Sukuk market seen reviving in 2011

Banks, governments and companies in the infrastructure, real estate and energy businesses are expected to be the main issuers of sukuks in 2011 (FILE)

Global sales of Islamic bonds (sukuk) are forecast to rise nearly 60 per cent this year to more than $22 billion this year as economic recoveries and high crude oil prices revive the market, a quarterly poll showed.

An upswing in corporate spending, an increase in issuers seeking to diversify their sources of funding and improving investor sentiment in the Gulf are also expected to fuel fund-raising activities, according to the 15 respondents surveyed.

Issuance fell 26 per cent to $14 billion in 2010 in the aftermath of high profile sukuk defaults that exposed legal uncertainties surrounding these instruments, according to Thomson Reuters data.

That estimate excludes issues which are callable under a year, those which are not rank eligible or underwritten and self-funded ineligible issues.

"On the part of financial institutions, they will need to strengthen their balance sheets. Corporates will need funding for expansion," said Simon Eedle, Credit Agricole CIB's Islamic finance head.
"Sovereigns will push sukuk as part of fulfilling their national agenda."

Qatar Islamic Bank and National Bank of Abu Dhabi have launched sukuk sales in recent months, with the Dubai government, Saudi Arabia's civil aviation authority, Gulf Investment Corp and Saudi International Petrochemical Company are expected to tap the market too.

But some experts have said global issuance of Islamic bonds would take another year to fully recover with new markets in Europe and Asia yet to offset the fall in Gulf issuance.

"Obstacles are pricing and liquidity versus conventional bond issuance (and) potential tax implications for the Western countries surrounding assets in special purpose vehicles for structuring purposes," said Nida Raza, capital markets senior vice-president at Unicorn Investment Bank.

Sukuk issuance can be more costly than conventional bonds as they tend to involve the transfer of assets which attract tax. Countries which see a heavy volume of sukuk issuance such as Malaysia have altered regulations to address this.

The bulk of sukuk in 2011 are expected to emerge from issuers in Malaysia and the Middle East, although some issuance could also come from the United States, Singapore and Indonesia, according to the survey.

Banks, governments and companies in the infrastructure, real estate and energy businesses are expected to be the main issuers, the poll showed.

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