Indonesia to Allow Currency Hedging for Banks: Islamic Finance

By webadmin on 11:07 am Aug 07, 2012
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Indonesia will let Shariah-compliant banks hedge against exchange-rate movements to spur growth in Islamic financial assets and narrow the gap with Malaysia’s industry, which is seven times larger.    

Bank Indonesia, the National Shariah Board and the Indonesia Institute of Accountants have approved the instruments, available in Malaysia since 2006, Adiwarman Azwar Karim, Jakarta-based vice chairman of the board’s Islamic capital market working committee, said in an Aug. 3 interview. The central bank said it is working on regulations, declining to say when they would be finished.    

Bank Muamalat Indonesia, the nation’s second-largest Islamic lender, will be able to hold more global bonds and issue more dollar loans once it can hedge, Finance Director Hendiarto said in an Aug. 2 interview in Jakarta, adding that it expected to increase foreign-currency lending by 50 percent this year. The rule change will help Indonesia reach its target of lifting Shariah-compliant financial assets to 10 percent of the total by 2015 from 4 percent, Edy Setiadi, executive director of Islamic banking at the monetary authority, said in a July 30 interview.    

“With this product, Islamic banks will be more comfortable with increasing their foreign-currency portfolios and managing the mismatch between financing and funding,” said the National Shariah Board’s Karim. “It will also open up the possibility for foreign banks to supply dollars to local banks and multifinance companies, who can then disburse loans in rupiah.”                        

Lending growth    

Investors and companies take out hedges to protect themselves from exchange-rate swings that may erode the value of earnings or investments denominated in foreign currencies.    

Indonesia’s Islamic banking assets total Rp 147.9 trillion ($15.7 billion), trailing Malaysia’s 355 billion ringgit ($114 billion), central bank data show, even though the former nation has 12 times as many Muslims. Shariah lending in Indonesia increased by an average of 38 percent each year over the last five, compared with 21 percent in Malaysia.    

Worldwide sales of bonds that comply with Islam’s ban on interest reached $28.9 billion in 2012 from $17.4 billion in the same period last year, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Offerings totaled a record $36.7 billion in 2011.    

The average yield on worldwide Islamic notes declined two basis points, or 0.02 percentage point, to a record low of 3.14 percent on Aug. 3, the HSBC/Nasdaq Dubai US Dollar Sukuk Index show. The spread between the average and the London interbank offered rate, or Libor, narrowed six basis points to 208 basis points.                       

Foreign requests    

Indonesian authorities started looking at allowing hedging after receiving requests from overseas Islamic banks, including CIMB Group Holdings Ltd. and HSBC Holdings Plc, that wanted to tap higher returns on loans in Southeast Asia’s largest economy, Karim said. The average financing rate offered by Indonesian Shariah lenders was 10.38 percent in June, compared with 6.24 percent in Malaysia, central bank data show.    

“It is important to develop new products to be able to compete with the conventional banks,” Mohamad Safri Shahul Hamid, the deputy chief executive officer at Kuala Lumpur-based CIMB Islamic Bank Bhd., a unit of CIMB Group, wrote in an emailed response to questions on Aug. 3. “Through hedging, Islamic banks could reduce potential losses arising from sudden shocks and might be able to pass on some of the savings to the investors.”                       

Religious decrees    

The introduction of hedging requires two religious decrees, or fatwas, from the National Shariah Board. The first will allow Islamic banks to do Murabaha transactions, sale contracts with deferred payments, in different currencies at exchange rates previously agreed on by both parties, Karim said. The second will prescribe a swap based on the Waad scheme, a promise to undertake a certain action that is binding for both banks, he said, adding the decrees would take about two months to draft.    

Malaysian lenders held 5.32 billion ringgit of Shariah- compliant deposits in currencies other than the ringgit at the end of June, amounting to 2 percent of total Islamic deposits, data from Bank Negara Malaysia show. They had 7 billion ringgit of foreign-currency financing outstanding, representing 3.2 percent of the total.    

“Islamic banks are not living in isolation and they conduct cross-border transactions which would naturally be exposed to currency risks,” Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki, chairman of Kuala Lumpur-based Affin Islamic Bank Bhd.’s Shariah Committee, said in a Aug. 2 phone interview. “This is also in line with the objective of Shariah to preserve and protect wealth.”                        

‘More prudent’    

Global Islamic bonds returned 6.5 percent this year, according to the HSBC/Nasdaq Index, while emerging-market debt gained 12.6 percent, according to the JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s EMBI Global Composite Index.    

The premium investors demand to hold Indonesia’s dollar-denominated 8.8 percent sukuk due April 2014 over Malaysia’s 3.928 percent global Islamic bonds due June 2015 narrowed one basis point to 50 basis points, data compiled by Bloomberg show.    

HSBC Amanah, the Shariah-compliant unit of HSBC Holdings, will offer cross-currency hedging and foreign-exchange forwards after receiving central bank approval, Herwin Bustaman, the Islamic lender’s Indonesia head, said in June. The new rules will help Indonesia achieve 50 percent annual growth in Islamic loans through 2015, Bank Indonesia’s Setiadi said.    

“If banks were cars, conventional lenders are running at full speed with all the hedging products at their disposal while Islamic banks are not growing optimally,” Bank Muamalat’s Hendiarto said. “This product will make us more prudent and reduce our risk in conducting multicurrency transactions.”

Bloomberg