Camille Paldi, CEO of the Franco-American Alliance for Islamic Finance (FAAIF), a US citizen with an MA in Islamic Finance from Durham University (UK), explains sukuk to a US audience at the Chicago Islamic Finance Conference.
Sukuk is derived from the word sakk, which can mean legal instrument, deed, and cheque. Sakk can also mean to strike a seal on a paper document. The first sukuk transaction took place in Damascus, Syria in the Great Mosque of Damascus (Umayyad Mosque) in the 7th Century AD. Syria is a treasure house of culture and history. Tawriq (from wariq) means to render something into cash. Taskik (from Sakk) is also used as securitization though literally refers to the process of dividing the assets into papers (Sukuk). Tawriq is defined as: "transforming a deferred debt for the period between the establishment of the debt and the maturity period into papers, which can be traded in the secondary market." (in Majallah Majma 'Al Fiqh')
The Global Sukuk Industry
In 1990, in Malaysia Shell MDS Sdn Bhd issued a sukuk ijarah worth RM 125 million. Issuances grew 145% in 2006 compared to 2005 to reach US$27 Billion. The sukuk market peaked at US$47 Billion in 2007 and dropped by 55% to US$21 Billion in 2008. The market recovered in 2009 to reach a total issuance of US$31 Billion, which was higher than the total issuance in 2006. 2012 saw US$110 Billion in sukuk issuances while 2013 tapered off with US$79 Billion.
Sukuk in the USA
The US has seen two major sukuk issuances including the East Cameron Gas Sukuk, which was the first ever musharakah sukuk in America backed by oil and gas assets maturing in 2006 and the General Electric Sukuk, which is an ijarah sukuk backed by aircraft leases due for maturity in November, 2014. Although the Cameron Gas Sukuk experienced some technical difficulties, the General Electric Sukuk is performing well and there is a large potential for sukuk in the United States as a capital raising instrument for American firms. In fact, both the state of New York and the state of Illinois have initiated state bills in their legislatures enabling sukuk transactions.
The East Cameron Gas Sukuk Summary
East Cameron Partners LP ("ECP" or the "Originator") is an independent oil and gas exploration and production company, based in Houston, Texas whose producing assets consisted of two gas properties located offshore of the State of Louisiana, USA. East Cameron Partners (ECP) issued sukuk of USD165.67 million in July 2006 with a maturity period of 13 years. This was the first sukuk issued by a company based in the United States and rated by Standard & Poor's. The underlying contract was musharakah (co-ownership/joint venture) in which sukuk investors own so called Overriding Royalty Interest (ORRI) in two gas properties located offshore the State of Louisiana through an SPV acting as a trustee of sukuk holders. The SPV was called East Cameron Gas Company (ECGP) and incorporated in the Cayman Islands. The originator also contributed its funds into the musharakah.
The assets of the musharakah were co-owned by the sukuk holders and the originator company ECP. The sukuk were secured by a mortgage on the assets of the issuer, which included the ORRI and secured accounts. The sukuk were initially rated CCC+ by Standard & Poor's and then downgraded to CC and finally D. The East Cameron Gas sukuk had a fixed payment of 11.25% annually. However, there was also a variable component because the sukuk returns depended upon the production quantities (the overriding royalty interest (ORRI) specified a fixed quantity of natural gas be delivered to the SPV). It also contained a redemption feature by where a percentage of the sukuk would be redeemed if production exceeded a certain level.
Instead of being solely used to support the capital and operating costs of drilling and operating wells in the Gulf of Mexico for East Cameron Partners, the proceeds were also used to pay most of the conventional debt of the company. This brought the debt- to- equity ratio of the company to a Shariah compliant level, however, also bankrupted the sukuk. On October 16, 2008, East Cameron Partners filed for bankruptcy protection under chapter 11, claiming its inability to pay the periodic returns on its USD166 million sukuk issued in June 2006.
The General Electric Sukuk Summary
Sukuk Name: GE Capital Sukuk
Issue Size: USD $500,000,000.00
Closing Date: Shari'ah structure: Ijarah
Maturity/Tenor: 5 years due for maturity in November 2014
Underlying Assets: Aircraft leases
Rated by: Standard & Poor's
Payments: Semi- annually (May and November, due in 2014)
The sukuk instrument is growing in popularity around the world as an innovative financing instrument and a way to raise funds for various projects, business expansion, and increased competitiveness, which attracts ethical and creative investors worldwide. The USA should consider taking advantage of this opportunity on a wider scale in order to attract investments in the USA. Contact Camille Paldi at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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