KUALA LUMPUR: Islamic home loans in Malaysia may beat last year’s record in 2014, as the Government provides tax incentives to get more people to use syariah-compliant borrowing, according to CIMB Group Holdings Bhd.
Mortgages that comply with the ban on interest climbed 30% in 2013 to an unprecedented RM61.9bil (US$18.7bil), Bank Negara data showed. Conventional home financing grew 10% to RM271bil, the same pace as 2012, even after the Government introduced property curbs to rein in speculation.
The Government is giving a 20% discount on stamp duties for mortgages that comply with religious tenets as it seeks to boost Islamic banking assets to 40% of the total by 2020 from 24%. The Government started holding monthly roadshows last year to create greater awareness of such financing principles, as it strives to enhance the nation’s status as a global syariah hub.
“There’s still strong potential for Islamic financing,” Badlisyah Abdul Ghani, chief executive officer (CEO) at CIMB Islamic Bank Bhd, a unit of CIMB Group, said in a phone interview in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday. “The roadshows and the incentives are helping syariah mortgage growth.”
Malaysia is also trying to boost such mortgages by offering to waive stamp duties for the refinancing of existing home loans that don’t conform to syariah principles. Syariah-compliant property borrowings had risen an average 31% per annum over the past five years to account for 19% of the total RM333bil market in 2013, central bank data showed.
Syariah home loans differ from their conventional counterparts in that a bank typically buys the property on behalf of the customer and rents it back at a mark-up to avoid interest payments. Some of the more popular options include contracts such as Ijarah, Murabaha and Tawarruq.
The central bank cut the maximum duration on all mortgages to 35 years from 45 years in July to rein in household debt, which had risen an average 12% per annum since 2008. In October, the Government increased property gains taxes and imposed curbs on foreign ownership.
The nation’s Islamic banking assets had more than doubled to RM543bil in the past five years, according to October figures issued by the Treasury. Sales of syariah-compliant bonds, or sukuk, rose 69% in 2014 from the year-earlier period to RM5.9bil, data compiled by Bloomberg showed. Issuance totalled RM49bil last year after reaching a record RM95.8bil in 2012.
The Bloomberg-Aibim Bursa Malaysia Corporate Sukuk Index of ringgit-denominated debt fell 0.9% this year to 104.155 as of Feb 4, almost erasing last quarter’s 1.1% gain.
“Islamic mortgages complement conventional ones,” Syed Abdull Aziz Jailani Syed Kechik, CEO at OCBC Al-Amin Bank Bhd, the Islamic unit of Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp, said in a Feb 4 e-mail interview. “One of the draws can be said to be the efforts by the Government and central bank to boost the market through incentives related to taxes.”
Last year’s curbs failed to prevent Malaysia’s House Price Index from climbing 1.4% to a record 194 in the three months ended September, the 19th straight quarterly advance, according to data from the Finance Ministry.
Mortgage demand might also pick up this year, particularly in the first half, as property investors sought to guard against a potential acceleration in inflation, CIMB’s Badlisyah said.
Consumer prices climbed 3.2% in December from a year earlier, the biggest gain since November 2011, an official report showed on Jan 22. Costs may increase further after Tenaga Nasional Bhd raised electricity tariffs on Jan 1.
“The products that have been put out in the market have been very well-received both by Muslims and non-Muslims,” Baiza Bain, managing director at Amanie Advisors Sdn Bhd, a Kuala Lumpur-based Islamic finance consultancy, said in a phone interview on Wednesday. “Islamic finance is still very nascent compared to conventional finance. It definitely needs incentives to push the assets toward the right level.”
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