The Gulf States have financial institutions with limited or zero exposure to the troubled US mortgage market, and organisations wanting to raise capital using debt instruments closely linked to underlying assets. Gartmore adds that this is a market with plenty to invest and has borrowers with strong ratings – appealing features in the current market.
The Gulf States, for example, earned US$1.5 trillion in oil revenue between 2002 and 2006. And since the credit crunch intensified in August 2007, global issuance of sukuk - shariah-compliant Islamic bonds - is estimated at US$30.4bn.
Moody’s Investors Service estimates that issuance could expand by 35% over 2008.
Gartmore said there are now many forms of sukuk in existence, which differ from conventional bonds because they represent partial ownership of underlying assets, for which the financing should be used for the trading or construction of these. They also do not allow the payment of interest.
Conventional bonds commit the issuer to pay investors interest on the sums invested on specific dates.
The shared ownership principle, and emphasis on real assets, is of particular interest at a time when there has been concern about the degree of leverage used in some financially engineered products, according to Gartmore. However, a level of complexity results from the fact that products must comply with principles on risk sharing laid down more than a millennium ago.
Nevertheless, Andrew Marshall, head of emerging market research at Gartmore, stated: “The growing importance of shariah compliant finance reflects an important global transfer of liquidity, prompted by the oil boom. It also illustrates how emerging financial markets are increasing their depth and range.”
He added: “We also note that issuers are moving away from pricing in US dollars, with more issuers choosing the UAE dirham, Saudi riyal or Malaysian ringgit.”
In the UK, meanwhile, the government introduced tax concessions for sukuk in its annual budget in March 2008, and UK Treasury Minister Ed Balls has indicated that the UK could issue its first sukuk bond this year.