India takes key step toward full-fledged Islamic banks

India takes key step toward full-fledged Islamic banks
Updated 11 March 2014

India takes key step toward full-fledged Islamic banks

India takes key step toward full-fledged Islamic banks

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: India is planning to set up a body to fine-tune and promote Islamic finance before issuing license to start full-fledged banking operations, according to one of the country's senior ministers.
“The formation of the entity is an important step forward. We need to set a framework for rules for different financial products to be offered by these banks or through the Islamic banking windows,” said Rahman Khan, India's minister for minority affairs.
He was talking to Arab News on the sidelines of the international seminar on Interfaith Harmony and Tolerance in Kuala Lumpur organized by the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) in association with Kerala-based Ma'din Academy recently.
“We will introduce a financial product like Tabung Haji which would be a great relief to those who want to undertake the pilgrimage,” said the minister, who has aggressively been pursuing the idea ahead of the general elections two months away.
Tabung Haji, Malaysia’s Haj management system, provides an opportunity for Haj aspirants to systematically invest money that grows and allows the depositor to undertake the pilgrimage to the holy cities of Makkah on its maturity.
The money is reinvested in Shariah-compliant vehicles that give reasonable returns.
“It mainly goes into infrastructure funding. We build roads, bridges and other basic infrastructure using this fund. There are big office complexes and housing projects that it has funded,” said Rajah Mohammed Abdullah, chairman and chief executive officer of the Muslim World Biz, which holds global summit on Islamic finance here every year.
Last year, India's central bank, Reserve Bank of India, decided to give license to non-banking financial companies to offer Shariah-compliant products and Cheraman Financial Services Limited (CFSL), launched by Kerala with the support of prominent expatriate entrepreneurs in the Gulf, was first to get the RBI license.
Khan wrote to the RBI Governor, Raghuram Rajan, saying it was the duty of the State to facilitate every citizen to practice and follow their religion under the Constitution and the governor, while accepting his view, wanted certain amendments to the laws concerned. Khan has urged the ruling party leadership to expedite the process before the elections.
“This is a great development everybody was looking forward. It'll help India attract a lot of foreign and domestic investments in infrastructure development and other core areas,” said Siddeek Ahmed, one of the directors of the CFSL.
India needs huge investments to put its economy back on track and to give the much-needed push to its ambitious infrastructure development plans. The Islamic finance is estimated to be a US$2.1 trillion industry by the end of this year and it is seen as a small but decisive step towards opening up the sector to interest-free banking.
“I personally hope that the proposed Haj fund will ultimately lead to the undesirable practice of government offering subsidy to Hajj pilgrims,” said Ahmed, who heads the Saudi-based ITL-Eram group.
“Cheraman did not to set up such a fund because we found the government funding was not desirable as its sources of income include liquor and gambling”.
Nonresident Indian billionaires based in the Gulf, P Mohammed Ali, PNC Menon and CK Menon, are among other directors of the NBFC that follows Islamic principles in which the state government holds 26 percent equity.
It was not allowed to accept deposits from the public or offer retail banking services, which needs amendments in Indian laws, making it inaccessible to ordinary citizens who want to make small investments.
In fact, Raghuram Rajan, the chairman of the RBI, was serious about banking sector reforms that would pave the way for full-fledged Islamic banks and Islamic banking counters at commercial banks like in many other countries, especially in Europe.
In 2008, a high-level committee on financial sector reforms headed by Rajan recommended interest-free finance and banking in the “interest of inclusive and innovative growth” and suggested taking measures “to permit the delivery of interest-free finance on a larger scale, including through the banking system”.
Islamic banking and finance is now present in over 75 countries including Australia, France, the UK, Hong Kong, Singapore, Luxembourg, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Malaysia, which claims to be its capital.
In India, there are a lot of Muslims who did not claim interest on deposits or give them in charity and, according to a 2009 study there are unclaimed interest worth Rs50bn lying in Kerala banks alone.
Cheraman, named after the king who is believed to have built India’s first mosque in the Kerala town of Kodungallur, plans to offer leasing and equity-finance products under Islamic principles to begin with.
It has already started funding startup companies and infrastructure projects and floated the Rs 2.5bn Cheraman Fund, a private equity fund with a minimum of Rs10 million set by Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) per investor.
It also has a subsidiary Cheraman Infrastructure for “channelizing ethical investments for developing world class industrial, social and residential infrastructure” in Kerala.
This business vertical focuses on infrastructure development activities through Build Operate and Transfer (BOT) and other related modes.
The company targets development of industrial and knowledge parks, standard design modules, logistics parks, special economic zones, electronic parks, roads and urban transportation, social infrastructure like hospitals and educational institutions, housing and shopping malls.


King Salman Energy Park signs anchor tenants

King Salman Energy Park signs anchor tenants
Updated 04 March 2021

King Salman Energy Park signs anchor tenants

King Salman Energy Park signs anchor tenants
  • President and CEO of SPARK Saif Al-Qahtani: SPARK is proud to welcome TAQA and AMCO as they take the first step toward launching their operations
  • By 2035, the park is expected to contribute more than SR22 billion to the Kingdom’s gross domestic product

RIYADH: King Salman Energy Park (SPARK), the Dammam-based project backed by Saudi Aramco, added two new anchor tenants on Thursday, the Abu Dhabi National Energy Company (TAQA) and AMCO.

President and CEO of SPARK Saif Al-Qahtani said: “SPARK is proud to welcome TAQA and AMCO as they take the first step toward launching their operations. SPARK sits at the heart of the energy market, offering a world-class ecosystem that facilitates the growth of our tenants’ businesses and brings sustained value to our wider communities. SPARK is set to be a fully integrated city, bringing together major national and international companies and fuelling economic growth and job creation.”

TAQA will expand its local operations with the TAQA Industrial Park at SPARK, including a new facility for oilfield services, a specialist unit for engineering and manufacturing, and a wireline and perforation center of excellence.

The facilities will be constructed in two phases starting in the second quarter of 2021, with the design and developmental planning stages having already commenced.

TAQA CEO Khalid Nouh said: “With our plans for future acquisitions focused on cutting-edge technology and innovative solutions, we further cement our alignment with Vision 2030 and the government’s drive to diversify and localize services and manufacturing in the Kingdom.”

AMCO is investing over SR260 million ($69.33 million) in a new center at SPARK. Its plans include the development of facilities to enable the manufacturing and production of steel pipes, valves, pumps, turbines, and machine and rotary equipment.

AMCO’s facilities will be developed in three phases, allowing for the gradual build-up of manufacturing capabilities and onboarding of local talent.

By 2035, the park is expected to contribute more than SR22 billion to the Kingdom’s gross domestic product, provide up to 100,000 direct and indirect jobs and localize more than 350 new industrial and service facilities.


STC partners with Irish software firm to develop in-car applications

Saudi Telecom Co. (STC), the Kingdom’s largest mobile network operator, has entered into a partnership with Irish vehicle software firm Cubic Telecom to develop in-car software solutions for Saudi drivers. (Supplied)
Saudi Telecom Co. (STC), the Kingdom’s largest mobile network operator, has entered into a partnership with Irish vehicle software firm Cubic Telecom to develop in-car software solutions for Saudi drivers. (Supplied)
Updated 14 min 52 sec ago

STC partners with Irish software firm to develop in-car applications

Saudi Telecom Co. (STC), the Kingdom’s largest mobile network operator, has entered into a partnership with Irish vehicle software firm Cubic Telecom to develop in-car software solutions for Saudi drivers. (Supplied)
  • As a result of the link up, the software will then also allow STC to easily add a range of in-car services to Saudi vehicles

RIYADH: Saudi Telecom Co. (STC), the Kingdom’s largest mobile network operator, has entered into a partnership with Irish vehicle software firm Cubic Telecom to develop in-car software solutions for Saudi drivers.

As a result of the link up, the software will then also allow STC to easily add a range of in-car services to Saudi vehicles, including an emergency call system which automatically alerts healthcare services in the event of an accident.

Gerry McQuaid, chief commercial officer at Cubic, told Arab News: “Basically we partnered with STC as a premier car integrity partner in Saudi Arabia. We are enabling the customer to benefit from a range of safety, entertainment, and navigation features when they purchase the car.”

Similar to every market, Saudi Arabia had a strict range of regulations for how connectivity was managed, he said, adding that the software partnership would make it easier for features to be added by carmakers and third-party developers.

“I can’t give a precise date, but in a not-too-distant future you actually don’t need a driving license, the car will actually drive autonomously for the citizens. That is the big difference,” McQuaid said.

“Already software solutions can support this capability, but it does need important regulations to be introduced to start with semi-driving.

“You can request the car on your smart phone, and it will drive to you to get in and the car will drive to your destination. You can listen to music, do some work, and have a conversation while the car drives. This is not science fiction,” he added.

Soon cars will have a whole range of applications, such as an iPhone or other smart phone, with touchscreen interaction and voice regulations, and people will interact with the car from outside using smart phone apps, he said.

On safety regulations, McQuaid pointed out that solutions included an “emergency call” system which would automatically alert emergency services in the event of an accident, give details about the incident, and suggest if it required attention.

Barry Napier, CEO of Cubic Telecom, said: “We are delighted to be working with STC to help car manufacturers activate new opportunities in a very significant market.”

Dr. Sultan bin Saeed, STC’s vice president of business development, said: “Partnering with Cubic enables STC as a digital enabler to simplify the delivery and management of advanced in-car services and gives us a foundation for innovating and meeting the changing needs of customers as new services evolve.”

Cubic Telecom provides connected software solutions in more than 5 million vehicles and devices to at least 100 countries and has already partnered with some of the Gulf region’s largest mobile operators.


Saudi Arabia to ship gas to South Korea and take CO2 back

Saudi Arabia to ship gas to South Korea and take CO2 back
Updated 04 March 2021

Saudi Arabia to ship gas to South Korea and take CO2 back

Saudi Arabia to ship gas to South Korea and take CO2 back
  • Hyundai to take LPG cargoes
  • CO2 sent back to use in oil fields

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia plans to ship gas to South Korea where it will be used to make hydrogen, and the carbon dioxide produced in the process will be transported straight back to the Kingdom, Asharq reported, citing Bloomberg.

Hyundai Oil Bank Co. will take liquefied petroleum gas cargoes from Saudi Aramco and convert them into hydrogen, to use for chemical and power solutions, the Korean energy company’s parent Hyundai Heavy Industries Holdings Company said.

Aramco and Hyundai OilBank Co. agreed in the deal signed on Wednesday, that the carbon dioxide emitted in the hydrogen-making process will be transported back to Aramco, to use it in its oil production facilities, according to a Hyundai Heavy spokesman.

“It seems the project will bank on the idea that shipping LPG to Korea and carbon dioxide back to Saudi Arabia will be cheaper than shipping hydrogen to Korea,” said Martin Tengler, BloombergNEF’s lead hydrogen analyst.

Saudi Aramco has huge quantities of natural gas, which it has identified as a key area of expansion for domestic supply and export in the form of liquefied natural gas (LNG).

“We basically look at natural gas as an area for growth for the company,” Khalid Al-Dabbagh, Aramco’s chief financial officer, said in an investor call in the run-up to its successful IPO back in 2019.


GRAPHIC: From Beirut to Damascus currencies take a battering

GRAPHIC: From Beirut to Damascus currencies take a battering
Updated 04 March 2021

GRAPHIC: From Beirut to Damascus currencies take a battering

GRAPHIC: From Beirut to Damascus currencies take a battering

Lebanon’s president this week ordered the central bank governor to open an investigation into currency speculation, after the Lebanese pound plunged to record lows on the black market.
But the battered Lebanese pound is not alone among regional currencies that have been decimated by the impact of the pandemic and other factors.
The Syrian pound also fell to a record low on the black market this week, dragged down by its close commercial and banking ties with Lebanon.
“Businessmen and traders are fretting over fears of a free-fall in coming days and watching if unrest grows in Lebanon and its impact on dealings since Lebanon is our lifeline to the outside world,” said one Damascus-based trader told Reuters, who requested anonymity.


Oil prices rise after Saudi minister urges caution on market

Oil prices rise after Saudi minister urges caution on market
Updated 04 March 2021

Oil prices rise after Saudi minister urges caution on market

Oil prices rise after Saudi minister urges caution on market
  • OPEC and allies meet today
  • Oil price rises ahead of meeting

LONDON Oil prices rose more than $1 per barrel on Thursday after Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman urged caution and vigilance at the beginning of a meeting of OPEC ministers and their allies about the future of supply cut
Brent crude futures were up $1.11, or 1.7 percent, at $65.18 a barrel while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude rose $1.07, or 1.8 percent to $62.35.
Ministers from OPEC members and their allies started a meeting to discuss the future of an oil output cut at 1300 GMT.
Analysts and traders say a four-month price rally from below $40 a barrel is now out of step with demand and that physical sales are not expected to match supply until later in 2021.
In the United States, despite a record surge of more than 21 million barrels in crude oil stockpiles last week, gasoline stocks fell by the most in 30 years as refining plunged to a record low because of the Texas freeze.