As of 2012, more than 750 Islamic Investment Funds have been established
globally managing total assets of approximately USD$60 Billion.
Currently, a broad spectrum of asset classes are available including
equity, Sukuk, real estate, commodities, leasing, trade finance, private
equity, structured products, REITS, and exchange – traded, murabahah,
ijarah, balanced, index, and hedge funds.
Hot spots for global Islamic investment funds include Luxembourg and the
Cayman Islands, with Luxembourg offering 3.5% of the total of Islamic
funds and the Cayman Islands with 5.5% of the total Islamic funds offering.
In fact 12 % of the total of Islamic funds are available in Luxembourg,
Dublin, and the Cayman Islands.
In terms of distributing investment products, international fund managers
offer offshore funds in the Middle East by using Bahrain, the UAE, and
Qatar as distribution platforms.
Bahrain is a good platform for investors in the Middle East and Africa to
source foreign funds.
The Islamic asset management industry is also growing at a rapid pace in
the Asia-Pacific region including Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, Japan, South
Korea, China, and Indonesia.
According to Noripah Kamso, author of Investing in Islamic Funds, A
Practitioner’s Perspective, Islamic investment funds are no longer seen as
an alternative investment, but regarded as competitive to conventional.
Indeed, Kamso points out that a matured and fully functioning Islamic
financial market must contain asset management to compliment the
demand side of the value chain.
Kamso points out that financial centers from Malaysia, Singapore, Hong
Kong, Bahrain, Dubai, and London are leading the global Islamic
Investment fund initiative.
Why Non-Muslims Invest in Islamic
Comparable Returns to Conventional Investment Over Longer Periods.
Greater Stability of Returns – Shari’ah compliant equities are less volatile
than their conventional counterparts (excessive financial leverage
Embedded Risk Management
In order to meet Shari’ah compliancy, equities must pass a rigorous
screening process, which ascertains whether the companies are
sufficiently capitalized to weather difficult times and liquid enough to meet
For this reason, these companies are better capitalized and more liquid
than conventional counterparts.
Bonds Backed by Real Assets
Sukuk are asset-based or asset-backed.
There is an asset underlying every transaction and the ownership of the
asset is transferred to the investors.
Their return is income generated from the underlying asset.
Sukuk-holders have recourse to the underlying assets.
Terms and conditions are more clearly defined allowing Shari’ah
compliant investments more predictable results.
During the period of September 2007 – December 2009, Islamic funds
fared better than conventional portfolios did, declining less, experiencing
lower volatility, and recovering nearly as much ground lost as the markets
Sukuk grant investors a share in the underlying asset along with the
associated profit and risks rather than paying interest as in conventional
In addition, proceeds from sukuk issuance must be used in Shari’ah
compliant activities, which reflect their usage for productive real
Islamic Investment is Popular
Muslims – No interest (riba)
Non-Muslims – same reason and -
Socially responsible and ethical investments
Higher Returns than Conventional Funds
More Stable than Conventional Funds
Embedded Risk-Management with the screening process
Socially Responsible Investing (SRI)
SRI gives investors the opportunity to invest their money in alignment with
their core beliefs.
This is increasingly popular for people who want to support and promote
social good while achieving a good financial return on their investment.
No alcohol, pork, gambling, pornography, weapons, etc.
Environmental technology, recycling, wind power generators, pollution,
waste disposal, public transport, safety and protection, alarm systems,
protective clothing, life jackets, health care, hearing aids, housing, food,
Screening for Ethical Investing
Health and safety breaches;
Human rights for basic social and economic rights;
Intensive farming with antibiotic residue;
Military and nuclear power;
Screening Process for Ethical Form of
Third world concerns; profits before principles
Community involvement; donations
Corporate governance for accountability
Disclosure of sufficient information
Positive products and services to build a safer world
Supply Chain Issues, including working conditions
Similarities: Ethical and Shari’ah
Share an ethical investment philosophy, which is a value-based approach
to align an investor’s portfolio with his/her beliefs.
Focus on real economic activities, such as improving living conditions and
well-being, establishing social equity and preventing injustice in trade and
Focus on protection of natural and environmental resources.
Invest in the same economic sectors, namely industrials, healthcare,
consumer goods, utilities, consumer services, and basic materials.
Both reject investing in tobacco, gambling, pornography, nuclear power,
Similarities Ethical and Shari’ah
Follow a more profound investment principle.
Create more profound effect on organizational culture and behavior and
mankind as a whole.
Recognize that compliant companies are less subject to legal issues
Proven to deliver comparable returns to mainstream investment in the
long-term, exceeding five years.
Established Ways of Investing Ethically
Negative Screening: This means avoiding some types of investments, for
example, gambling and weapons.
Positive Screening: A preference for activities or characteristics deemed
Best of Sector: Leading Firms in every business sector are selected based
on their environmental and social performance or sustainability.
Social Responsibility Overlay: Shares for a portfolio are selected in the usual
way, but a process is added for addressing issues related to social
Ethical funds tend to hold a higher percentage of shares in small to
medium-sized companies and a smaller percentage in large companies
than their non-ethical equivalents.
The oldest equity fund, the Al Ahli Group Trading Equity Fund, was first
offered in 1995 by the National Commercial Bank of Saudi Arabia.
Its AUM has grown to USD255 Million as of November, 2012.
Among available Islamic funds, equity funds with market share of 46.9%
hold the largest investment portion.
This is due to the easy availability of broad Shari’ah indices offered by Dow
Jones Islamic Markets, Standard & Poor’s, FTSE, MSCI, and Russell.
Islamic equity funds are widely available from onshore funds to offshore
funds registered in Luxembourg, Ireland, and the Cayman Islands.
The challenge is to offer Islamic equity funds internationally so that
investors in various regions of the world are able to invest.
An investor can look at Islamic global emerging markets or can source for
Islamic funds that invest in more specific emerging markets like Islamic Asia
Pacific ex-Japan, registered on an offshore platform.
CIMB Islamic Asia Pacific ex-Japan
The top five holdings of CIMB Islamic Asia Pacific ex-Japan Fund were
Samsung Electronics, China Mobile, Taiwan Semiconductor
Manufacturing, BHP Billiton, and Petro China Company.
The benchmark for this fund is the Dow Jones Islamic Markets Asia/Pacific
Since its inception in June 2006, the fund has outperformed the
benchmark on a cumulative basis of 5.17%.
Oasis Crescent Global Equity Fund
Available on the Irish Funds Platform;
AUM of USD151.4 million as of March 31, 2012.
Islamic equity funds were initially led by Malaysia and Saudi Arabia, with
domestic equity funds.
However, the range of available funds has grown to include more broad
investment capabilities, from global equity to emerging market equity.
The Irish funds platforms have been managed by investment managers
from France, the USA, Germany, South Africa, and Malaysia.
The majority of the top 20 Islamic funds were based in Pakistan, Malaysia,
Thailand, and South Africa.
There is a transparent and credible investment performance track record
since 2007 (8 years).
The first sukuk funds were established in Malaysia in 1990 and were Ringgit-
Global Sukuk Funds: The fund invests in sukuks that are denominated in an
international currency like the dollar or the euro.
These funds are available on offshore funds platforms.
Sukuk issuance has grown rapidly in the GCC since 2004 and in 2011, the
value of sukuk issuance reached USD26 Billion, there is improved liquidity in
the sukuk market to actively manage a sukuk fund.
In March 2012, Al-Hilal Bank of Abu Dhabi, UAE established the Al-Hilal
Global Sukuk Fund.
The portfolio is composed primarily of US dollar sukuk from the GCC, with a
smaller portion made up of non-US Dollar Sukuk from Malaysia, Indonesia,
The top five Sukuk make up 38.37% of the total portfolio (as of October,
1 – Hazine Mustesarligi Varl (Turkey)
4-Dubai Dof (UAE)
Sukuk v Conventional Bonds
A comparison of sukuk performance, represented by the HSBC/DFIX USD
Sukuk Index versus traditional bonds, represented by the Barclay’s Capital
Aggregate Bond Index, shows that the relative performance of Sukuk
against conventional bonds is comparable over the past few years.
Sukuk and UCITS Framework
It is still not possible for investors to invest in a global Sukuk fund that is
Undertakings for Collective Investment in Transferable Securities (UCITS) –
This is due to the stringent liquidity requirements specified under the UCITS
risk framework, which states that investors should receive their investment
proceeds easily upon redemption.
This issue should be resolved as the Sukuk market grows and matures.
Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs)
Similar to conventional ETFs, Islamic ETFs are generally managed on a
passive basis in which the fund manager aims to replicate the returns of an
Islamic index, like the Dow Jones Islamic Markets Indices, FTSE Global
Islamic Index Series, S and P Shari’ah Indices, and MSCI Global Islamic
Since an ETF is traded on a stock exchange, it is able to offer greater
flexibility and convenience in trading the units and higher liquidity than
most types unit trust funds.
In addition, it generally has a lower overall cost of investing relative to an
actively managed fund, making them a desirable investment option.
As of 2011, there were 13 Islamic ETFs with total AUM of USD$382 Million.
The largest contributor is the Malaysian based MY ETF with USD $197 Million.
These 13 ETFs are listed on the UK, France, Turkey, Singapore, India,
Malaysia, and South African Stock Exchanges.
They are invested in the equity asset class on a global (developed and
emerging markets), regional (Europe), and single country (India, South
Africa, Japan, and Malaysia) basis.
The first US Islamic ETFs were listed in 2008.
As of 2011, the global pool of conventional ETFs totaled USD1.25 trillion.
Increasingly, gaining in popularity.
The demand comes from both retail investors and asset managers who will
use ETFs for cash equitization as demand for actively managed Islamic
Money Market Funds
Islamic money market are domestic-centri and only available in Malaysia
and Saudi Arabia.
They comprise 22.2 % of the assets under management of global Islamic
Limited supply of short-term Shari’ah investment instruments means not
Money Market Funds
Islamic money market funds can provide higher returns than bank
Islamic money market funds are able to be utilized for a company’s
working capital needs.
Islamic money market funds invests in short-term investment instruments
with a maturity date of less than one year.
i.e. Government Investment Certificate (GIC) issued by the Malaysian
Islamic money market funds generally have lower risk than Islamic equity
and sukuk funds.
They reduce the volatility of the overall investment portfolio returns.
Therefore, it is advisable to include alternative funds in an investor’s overall
investment portfolio in addition to the typical mainstream Islamic equity
and sukuk funds.
There are two primary challenges when investing in alternative funds:
opaque pricing and the relative illiquidity of the assets.
Therefore, these funds may not be easily accessible.
Alternative funds generally requires a larger investment amount that can
be locked in for an extended period of several years.
Alternative funds are generally for high-net-worth individuals or institutions.
Real Estate Investment Trust Funds
REITs invest in real estate securities that sell like stocks and also invest in real
estate based on Shari’ah guidelines.
Special tax considerations, better yields, and potentially high payouts to
Shari’ah compliant REITs do not invest in properties that involve non-
Real Estate Investment Trust Funds
Malaysia is the only country with guidelines for REITs.
Listed in Malaysia in 2006, the Al-Aqar KPJ REIT is the fist listed Islamic
Healthcare REIT in the world and first Islamic REIT in Asia. (oversubscribed
Listed in Malaysia in 2007, The Al-Hadharah Bousted REIT is the world’s first
Islamic plantation-based REIT.
Real Estate Investment Trust Fund
The Sabana Shari’ah Compliant Industrial Real Estate Investment Trust is
Singapore’s first Islamic REIT, listed in 2010. (oversubscribed 2.5 times)
USD833 Million in total assets in 2011.
Emirates REIT – Dubai Islamic Bank.
Emirates REIT invests in residential and commercial properties in Dubai and
its asset size grew to USD68.3 million in 2011.
Private Equity Funds
The purpose of private equity is to provide working capital to a target
company to nurture expansion or new product development or to
restructure the company’s operations, management, or ownership.
Shari’ah private equity investing encourages direct ownership of real and
It follows certain guidelines regarding the permissibility of the business
activities and means of financing.
Private Equity Funds
In a private equity fund, the goal is to exit after a specified time period
(typically five years), having attained a targeted internal rate of return
Therefore, given the portfolio nature of private equity funds, they are
usually long-term and illiquid, require high initial amounts of investment,
and are therefore high-risk, high-return investment alternatives.
Therefore, these funds are more appropriate for high net-worth investors
and institutions that have the knowledge, money, and time to stay
invested over a longer time horizon.
Private Equity Funds
Arcapita, a Bahrain-based private equity firm, acquired Caribou Coffee,
one of the largest American specialty coffee chains through Islamic
Investment Dar and Adeem Investment Company are Kuwait based
companies involved in the acquisition of Ford’s Aston Martin – based on
Shari’ah compliant private equity participation.
Carlyle and Blackstone, leading private equity companies, increasingly
invite Gulf Investors for major investment opportunities.
Unicorn Global Private Equity Fund launched in May 2006 can invest in the
GCC, Levant, Turkey, USA, and Southeast Asia.
Private Equity Funds
It is a US dollar denominated fund with a minimum amount of
USD100,000.00 for individuals and USD1 million for institutional investors.
The fund targets well-managed midcap companies across the consumer
products, health care, business services, and light manufacturing industries
with near-term growth potential and annual revenues in excess of USD10
Hedge funds were created to hedge (manage) risks against potential
losses of investments due to uncertainty in the market.
The basic Shari’ah principles do not allow the sale of goods without legal
ownership of those goods.
Also, the principles do not allow leveraging positions that are found in the
structure of the hedge funds.
However, based on certain Islamic contracts, it is possible to structure a
Shari’ah compliant hedge fund.
Shari’ah Capital, a US based firm, emerged as one of the leading
companies that provide technologies and advisory services to Islamic
In 2008, Shari’ah Capital and Barclays Capital launched Al Safi Trust
Platform for hedge funds, in which Shari’ah Capital provides advisory
service and Barclays Capital is the prime broker and custodian.
Newedge, jointly owned by Calyon and Societe Generale, which
launched an Islamic hedge fund in 2006 replacing short-selling with a
salam-based Shari’ah alternative.
Hedge funds listed on its platform include Al Raed Emerging Markets Fund
(Old Mutual) and the Lucerne Shari’ah Isthimar Fund (Reach Capital
The Malaysian Securities Commission’s Shari’ah Advisory Council approved
Ijarah-based structure to mirror short-selling.
Lease funds invest exclusively in lease obligations.
The funds have a fixed tenure and regular income like bond funds, but
have shorter maturities.
Shari’ah based ijarah funds must meet certain requirements.
The asset used for leasing must be permissible under Shari’ah guidelines.
The rental must be fixed and known to both the parties at the time of
entering into the contract.
Furthermore, the fund must hold all the responsibility following its ownership
of the asset.
The Ijarah fund uses the subscription amounts to buy assets like properties,
vehicles, and machinery for the purpose of leasing.
The fund owns the assets and the lessees pay the rentals.
These rentals form the regular income streams for the fund.
The first such aircraft leasing contract took place between Emirates Airlines
and Al Rajhi Banking and Investment Corporation raising USD$60 Million
The UCITS framework is the most globally recognized regulatory framework
for investment funds, and it is this framework under which most of these
newer international funds have been established.
There are 26 Islamic UCITS funds, which are domiciled on the Luxembourg
and Dublin international fund platforms (as of May 2012).
Therefore, despite the stagnation of the industry’s AUM growth at USD59
Billion between 2010 and 2011, we now see a tipping point where there will
be significant AUM growth traction.
Most of the funds in Dublin and Luxembourg in 2012 have shown a five
year track record, which is needed to convince institutional investors to
International investors can select from 26 Islamic UCITS funds, which are
available on the Luxembourg and Dublin international fund platforms.