The infant Islamic-bond industry faces a crisis

DANA GAS, an exploration business listed in Abu Dhabi, seems in a spot of bother. Ten years after sealing a landmark production deal with Iraqi Kurdistan, it is struggling to recover $900m it is owed by the autonomous region and the Egyptian government. So it faces a liquidity squeeze. That is not, however, why it says it wants to restructure $700m-worth of Islamic bonds maturing in October 2017. Rather, it says it has received legal advice that the bonds are no longer compliant with sharia—rules based on Islamic scripture.

The bonds were deemed compliant in 2013, but Dana cites evolution in the “interpretation” of Islamic financial instruments. It is seeking to have them declared invalid in a United Arab Emirates court. Its domestic assets are shielded from creditors under UAE law; it has also obtained injunctions in Britain and the British Virgin Islands protecting it from claims until the case is settled. Hearings are not due to start before December, months after the bond’s next payment-due dates.

Islamic law forbids the generation of money from money—interest. Sukuk, or Islamic bonds, thus differ from their conventional peers. They are backed by assets and instead of lending the issuer money, the holder owns a nominal share of what the cash was spent on and receives an agreed ratio of the profit...

via The Economist: Finance and economics Business Feeds

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