Islamic finance success offsetting global gloom

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Updated 28 January 2013

Islamic finance success offsetting global gloom

The private sector in the Kingdom has been spurred into action, giving a major boost particularly to real estate, construction, health care, education, financial services and a host of other activities, thus offsetting some of the global economic gloom, according to Khaled Al-Aboodi, CEO of the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD), the private sector arm of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) Group.
“However, financing for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) is not yet developed in most of the member-countries,” Al-Aboodi told Khalil Hanware of Arab News in an exclusive interview. “Even in GCC countries, there is lack of access to financing for SMEs,” Al-Aboodi pointed out.

The following are excerpts from the interview:

How has ICD's performance been in 2011 and what are its major achievements in 2012?
The persistence of uncertainty in the global financial arena coupled with continued global economic downturn has increased both perceived market risks as well as cautious approach to business operations. While lack of access to finance by the private sector has opened new opportunities for ICD to support private sector development in a number of member-countries, a combination of factors such as social unrest in some member-countries, increased cost of funding and lingering effects of financial crisis has made it very difficult for ICD to operate as planned. However, recognizing the role of a strong private sector in inclusive growth, ICD strived to utilize and apply a package of targeted investments and wide advisory services to accomplish its mandate. Despite the negative effect of financial crisis and social unrest in the region, ICD managed to approve 18 new projects and capital incease for three existing equity projects totaling $ 372.26 million in 1432H/2011. This was 58 percent higher than the previous year (2010), which reflects ICD's continuing robust support to private sector development in the member-countries. Equity investments accounted for the bulk of ICD's 1432H/2011 approvals, representing 38 percent of the total, followed by the line of finance (35 percent), long-term financing (22 percent), and short-term murabaha (5 percent). In terms of sectoral distribution, the three main beneficiary sectors were finance, industry and real estate, jointly attracting 85 percent of the total approvals. The financial sector accounted for the biggest allocation, totaling $ 201.26 million, or 54 percent of the 1432H/2011 approvals. In terms of regional composition, 31 percent of ICD's approved projects during 1432H were allocated to the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region, followed by South Asia (23 percent), Sub-Saharan Africa (16 percent), East Asia and Pacific (14 percent), and Europe and Central Asia (10 percent). In terms of recipient countries, ICD approvals were extended to 13-member countries, including three new countries — Algeria, Gabon and Turkmenistan. Overall, country- and region-wise allocation was made on the basis of a number of factors, including member-countries' creditworthiness, strategic priorities and development agendas, and financial sustainability of the projects. In 1433H/2012, ICD approved 19 new investment projects and 6 capital increases totaling $ 375 million. As a result, total approvals since inception amounted to $ 2.582 billion. Region-wise, around 38 percent of ICD's approved projects during 1433H were allocated to Eastern Europe and Central Asia, 15 percent to MENA, followed by Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa 14 percent and 7 percent respectively. The regional projects covering multiple regions accounted for 25 percent of total approvals. As part of its new strategy, ICD's advisory services also gathered further momentum in 1433H. In the past year, ICD successfully closed the fund-raising for Tunisia and Saudi Arabia SME funds, and also for the Central Asia Renewable Energy Fund. Furthermore, ICD has approved establishment of a Food & Agriculture Fund and Fixed Income Fund, and successfully secured some mandates in Tunisia and Cameroon for capacity building and creation of Islamic windows within conventional banks.

In what projects/companies have you invested in the past 12 months?
ICD approved 19 new projects and six capital increases in existing equity projects. In line with its new strategy of promoting Islamic financial channels, ICD approved $ 167 million worth of projects in the Islamic financial sector in 1433H/2012, which accounts for 40 percent of its total approvals. The share of products in the approval of financial sector projects were also well-balanced and included equity stakes of $ 47 million in financial institutions, and line of financing extended to qualified financial institutions at an amount of $ 120 million. At the same time, the business plan of 1433H/2012 envisioned continuation of ICD's direct investment in real estate sector with a more focused and balanced allocation of its resources to priority sectors. In the past year, ICD achieved its target for approval in the real estate sector. The amount of approval and disbursement stood at $ 202 million and $ 50 million respectively in the real sector of member-countries.

What was ICD's contribution to the development of member-countries in 2011?
The Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD) was established to support the economic development of its member-countries by providing Shariah-compliant financing to private sector projects. The ICD offers advice to governments and private organizations to encourage the establishment, expansion and modernization of private enterprises, the development of capital markets, the adoption of best management practices, and enhancement of the role of the market economy. The ICD focuses on developmental projects, which contribute to the creation of employment opportunities, poverty reduction, raising the general standard of living, improved health and education, and the encouragement of exports. Generally speaking, ICD's role is to try to enhance the role of the private sector in these countries by providing not just finance but know-how as well to facilitate their growth.

How popular is Islamic finance in the region and how are you promoting it? Has the economic downturn increased its popularity?
Islamic finance is growing in popularity and already a majority of retail and corporate banking clients prefer the option of Islamic banking over conventional banking when available. Our operations and dealings are on the basis of Islamic banking principles and also support the establishment and finance of Islamic financial institutions not only in the region but also in the wider Asian and African spheres. ICD's mandate is to promote, in accordance with Shariah principles, the economic development of is member-countries by encouraging the establishment, expansion and modernization of private enterprises. To fulfill our mandate, we support the private sector through the following ways: First, we assist them alone or in collaboration with other financing institutions the establishment and expansion of enterprises. Second, we can make direct investment, through Islamic instruments, in the subscription and purchase of their share capital. We also promote with participation of other sources of financing, including the structuring of syndication deals, underwriting of securities, joint ventures and other forms of association. Moreover, we can get involved in issuing mudharba, leasing and istisna'a bonds and other financial instruments. At the top of these, private sector firms may benefit from our advisory services and technical assistance programs. Yes, the downturn has certainly increased the popularity of Islamic finance without a doubt.

How did you secure funding last year and what are your plans in the coming years to ensure you have adequate funds to achieve your objectives?
Normally, we secure funding via partnership and syndication. In fact, ICD actively engaged in building strong relationships with major international development institutions. ICD established new partnerships through the execution of memorandum of understanding (MoU) with a number of institutions, including Exim banks in Indonesia and Malaysia, Eurasian Development Bank in Kazakhstan, Kenyan Company for Habitat and Housing in Africa, and National Innovation Fund in Kazakhstan. For example, ICD became a signatory to the International Finance Corporation's (IFC's) Master Cooperation Agreement, which makes it easier for both institutions to collaborate on private sector investments in MENA and in emerging markets worldwide. All these MoUs aim at transferring knowledge, especially in Islamic finance, syndicating and co-financing activities, originating and structuring activities, and establishing new products.

What role does ICD play in promoting SMEs in member-countries?
The small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have a crucial role to play in a country's growth and development, and ICD has big plans for them. It is an important sector in all the member-countries, even the higher income ones. Yet, financing for SMEs is not developed in most of the member-countries. Even in GCC countries, there is lack of access to financing for SMEs. Now we are focusing on this sector by establishing ijara companies. We are also looking at direct financing of SMEs, and are now working to establish the first SME Fund with a capital of SR 1 billion. Also, during this year, ICD and the Caisse Des Depots Et Consignations (CDC) with support from KIPCO group and Albaraka Bank structured and launched the largest CMF regulated and first Tunisian SME Shariah Complaint Fund with the principal purpose to address the SMEs' funding gap by providing financial assistance in the form of growth capital to suitable SMEs that are poised for exponential growth. ICD has been working for a long time in developing special programs for development of the SME sector in IDB member-countries. It is clear that job creation has become a big issue that needs to be addressed. Recent events in the Middle East confirm that lack of jobs and unemployment cause people sometimes to be unhappy to the extent of almost overthrowing regimes. ICD has been developing SME programs to support governments' efforts in member-countries by providing ingredients for establishing a very good SME authority in each country because in many countries such an authority is either absent, with the result that there is no authority to take care of SMEs' affairs in terms of regulations and creating an environment ensuring their development or sometimes the authorities exist but they are not very well equipped or are bureaucratic.

How many projects has ICD financed so far and what is the total value of the projects?
ICD's accumulated approvals since it began operation reached $ 2.17 billion by the end of 1432H/2011, which has been allocated to 218 projects. The corporation approved about 60 percent of its investments through two main modes of finance — equity and murabaha. The cumulative gross approvals of ICD by mode of finance include $ 766.07 million of equity, $ 535.77 million of murabaha, $ 526.5 million of ijara, $ 223.13 million of installment sale, and $ 119.14 million of istisna'a.

What are ICD's investments in key sector projects in member-countries?
The sectoral composition of ICD's accumulated approvals underscores diversity and is spread over 16 sectors. The financial sector accounted for the largest share, amounting to $ 783.7 million, or 36 percent of the accumulated gross approvals since inception. The industrial sector had the second largest share with a total approved amount of $ 596.1 million, representing 27 percent of the gross approvals. This was followed by real estate, with a total approval of $ 276.2 million (13 percent). The remaining $ 514.6 million (24 percent) of the accumulated approvals was allocated to 13 different sectors.

Where do you see the Saudi economy heading in 2013, and with so many projects under way is Saudi Arabia on the threshold of another boom?
The Economist Intelligence Unit expects 4.3 percent growth of the Saudi economy in 2013, compared to 5.3 percent growth in 2012. The International Monetary Fund has forecast Saudi growth at 4.1 percent in 2013, compared to 6 percent in 2012 and 6.8 percent in 2011. The Saudi private sector has been spurred into action and a number of sectors such as real estate, construction, health care, education and financial services have received a major boost, offsetting some of the global economic gloom. According to the official records, more than 200 projects with a combined value of $ 1.23 trillion are expected to be completed by the end of 2013. This reflects the massive development under way in the Kingdom.

How important is the Kingdom's role in G20?
The Kingdom assumes a leadership position in both the Arab and broader Muslim worlds, representing a very diverse political constituency, and like other G20 countries it has been increasingly exposed to the challenges of globalization. In fact, the Saudi leadership will look to the G20 process to help make the international finance, the food commodities, and the oil and gas markets less volatile and easier to navigate. Moreover, the Kingdom will continue playing a systemic role in an ever-changing multi-polar world where the G20 is at its core.

Southwest challenged engine maker over speed of safety checks

Updated 20 April 2018

Southwest challenged engine maker over speed of safety checks

  • The proposed inspections would have cost $170 per engine for two hours of labor
  • Southwest Airlines Chairman and CEO Gary Kelly explained the airline’s maintenance procedures in a 59-second video posted to Twitter

WASHINGTON/PARIS: Southwest Airlines clashed with engine-maker CFM over the timing and cost of proposed inspections after a 2016 engine accident, months before the explosion this week of a similar engine on a Southwest jet that led to the death of a passenger, public documents showed.
The proposed inspections would have cost $170 per engine for two hours of labor, for a total bill to US carriers of $37,400, the US Federal Aviation Administration said in its August 2017 proposal, citing the engine manufacturer.
The documents reveal that airlines including Southwest thought the FAA had “vastly understated” the number of engines that would need to be inspected — and therefore the cost.
The documents are part of the public record on the FAA’s initial proposal for inspections and the response from airlines made in October, within the designated comment period.
The FAA and CFM International made the inspection recommendations after a Southwest flight in August 2016 made a safe emergency landing in Florida after a fan blade separated from the same type of engine. Debris ripped a foot-long hole above the left wing. Investigators found signs of metal fatigue.
On Tuesday, a broken fan blade touched off an engine explosion on Southwest Airlines flight 1380, shattering a window of the Boeing 737 jet and killing a passenger. It was the first death in US airline service since 2009.
The FAA is not bound by any specified time periods in deciding whether to order inspections and must assess the urgency of each situation.
Southwest and other airlines in their responses in October objected to a call by CFM to complete all inspections within 12 months. The FAA proposed up to 18 months, backed by Southwest and most carriers. Southwest also told the FAA that only certain fan blades should be inspected, not all 24 in each engine.
“SWA does NOT support the CFM comment on reducing compliance time to 12 months,” Southwest wrote in an October submission.
CFM is a joint venture of General Electric Co. and France’s Safran.
Southwest said in its submission that the FAA’s proposal would force the carrier to inspect some 732 engines in one of two categories under review — much higher than the FAA’s total estimate of 220 engines across the whole US fleet.
“The affected engine count for the fleet in costs of compliance ... appears to be vastly understated,” it said.
Southwest spokeswoman Brandy King said on Thursday that the comments “were to add further clarification on items included in the proposed AD (airworthiness directive).”
She said the company had satisfied CFM’s recommendations, but she did not immediately answer questions about how many engines had been inspected and whether the failed engine had been inspected.
Late on Thursday, Southwest Airlines Chairman and CEO Gary Kelly explained the airline’s maintenance procedures in a 59-second video posted to Twitter. He said the airline hires GE to do heavy overhaul or maintenance work on all of its engines.
“So GE provides the guidelines for maintenance inspections and repairs over the life of the engines,” he said.

The airline on Tuesday evening said it would conduct accelerated ultrasonic inspections of the fan blades on CFM56 engines within the next 30 days.
“In addition to our accelerated inspections we are meeting with GE and Boeing on a daily basis regarding the progress of the inspections and we will continue to work with them throughout the rest of the investigation,” Kelly said in the video.
The FAA said on Wednesday it would finalize the airworthiness directive it had proposed in August within two weeks. It will require inspections of some CFM56-7B engines. FAA officials acknowledged that the total number of engines affected could be higher than first estimated.
The FAA, which has issued more than 100 airworthiness directives just since the beginning of this year, has said that the time it takes to finalize directives depends on the complexity of the issue and the agency’s risk assessment based on the likelihood of occurrence and the severity of the outcome.
The National Transportation Safety Board said on Thursday that investigators would be on the scene into the weekend but declined any new comment on the investigation.
Investigators said one of the fan blades on Tuesday’s Southwest flight broke and fatigue cracks were found.