SUCK UK! Big Clue! We should have seen the coming of the Islamic Bond
Dubai assets 'untouchable', lawyers caution foreign bondholders
Creditors to Dubai World have been warned by lawyers that all assets behind the bonds are likely to be "untouchable" because of the complicated legal structure in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Creditors to Dubai World, in effect the bondholders are collectively standing on top of skyscrapers, getting ever near to the edge just hoping to learn something positive about Dubai World's plans to restructure $26bn (£15.7bn) of debt, including $6bn in the speculative risk-taking Nakheel property subsidiary. Nakheel owns or has control of many of Dubai's most flashy projects, including the Palm Islands, Being good Dubai persons, they issued over half the debt in the form of a $3.5bn sukuk, an Islamic bond.
Few banks in the initial scamble to get a piece of the initial action bothered to consider the small print thinking that the ruling families would effectivel;y underwite all the bonds (or paper) ever issued. A no brainer, how could it with this blue-chip pedigree ever fail ??? Read on, Dear Reader....
It was the sukuk's looming December 14th 2009 due date that prompted last week's standstill announcement. Those upending glasses in the City of London's Bow Wine Vaults call it SUCK UK! In effect that is exactly what will, happen but not just for the UK, banks and pension funds, the world over have been sleepwalking into this. I'll explain:
Lawyers have for many years, repeatedly warned that rules which govern sukuks are way more than complex,they can be operated in many different ways and always subject to local circumstances (hang onto the word 'local').
Shaikh Muddassir Siddiqui, the respected doyen and head of Islamic finance at Denton Wilde Sapte, the London Law Firm cautioned that: ".... any default of the loan would be governed by sharia laws" then added as a mind-blowing kicker: "Each jurisdiction approaches the sharia elements of financial structures, in different ways, according to the requirements of its own law. Neither debtor nor creditor should assume that a single interpretation of the sharia principles shall be applied universally just because the structure has been determined to be sharia-compliant."
Put simply the recovery of investments may be further complicated by the UAE's foreign ownership laws. I sincerely hope everyone is still with me as it gets even better (well not for us in the West) Consider that even if Nakheel's properties are liquidated, their entitlement could be restricted because assets belonging to the ruling family cannot be seized and sold.
Of course this has to be right, the directors at RBS (Royal Bank of Scotland) would have known this long before Gordon Brown (current but unelected Prime Minister but formerly holder of the UK Piggybank aka The Treasury) decided to bail out the banksters, But they kept that under wraps, buyer beware.
The excellent London Daily Telegraph newspaper buttonholed one Essam al-Tamimi, senior partner at Al Tamimi and Company, a Dubai-based law firm, who delivered this chilling warning: "The UAE courts will order everyone to pay their debt, you, me and the ruler, we are all equal under the law. But when it comes to government debt, following the issuing of the judgment... like in a lot of countries, the attachment of government assets and selling them by public auction is not allowed."
So before RBS in the UK, pays out £1.5 billion in bonus payments in the next few days, the directors might like to think how they can possibly get around these little local difficulties as the UK taxpayer though RBS holds a mountain of Dubai World paper. Slapping a writ on the funnel of the former Cunard Cruise ship the QE2 muight be an option....we live in interesting times...
A further development is that the bosses of Dubai World, no doubt with the aid of a few prods have now agreed to meet its main creditors next week. The bondholders, which are being represented by Ashurst, are also thought to include some of the world's biggest pension fund managers including Blackrock, Pioneer and Fidelity.
The twist about the implication of Sharia Law however was not raised in the initial negotiations and only became an issue when it became clear the Dubai Government would 'cherry pick' some of the investments it would bail out or take over. They would not automatically underwriting the whole basket - that seemingly being best left to RBS - but that is where we came in!
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Not quite saying that the law is structured or loaded to suit local business and citizens but a major near on impossible headache for international bondholders.
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