Islamic Banks Withstand Mortgage Crisis
MANAMA — Islamic banks have succeeded where all others have failed, withstanding the US subprime mortgage crisis which left global markets rattling.
"The Islamic bank has a fantastic year, the underlying trend of Islamic banking businesses within ABC is very good," a senior official of the Arab Banking Corporation told the Reuters Islamic Finance summit.
Duncan Smith, the head of the Corporation's Islamic operations, said a focus on regional business and efforts to ensure products complied with Shari`ah helped shield his unit from credit-market losses.
[My note: According to the Arab Banking Corporation, Mr. Duncan Smith who is quoted in the article left the bank some months ago]
The bank's 2007 earnings from conventional non-Islamic departments fell to $125 million from $202 million in 2006.
The ongoing American subprime mortgage crisis, which is making international headlines, was sparked off last year when a steep rise in the rate of foreclosures caused more than 100 lenders to fail or file for bankruptcy.
The crisis had a domino effect on the US economy and stock market, which in turn affected almost all stock markets worldwide as early as last month.
Global banks have written down more than $80 billion in credit market losses since October alone as defaults on subprime mortgages triggered a credit crisis that threatens to tip the US economy into recession.
None of Malaysia's Islamic banks have been hit by write-downs resulting from the crisis and the resulting global credit crunch, second finance minister Mohamed Nor Yakcop told the three-day summit in the Bahraini capital Manama.
He said holders of sukuk or Islamic bonds have been shielded from the worst effects of the subprime mortgage meltdown.
Instead of interest, Islamic banks operate on the principle of sharing risk and reward among all parties in a business venture.
"Sukuk has now become a very popular product," said Nor Mohammad. (Reuters)
Economists say the global credit crunch triggered by the subprime crisis has spurred greater interest in Shari`ah-compliant financing.
"There is a feeling that the way Islamic finance is structured — the lack of freedom in leveraging, the need for real assets — that there will be some who will find Islamic financing interesting," said the Malaysian official.
He said interest in financial instruments that comply with Islamic prohibitions against investing in sectors such as alcohol, pornography and gambling was starting to emerge in China and South Korea.
"Sukuk has now become a very popular product," Mohamed Nor stressed, adding that officials from Hong Kong had consulted with Malaysia on Islamic finance.
Rasheed al-Maraj, the governor of Bahrain's Central Bank, believes the mortgage crisis could encourage weary investors to throw their weight behind Islamic assets and stocks given the collapse of Western asset prices.
"Maybe Islamic banking will be a safe bet for them," he said.
"I think opportunities exist in the United States and Europe as a result of this financial distress."
Giant banks like America's Citigroup, Britain's HSBC and Germany's Deutsche Bank recently launched Shari`ah-compliant branches.
A Deutsche Bank executive told Reuters that it was helping US and Canadian firms to sell Islamic bonds in Malaysia this year worth between $300-500 million in ringgit.
Having about 76 percent of the world's Islamic bonds, Malaysia has been promoting itself as a hub for Islamic finance but faces rivalry from neighboring Singapore and Brunei.
The Islamic banking industry, which began almost three decades ago, has made substantial growth and attracted the attention of investors and bankers across the world.
There are an estimated 300 Islamic banks and financial institutions worldwide whose assets are predicted to grow to $1 trillion by 2010.
Watch Ayloush's interview on this topic on FOX Business News
- Hussam Ayloush
- Hussam has been a lifelong human rights activist who is passionate about promoting democratic societies, in the US and worldwide, in which all people, including immigrants, workers, minorities, and the poor enjoy freedom, justice, economic justice, respect, and equality. Mr. Ayloush frequently lectures on Islam, media relations, civil rights, hate crimes and international affairs. He has consistently appeared in local, national, and international media. Full biography at: http://hussamayloush.blogspot.com/2006/08/biography-of-hussam-ayloush.html