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Bancario e Finanziario

Italian Islamic minibonds

Islamic finance has always elaborated innovative solutions to be inserted in a context created for conventional finance, proposing contracts and structures that have an alternative remuneration of capital with respect to the use of interest.

Encompassed among those solutions are the participating instruments, which are characterized by the fact that the invested capital assumes the form of joint participation to profits and losses (PLS instruments), which derive from the entrepreneurial or financial activity underlying the financing transaction.

In the light of the aforementioned aspect, Nctm, with the aim of spreading Shariah compliant debt instruments for the first time on a large scale in the Italian market, started cooperating in 2016 with Shariah Review Bureau in order to structure Italian Islamic minibonds based on so-called Italian law profit participating minibonds, which are characterized by remuneration related also to the profits generated by the issuer.

Contrary to what was initially believed, the profit-participating minibonds have not been considered per se compliant with Islamic finance principles due to the mandatory presence of an interest rate, even though low, and the fact that the  return, even though on a participating basis, derives from a financial instrument giving certainty of the reimbursement of the capital.

Therefore, one has to work on other instruments provided by the Italian legal framework that could replicate the structure of the profit-participating minibonds, or a debt instrument with a participating return compliant with Shariah principles.

Such a result, and the related certification, has been achieved by using a scheme that links an association in participation agreement with a zero coupon bond. In particular, assuming a total investment of a given size in the instrument, a large part of it would be used to subscribe at par a bond that has as such no return, and the remaining residual amount would be contributed into the issuer’s business on the basis of an association in participation agreement, with the determination of a percentage of participation to the profits that is related to the whole invested amount.

From the perspective of the bondholder, therefore, there is no repayment risk of the principal in the bond (except in the case of a default), while there is a risk that the amount invested in the association in participation agreement could be eroded by the losses of the issuer and not repaid. However, such a risk would be remunerated with a return related to the overall investment. From the perspective of the issuer, the advantage is represented by the fact that the instrument is at a variable cost which has to be paid only in case of, and in proportion to, profits.

To conclude, this is a product that

  • is the first Italian product certified Shariah compliant,
  • is shaped in line with the profit-participating minibonds, but represents an evolution of them in the sense of a full ‘participation’ to the profits, with a limited participation to the losses and
  • is targeted at professional investors (such as debt funds) or that could be used to finance a specific project.

Stefano Padovani 

Articolo tratto da IFN Islamic Finance News

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