RBI approval for Cheraman to boost inclusive growth

Updated 20 August 2013
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RBI approval for Cheraman to boost inclusive growth

Indian and international Islamic banking experts have welcomed Reserve Bank of India’s decision allowing operation of an interest-free non-banking financial company (NBFC) in Kerala, saying it would encourage the country’s 200-million-strong Muslims to participate in the country’s development projects.
“It will have a big impact on the Indian economy and contribute to the expansion of Islamic banking and finance worldwide,” said Mohammed Azmi Omar, director general of the Islamic Research & Training Institute, an affiliate of Islamic Development Bank.
Cheraman Financial Services, based in Kerala's city of Kochi, plans to offer leasing and equity-finance products under Islamic principles. It said it had obtained approval to operate from the Reserve Bank of India and would follow the Islamic ban on interest; it will not take deposits from customers. Cheraman plans to roll out its products by the end of August.
“India has one of the world’s largest Muslim population and the RBI decision would help tap huge funds of these Muslims for Shariah-compliant investment projects,” Omar told Arab News. Islamic finance promotes inclusive growth and accelerates development of real economy, he added.
The RBI decision appears to open the door to the possibility of more NBFCs offering non-interest products in future, even though full-fledged Islamic banks are expected to remain banned.
Last year, the RBI directed Kochi-based Alternative Investments and Credits Ltd. (AICL) to stop its non-interest NBFC business almost a decade after the firm was launched. This prompted an ongoing legal challenge by AICL.
"The grant of an NBFC license should have an impact on the AICL proceedings and there are good chances that the matter may get settled soon," said Suprio Bose, Mumbai-based lawyer at Juris Corp., a law firm which previously represented AICL.
"The event reflects a significant and welcome change in RBI's attitude toward Shariah-based NBFCs and sets a precedent for others to follow suit."
However, many analysts think that unless and until full-fledged Islamic banks are permitted in India, an Islamic finance sector will find it hard to develop.
"I don't think there is going to be a rush for NBFC applications. RBI's attitude toward the Shariah-compliance concept is yet to be tested," said Shariq Nisar, director of research and operations at Mumbai-based Taqwaa Advisory and Shariah Investment Solutions.
According to central bank data, credit extended to NBFCs increased by 1.9 percent from a year earlier in June, compared with an increase of 43.9 percent in June last year. There are over 12,000 registered NBFCs in India.
“The RBI’s welcome decision will boost inclusive growth of the marginalized and the minorities,” said H. Abdur Raqeeb, convenor, National Committee on Islamic Banking, and general secretary, Indian Centre for Islamic Finance (ICIF)
Raqeeb said the interest-free financial system would benefit not only Muslims but also non-Muslims, adding that thousands of non-Muslims in Malaysia, UK, Singapore and other countries are its beneficiaries.
V.K. Abdul Aziz, secretary-general of Indian Forum for Interest-free Banking, also welcomed the RBI decision. “The fundamental objective of the interest-free banking system is to eliminate exploitation of borrowers. It considers lending as an investment and distributes investment risk between the users and suppliers of funds,” Aziz told Arab News. The system will also help eliminate poverty in the country, boost small and medium enterprises, and create more job opportunities, he added.


Egypt stock market plunges as retail investors take flight

Updated 19 September 2018
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Egypt stock market plunges as retail investors take flight

  • Biggest index drop in Egypt since mid-2016
  • Saudi Arabia outperforms in Gulf

LONDON: Egyptian stocks tumbled to their lowest level this year on Wednesday as retail investors took flight.
A sharp rise in Suez Canal revenues, a major foreign exchange earner for the country, was not enough to quell investors concerns about the strength of the currency.
The main Egyptian stock index lost 3.8 percent which some fund managers blamed on generally negative sentiment toward emerging markets worldwide as well as more local speculation about possible currency devaluation.
“Our channel checks suggest the sell-off in the Egyptian market is local retail and institutions driven, on currency fears and speculation over a further round of devaluation,” said Vrajesh Bhandari, portfolio manager at Al Mal in Dubai, Reuters reported.
“Selling is further intensified as margin calls are triggered and technical support levels break down. The country canceled three consecutive Treasury auctions, citing investors’ unrealistic yield demands.”
Egypt’s Suez Canal revenues rose to $502.2 million in August up 6.7 percent from a year earlier according to official data released on Wednesday.
Elsewhere regional stock markets closed mostly lower with the exceptions of Abu Dhabi which edged 0.2 percent higher and Saudi Arabia, the best regional performer, which rose by 1.1 percent.
Saudi stocks are benefiting from the strong oil price which eased slightly yesterday but still hovered just under $79.
OPEC and some other oil producers including Russia will meet in Algeria on Sept. 23 to discuss how to allocate supply increases within their quota framework to offset the loss of oil exports from Iran following the introduction of sanctions by the US.
Those measures will come into force on Nov. 4 and data suggests that buyers are already retreating from Iranian crude purchases.
A key question for the oil price as well as regional stock markets in the weeks ahead will be the extent to which other Gulf oil exporters can compenaste for the loss of Iranian supplies by pumping more.