CIFA: Let’s consider Islamic bonds
Fund managers in Cyprus are urging the state to consider issuing Islamic bonds (Sukuk) similar to a 5-year issue by the UK government that raised nearly 200 mln euros, while Luxembourg is also planning something similar.
Angelos Gregoriades, chairman of the recently-established Cyprus Investment Funds Association (CIFA) told the organisations inaugural session at the presidential palace that a Sukuk issue of just 100 mln euros would be enough to attract Islamic or Shariacompliant funds.
He said that the Islamic funds market is estimated at about $2 trln, with an annual growth rate of 5%.
“Due to our proximity to the Middle East, both geographically and in friendly relations, Cyprus could easily enter this market, just as Britain, Ireland and Malta are to do by promoting themselves as Islamic financial centres,” Gregoriades said.
He also called for the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission (CySEC) to be enhanced, now that it will undertake the supervision of all investment funds, so that new applications are processed much faster and to allow Cyprus to remain competitive in this area.
Gregoriades said that there are only 102 funds in Cyprus that manage about 3 bln euros, compared to 12,889 funds in Ireland with 2.5 trln under management and Malta catching up with 600 funds and 9.4 bln euros.
He added that although Cyprus boasts a high lebvel of services providers, such as lawyers and accountants, we still lack in specialised fund managers and trustees.
In his address to the CIFA event, President Nicos Anastasiades said that both the economy and the financial sector have been stabilised and the country would return to growth in 2015, much earlier than expected. Anastasiades noted that for the first time in months, there has been an increase in the registration of new companies, while unemployment has ceased its upward trend.
“Even though challenges still remain, public finances are now back on a sustainable path, and Cyprus has only had positive assessments by its Troika partners, a track record which we are committed to maintain,” he said.
He referred to the successive upgradings of Cyprus’ ratings by credit rating agencies and to the `s recent successful issue of a 750 mln euro bond in international markets, which “constitutes a clear sign of trust towards our economy”.
“All the above translate into regaining the country’s lost credibility and re-establishing investors’ confidence,” he said.
Anastasiades stressed that his government “has been working methodically in cooperation with the private sector, to build a modern, well regulated and competitive framework for the collective investment scheme industry.”
He welcomed the establishment of CIFA for the promotion of the Cyprus’ funds industry, “which is expected to contribute in a substantive way towards achieving these goals.”
As he said, a new bill on Alternative Investment Funds has been approved by the Council of Ministers and is now in parliament for review and final approval, which in conjunction with the enactment of the OpenEnded Undertakings for Collective Investment Law in June 2012, and the Alternative Investment Fund Managers Law of 2013, will set up a comprehensive framework for the management of of the international collective investment schemes (ICIS).
Cyprus has been one of the first countries to adopt into law the European Union’s Alternative Investment Fund Managers
CIFA recently joined the European Fund and Asset Management Association, the representative association of the European investment management industry, with an observer status for two years.
EFAMA said it reviewed Cyprus’s adoption of UCITS IV and the AIFMD before allowing CIFA’s participation.
CIFA is also working closely with the Cyprus Investment Promotion Agency (CIPA) which first took the initiative for the establishment of CIFA early in 2013 as a natural development of the progress made thus far in promoting Cyprus as a competitive investment funds jurisdiction.
The first CIFA board is comprised of highly reputable industry professionals experienced in all aspects of the industry, including fund management, advisory, banking, audit and legal.
President - Angelos Gregoriades (Head of Tax and Corporate services of KPMG); Vice President - Ioannis Gaiganis (expert professional in fund management and securities services); Secretary - Marios Tannousis (Senior Investment Promotion Officer at CIPA); Treasurer - Chris Odysseos (partner with PwC’s Global Compliance Services (GCS) practice).
The other board members are: Christoforos Antoniades, Andreas Athinodorou, Charles Charalambous, Constantinos Papanastasiou, Charalambos Phokas, Omiros Pissarides, George Rologis, Demetris Taxitaris and Andreas Yiasemides.