Home finance company targets Islamic market

Hamilton businessman Abdullahi Dayib, has set up his own company, Al-Haramain Islamic Finance, to offer New Zealand’s first Islamic “mortgages”.

He is a Muslim, whose religion bars conventional borrowing with interest payments, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Mr Dayib, who is Somali-born, said shariah, or Islamic law, deemed the payment or receipt of interest – known as riba – akin to usury.

As a matter of faith, a Muslim cannot lend money to, or receive money from someone and expect to benefit – interest (known as riba) is not allowed. To make money from money is forbidden – wealth can only be generated through legitimate trade and investment in assets. Islamic investment funds are also banned from investing in companies associated with tobacco, alcohol or gambling.

“We Muslims have a lot of banks willing to lend money, but we can’t just go into banks and borrow,” said Mr Dayib, a New Zealand citizen.

He is now waiting for his mortgage product to be approved by Islamic clerics so he can start offering it to New Zealand’s 36,000 Muslims who, he says, have been held back by their inability to raise cash like other New Zealanders.

“I know how difficult it is to get funding that is interest free and on Islamic principles – that is what made me set up the firm,” he said.

New Zealand and other countries with small, fragmented Muslim populations have had few Islamic financing products, partly due to low demand, and the knowledge gap between conventional financial institutions that have an incomplete grasp of Islam and Islamic scholars who know little about finance.

Muslims make up less than 1 per cent of the NZ population, and ASB Bank, the nation’s largest mortgage lender, said it had not had enough demand for Islamic mortgages.

But several financiers are already offering or preparing to offer Islamic loans. Al-Haramain will be a broker for an Islamic-style home ownership programme called Manzil (home), and three other conventional firms, Argosy Property Finance, Global Home Loans and Tasman Mortgages Ltd will act as mortgage managers for such arrangements, the newspaper said.

Manzil allows for an occupier to put down a 20 per cent deposit with the balance held by a trustee company which pays the remaining 80 per cent. The occupier pays a fixed rent and has a right to complete the purchase of the property over 10 years, with an additional payment of 10 per cent of the increase in the house value over the decade. The arrangement can be rolled over for a further 10 year period if required.

Auckland-based conventional finance wholesaler Foundation Capital Markets launched its Islamic mortgage product at the end of last year.

“We are already sitting on a number of approvals for a number of people that are hunting for homes,” said Prem Maan, Foundation Capital’s managing director.

But his company is waiting on clerics to confirm the product’s compliance with Shariah.

A Manzil borrower who rents a house today worth $400,000 will have to pay $440,000 for the property if the value rises to $800,000 in 10 years.

The 40 per cent jump in house prices over the past three years has made the 20 per cent deposit a big threshold for people wanting to use the Manzil arrangement, but Foundation Capital and its partners are working to reduce that, said Mr Maan.

The seven-member Shariah board of the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (Fianz) has held back from giving its full backing to the product saying only that it is a “viable alternative” to standard mortgages. The clerics have said there is no guarantee that funds used to buy the house were not from forbidden activities such as interest-bearing securities, or investments in gambling or alcohol-related businesses.

Al-Haramain is talking to potential partners in the Middle East and elsewhere to find Shariah-compliant sources of funds while Foundation Capital says it will look for Middle East partners if the product takes off.

Foundation Capital is looking to create a sukuk, or Islamic bond, fund that will be offered to institutions in New Zealand and elsewhere.


Home finance company targets Islamic market