuk issues

Wednesday, 23 May 2012
Malaysia offers tax breaks to secure dominance of sukuk issues Malaysia is offering tax breaks to issuers in an effort to secure its global dominance of Islamic finance. It seems to be working, there appears to be a record rally in foreign-currency sukuk. Moreover, arrangers say interest is increasing among local corporate issuers; with Standard Chartered claiming a growing issuance pipeline worth $1bn, most of which will be in foreign currency denominated bonds. http://www.ftseglobalmarkets.com/

Malaysia is offering tax breaks to issuers in an effort to secure its global dominance of Islamic finance. It seems to be working, there appears to be a record rally in foreign-currency sukuk. Moreover, arrangers say interest is increasing among local corporate issuers; with Standard Chartered claiming a growing issuance pipeline worth $1bn, most of which will be in foreign currency denominated bonds.

Malaysia is seeking to strengthen its lead over the Gulf Cooperation Council countries as a centre of Islamic finance. It hopes to become a capital markets issuance hub, and in an effort to secure its place in the pantheon of issuing markets has announced that it is exempting investors from capital gains taxes on non-ringgit sukuk between now and the end of 2014. It is a smart move, given that more Asian companies see sukuk denominated in currencies other than the ringgit as an effective funding strategy. Malaysia has become the world’s leading sukuk market, accounting for some 73% of the $92bn of sukuk issued globally last year; a banner year in which issuance volume rose by 68% on 2011. Malaysia is also the domicile for 68% of the $210bn total sukuk outstanding globally as at end-2011, according to recent figures issued by the Securities Commission in Malaysia.

Nonetheless, there is some way to go and sales of foreign currency bonds issued out of Malaysia have topped only $358m so far this year, compared with a grand total of $2.1bn for the whole of last year. The signs are that the Malaysian authorities have discounted this year for foreign currency denominated ringgit and have introduced a raft of initiatives in the hope of capitalising on better global market conditions in 2013 and beyond. Ringgit sukuk however continue to outstrip issuance in foreign currency.



Khazanah, the country’s sovereign-wealth fund alone, sold $358m of seven-year bonds convertible into shares at a negative yield in March alone. However, that was pretty much a plain vanilla deal for the issuer, which is rated A3 by Moody’s. Sukuk watchers may remember that the fund issued the first yuan-denominated Shari’a compliant notes in Hong Kong last year.

Corporate sales of ringitt denom­inated sukuk in Malaysia climbed 8% in the first quarter (compared with Q1 2011) to MYR13.4bn, after Tanjung Bin Energy raised MYR3.3bn in March in the biggest offering so far this year. Investor demand is also buoyant. A recent issue by Pembinaan BLT, the state-owned construction company, worth MYR1.35bn was over­subscribed 2.6 times.

Even so, the market infrastructure remains problematic and will likely dampen growth unless Malaysia can unlock key elements. Among them must rank a lack of secondary market liquidity; in particular the lack of secondary market trading. This is a problem of infrastructure and supply as well as a lack of formal trading mechanisms. Without an active secondary market liquidity and sustained fund manager participation in the market is not really feasible.

Once the Kuala Lumpur-based International Islamic Liquidity Management Corporation (IILM) is up and running properly, the resulting intermarket dialogue should spur member states and the central bank executives that represent them in the corporation should help (over the longer term) should help to mitigate this lack of market liquidity. The IILM is supposed to facilitate cross-border liquidity management among institutions offering Islamic financial services by making available a variety of Shari’a-compliant instruments, including sukuk, on commercial terms, to suit the varying liquidity needs of these institutions. The IILM, of which the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) is a founding member, is due to launch its debut benchmark sukuk within the next two months. Some $3bn of issuance is expected to originate out of the IILM each year.

For now, Malaysia is managing to retain the initiative and remains the most developed systemic Islamic financial market and an active secondary trading market. However, it is not the largest liquidity pool in Islamic finance; that honour goes to Saudi Arabia, which is potentially the largest sukuk origination market; though again, local infrastructure limitations are apparent. Very few sukuk, for instance, are traded on the Tadawul and the market remains firmly domestic.

According to the latest data of the Securities Commission Malaysia, between 2000 and 2010, the First Capital Market Masterplan period, the local Islamic capital market more than tripled in value to MYR1.05trn, growing at an annualised rate of 13.6%. The Second Capital Market Masterplan, or CMP2, which spans the ten-year period to 2020 (please refer to FTSE Global Markets, Issue 57, pages 55 to 60 for more information), expects Malaysia’s Islamic capital market to grow by an average 10.6% a year, to reach just under MYR3bn by 2020, of which sukuk segment will account for 46% of the total.

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