Islamic Financial Institutions Awards 2008
Platt, Gordon, Global Finance
Global Finance selects the winners in a fast-growing area of finance that combines investing according to the tenets of Islamic law with modern financial products and systems.
Islamic finance is a system of ethical investing that is becoming increasingly popular around the world in the wake of the US subprime mortgage crisis. Using the ancient guiding principles of Islamic law, of which the prohibition of interest is just one, shariah scholars oversee the entire process. The types of products offered by Islamic financial institutions are catching on, not only with Muslims but also with a broad range of customers and investors who see them as a fairer and safer way of doing business than is available in the conventional banking system.
The market for Islamic bonds, or sukuk, is growing at a rate of about 35% a year and will reach the $200 billion milestone by 2010, according to Moody's Investors Service. The New Yorkbased global ratings agency says Islamic finance is estimated to be worth about $700 billion globally, of which sukuk are the fastest growing segment of the market. Meanwhile, the profitable retail segment is expected to grow for demographic reasons alone.
In recognition of the fast growth of Islamic financing, Global Finance is introducing its first annual World's Best Islamic Financial Institutions Awards. After extensive consultations with bankers, corporate finance executives and analysts throughout the world, the editors of Global Finance selected the best institutions in 28 countries and regions, as well as in six overall categories. In choosing the winners, we considered factors that range from the quantitative objective to the informed subjective. Amid nominally objective criteria were growth in assets, profitability, geographic reach, strategic relationships, new business development and innovation in products. Subjective criteria included opinions of analysts, banking consultants and others involved in the industry.
Financial centers around the world are competing with those in the Middle East and Southeast Asia for a piece of this growing pie. While the Islamic financing industry remains largely intermediated by financial institutions, there are signs that the capital markets are getting ready to play a bigger role.
BEST SUKUK BANK
Kuwait Finance House
Kuwait Finance House, the leading Islamic financial lender in Kuwait, as well as the country's biggest bank by market value, formed a separately capitalized subsidiary this year to trade sukuk, the fastest-growing Islamic financial instrument. Sukuk are backed by real assets with low risks and appeal to a growing range of issuers and investors. With more than 30 years' experience in Islamic finance, KFH is promoting the globalization of the sukuk market. It arranges syndicated sukuk with international banks on behalf of companies and governments. Last year KFH was co-arranger and co-manager of a $1 billion sukuk for Dar Al-Arkan Real Estate Development, based in Saudi Arabia. Previously, KFH was co-manager of a $750 million global sukuk issue for the government of Qatar and counderwriter of a $400 million sukuk for the Islamic Development Bank. KFH is doing business in Southeast Asia through its KPH-Malaysia subsidiary. It also plans to expand in Africa and the Middle East. It already has subsidiaries in Turkey and Bahrain and has applied for a license to set up a Saudi bank with capital of $134 million.
* Mohammed Sulaiman Al-Omar, general manager
BEST ISLAMIC RETAIL BANK
Dubai Islamic Bank
Dubai Islamic Bank (DIB) was formed in 1975 as the world's first full-fledged Islamic bank and now has 48 branches in the United Arab Emirates. The bank's first-quarter 2008 earnings rose 32% from the same period a year earlier to $151 million, thanks in part to a continuing boom in Dubai's real estate sector. DIB, a Dubai-government affiliate, offers a range of credit and debit cards, as well as profit-sharing savings accounts that consistently deliver higher returns than conventional savings accounts. …