Wednesday, September 10, 2008
BBA: Banking sector braces for impact from ruling
By HABHAJAN SINGH
The Islamic banking fraternity is bracing to face a fallout from the recent High Court rulling that the application of the Al-Bai' Bithaman Ajil (BBA), a widely used Islamic home financing contract, is contrary to the Islamic Banking Act 1983.
At the heart of the written judgement by Datuk Justice Abdul Wahab Patail is that since some BBA contracts were structurally faulty, defaulters need not pay more than the original financing amount that they received, depriving banks of the profit that they would have otherwise booked from the transaction.
Bankers also fear the judgement could mean that current BBA financing clients would only need to pay the facility amount and would escape from paying the profit portion.
The home financing facilty extended under the BBA concept runs into billions of ringgit. "It will impact (the industry) in a big way. Bankers and financiers are used to the idea that when a default takes place, they are entitled to recover the full balance of the sales price. This and the previous judgement by Justice Wahab has altered that," said a local lawyer who ranks among the pioneers in the field of Islamic finance.
Wahab's latest judgement, dated July 18, encompassed 11 separate cases involving Bank Islam Malaysia Bhd and Arab-Malaysian Finance Bhd as the plantiffs.
It is understood that the banks are appealing to the Court of Appeal to overturn the judgement which was received by lawyers involved in the case only last month.
Industry experts estimate that close to 70% of Islamic financing has been granted under the BBA concept which essentially is a deferred payment sale (the sale of goods on a deferred payment basis) at an agreed selling price, which includes a profit margin agreed on by the customer and the bank.
The BBA concept is widely used in various Islamic financing instruments, including for bridging finance, cash line facilities, contract financing, project financing and letters of credit.
Among the big local players on this front are CIMB Bank Bhd, Malayan Banking Bhd, Bank Islam Malaysia Bhd and Public Bank Bhd, all of whom have home financing facilities based on the BBA concept. Local banks like CIMB and Maybank now have full-fledged Islamic subsidiaries that handle such financing.
"Banks are worried this judgement will set off alarm bells with regard to confidence with BBA locally. As for foreign investors, they fear its potential ramification on Malaysia's efforts in becoming a global hub for Islamic finance.
"Our whole industry has been BBA-driven. Banks are fervently trying to find a solution," said an industry executive.
It is understood that the legal departments of some these banks are now trying to get their hands on Abdul Wahab's latest judgement which has yet to be published by any of the local regular sources for the legal fraternity.
On Monday, The Malaysian Reserve ran a report on Abdul Wahab's ruling followed by excerpts from the 54-page judgement the next day.
The judgement on the appplication of BBA, popular at home but much criticised abroad, is set to be another widely discussed judgement after Abdul Wahab's earlier ruling in the case of Affin Bank Bhd vs Zulkifli Abdullah, in which he passed a ruling on the calculation of the amount to be paid in the event of a foreclosure.
The 2006 case attracted much attention, and is still the subject of seminars today, as it turned on its head the way bank practitioners calculated the outstanding amount to be repaid by borrowers who had defaulted on their BBA contracts.
Some banks had calculated the amount up to the full period of the facility, even though the borrowers may have defaulted only a few years into the financing. to be fair, though, banks usually have a defaulter rebate, which is at their sole discretion.
"The effect of this judgement is that customers are obliged to pay only the principle that had been extended to them.
"Since the court holds this contract null and void, Section 66 of the Contract Act will apply," said a lawyer. Section 66 of the act states that "when an agreement is discovered to be void, or when a contract becomes void, any person who has received any advantage under the agreement or contract is bound to restore it, or to make compensation for it, to the person from whom he received it."
(The Malaysian Reserve, Sept 11, 2008)
Posted by HABHAJAN SINGH at Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Labels: Bank Islam, BBA, Islamic finance, judiciary