Cryptocurrency exchange Binance got its first Gulf licence, in Bahrain (Shutterstock).

Islamic Finance

Newswrap: Islamic finance

A summary of the latest Islamic finance news from around the world.


Binance gets crypto licence in Bahrain, Dubai adopts virtual asset law

Cryptocurrency exchange Binance got its first Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) licence, from the Bahrain central bank, Reuters reported. The licence permits crypto-asset trading, custodial services and portfolio management. In December, Binance said it was working with Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) to set up an international virtual asset ecosystem and help develop virtual asset regulations. Last week, Dubai adopted its first law governing virtual assets, the Dubai Virtual Asset Regulation Law, and established a regulator to oversee the sector, the Dubai Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority, according to Reuters.

Survey: Islamic finance and Islamic economy to witness strong growth

Research conducted with Islamic finance professionals by Malaysia’s Maybank Islamic Berhad, part of the Maybank Group, and showed optimism about the year ahead, MENAFN reported. In a survey, more than two out of five (41%) expect the Islamic economy to expand to $8 trillion or more this year, up from the estimated $7 trillion. Less than one in 20 (4%) expect the Islamic economy to stay at that level while 55% expect it will be between $7 trillion to $8 trillion by end 2022.

There was also optimism about Islamic finance, with 66% expecting the sector to be valued at more than $3.8 trillion by 2023, while around 10% expect the sector to be worth $4.5 trillion. Some 86% expect ESG and sustainability to play a more prominent role in spurring on growth of the Islamic economy over the coming three years, while 26% expect such policies to increase dramatically.

The survey also showed that 85% think that the ethics and responsible investing embedded in Islamic finance could bolster adoption of financial services among non-Muslims as well as Muslims. Up to 87% thought the growing synergy between Islamic Finance and ESG could bolster demand for Sharia-compliant investments as part of diversification strategies, MENAFN reported.

“Annual growth rates of between 10% and 15% would be very attractive to most markets and it is what Islamic Finance has been achieving. Growth however could be turbo-charged if ESG and sustainability were fully embraced by the sector,” Shakeeb Saqlain, CEO of IslamicMarket, is quoted as saying.

Upscalio raises $15 million led by Gulf Islamic Investments

Indian brand aggregator and roll-up commerce company Upscalio raised $15 million, led by Gulf Islamic Investments (GII). It is GII’s sixth investment in its second Indian growth fund, launched last year, reported the Economic Times. Gurugram-based Upscalio, founded in April 2021, acquires stakes in high growth ecommerce brands and works with founders to up scale brands.

UAE fintech Kamal Pay raises $1 million in pre-seed round

UAE-based Kamal Pay, a fintech and financial solutions provider, raised $1 million in a funding round, backed by angel investors Hussain Al Qemzi, former group CEO of Noor Bank and Sharjah Islamic Bank, and Asif Keshodia, former regional finance director at MENA, reported Wamda. Founded in 2020, Kamel Pay offers end-to-end digital payment services to the underbanked expatriate population in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and to their families abroad through a fully integrated platform. “We are determined to revolutionise and enhance the quality of lives of the 20 million underbanked GCC expatriates through our digital financial services platform. With an 85% smartphone penetration amongst the underbanked GCC expatriates and $100 billion flow, the market is now ripe for disruption," Ehsan Rahman, CEO of Kamel Pay, is quoted as saying.

Saudi Real Estate Refinance Company delays debut Islamic bonds

The Saudi Real Estate Refinance Company (SRC) is delaying its debut dollar-denominated Islamic bonds to the second quarter of 2022, reported Reuters. SRC expects to launch two international and two domestic debt sales this year. The local issues are slated to raise Saudi Riyals 3 billion-6 billion ($800 million-$1.6 billion) while the international sales are expected to raise $1 billion or possibly more in total, SRC's CEO Fabrice Susini told Reuters. SRC has been tasked to bolster Saudi home ownership to 70% under Vision 2030. It currently stands at 62%. An IPO is possible for SRC, which is owned by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund (PIF). "Yes, one day they will ... I think it would make sense for PIF to consider it because we are a company that is working for the market as a whole and, to a certain extent, opening the equity to stakeholders, to the market, would make sense," Susini is quoted as saying.


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