Published April 3rd, 2006 - 01:52 GMT

The 9th International Islamic Finance Forum (IIFF), which concluded last week at the Al Bustan Rotana Hotel in Dubai, has announced that the Singapore Exchange will play host to the launch of IIFF Asia scheduled for 12- 15 June 2006, with an extended and tailored programme for the Asia-Pacific region.

IIFF Asia which is being organised by the Dubai-based Institute for International Research (IIR) will focus on Islamic asset management and has allocated more than twenty hours of networking time for leading business figures, finance experts and government ministers to discuss the key issues relevant to the Asia-Pacific region. Over 40 speakers have been confirmed so far and the forum programme features in excess of twenty in-depth sessions covering a wide range of topics, including alternative forms of investment in the Asia-Pacific region, the rapidly changing private banking landscape and retail issues.

Forum Director, Christianna Tsiterou, commented, “After such an accomplished event here in Dubai and previous overseas successes in Turkey, it is a logical step for us to take IIFF to Asia-Pacific. The programme has been tailored for the region and is already generating an enormous amount of interest.”

The Dubai Forum, held under the patronage of H.H. General Sheikh Mohammed bin Raschid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, attracted over 300 industry professionals worldwide who were addressed by more than 70 expert international speakers over three days, with dedicated pre and post conference workshops.

“Islamic Finance, which was once considered as a parochial phenomenon, is emerging as a global force to be reckoned with and Singapore’s ambition to become the centre of Islamic finance for the Asia-Pacific region, is testimony to that,” added Tsiterou.

The joint opening address at IIFF in Dubai was delivered by Nasser Al Shaali, COO, Dubai International Financial Exchange (DIFX) and Aref A. Kooheji, Executive VP, Investment & Corporate Banking, Dubai Islamic Bank. They urged fellow industry professionals to develop talent for the future, promote innovation, consolidate and to set universal industry standards.

One of the keynote sessions of particular interest and key to the moral dimension of investing were the parallels drawn between Islamic Finance and Socially Responsible Investing (SRI), a strong and growing force in Europe and the US, which aims to balance sustainable value to both society at large and the shareholders by investing in companies who meet their exacting standards of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

Other hot topics on the agenda included the evolution, development and challenges ahead to standardise the globalisation of Islamic Finance, Islamic bonds, the mortgage market, investment banking, wealth management and private banking, risk management, project financing and the fast developing Takaful funds.

A unique aspect of the forum was the ‘Meeting Of Great Minds’ which brought together for the first time, seven of the most revered Shariah Scholars in Islamic finance such as Dr.Hussain Hamid Hassan, Dr. Monzer Kahf, Dr. Mohammed Imran Ashraf Usmani, Sheikh Nizam Yaquby, Dr. Mohammed Daud Baker, Dr. Mohammed Elgari and Dr. Mosa Adam Eissa, in an armchair interview session. The experts openly discussed the standardisation of Shariah rulings on a global scale, which encouraged lively debate.

Another highlight of the event was the launch of the long-term strategy for the Dow Jones Citigroup Sukuk Index. The index, which will be officially launched in April 2006, was created primarily for use as the benchmark for investors seeking exposure to Shariah-compliant fixed-income investments. In addition, the index may serve to increase secondary market trading in this growing asset class and facilitate cross-market relative value trading among different asset classes.

Rushdi Siddiqui, Global Director, Dow Jones Islamic Indexes, said, “To be included in the Index, an Islamic bond must comply with both Shari’ah law and the Bahrain-based Auditing & Accounting Organisation of Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI) standards for tradable Sukuk.”

Once a bond has met those criteria, Dow Jones Indexes and Citigroup will apply market-based criteria such as minimum maturity of one year, minimum issue size of US$250 million, and an explicit or implicit rating of at least BBB-/Baa3 by leading rating agencies.

"For the past eight years, Dow Jones Indexes has been pioneering Islamic indexes in an effort to streamline investment opportunities for Global investors with Shari'ah-compliant preference. The Dow Jones Citigroup Sukuk Index will encourage more issuers in the OIC and OECD countries and will open up fresh opportunities for secondary market trading and conventional debt refinancing," concluded Siddiqui.

The Islamic Finance industry showed solid support for the IIFF, with all levels of sponsorship covered. The companies form a virtual who’s who of the Islamic Finance world with heavyweights such as Al Tawfeek securing platinum status, Oasis Group Holdings, Singapore Exchange and Path Solutions taking Gold sponsorship packages and HDG Mansur and Nur Advisors acquiring Silver status. Solidarity is the Takaful sponsor.

Photo caption: Singapora: Christianna Tsiterou receives a traditional Singapore Orchid from Cheang-Hung Kok, Vice President of the Singapore Exchange.


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