Britain plans new Sukuk deal; Brexit may boost Islamic finance

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London/Sydney

Britain plans to reissue Islamic bonds in 2019, a government official told Reuters, in a sign the country’s exit from the European Union may accelerate plans to develop an Islamic finance industry.
In 2014, Britain became the first Western country to issue an Islamic bond or Sukuk, raising £200mil (RM1.125bil) from a five-year deal that was 10 times oversubscribed.
British government officials said at the time this was a one-off transaction rather than part of a regular programme. But a Treasury spokesperson said the UK government now planned to reissue the bonds when they mature in 2019.
“The UK is the leading Western centre for Islamic finance and the government is committed to ensuring the future success of the sector,” the Treasury spokesperson said.
Brexit could threaten London’s dominance as a financial centre by potentially making it more difficult for London-based companies to sell products across the EU.
A Reuters survey showed around 10,000 finance jobs may shift out of Britain or be created overseas in the next few years because of Brexit, with Frankfurt and Paris benefiting most.
Bilal Khan, co-chairman and partner at London-based Islamic finance consultancy Dome Advisory, said developing Islamic finance was one way to counteract this, by strengthening London’s ties with Southeast Asia and the Gulf, the world’s two top centres for Islamic banking.
“Brexit has increased the government’s interest in Islamic finance. Because of Brexit, the UK is keen to build economic links with non-EU countries,” said Khan, who also serves as a senior advisor to a parliamentary group on Islamic finance.
He said a second sovereign sukuk issue by Britain might be expanded to raise as much as £1bil. Islamic finance follows religious principles such as bans on gambling and outright speculation, with interest-bearing products deemed off-limits.
There are more than 20 firms in Britain that offer Sharia-compliant financial products, the most of any other Western country.—Reuters