Summit Notebook

Exclusive outtakes from industry leaders

Awaiting the alternative energy sukuk: Innovation vs conservatism

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MANAMA, Feb 18 (Reuters) – Dubai’s debt fiasco and real estate bubble bust pushes investors to look out for alternative assets underlying Islamic finance products – could renewable energy provide a way-out?

Predominantly, Islamic finance and investment products have been backed by infrastructure or commodities assets. But executives at the 2010 Reuters Islamic Banking and Finance Summit said product diversification was needed to cut the over-reliance on real estate in the Gulf.

“Sharia scholars are eager to support the renewable energy initiative, but the Islamic banking industry (in the Gulf) does not seem to be overly interested in this area although I am aware of a couple of deals involving acquisitions of clean tech companies in the U.S. and wind farms in the UK,” said Ayman Khaleq, partner at the Vinson & Elkins law firm in Dubai.

“The big banks have teams that focus on renewable energy as an asset class. However, the problem is that Islamic banks are not big enough to be able to cover specific sectors such as alternative energy,” he added.

Time private bankers got professional

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It’s hard to imagine that a banker who represents multimillionaires would be anything but professional – but a top executive at a leading global bank thinks that’s precisely the wealth management industry’s problem.

“There is so much mediocrity in the industry we have to raise the bar here,” said Gerard Aquilina, vice chairman of Barclays Wealth, at the Reuters Global Wealth Management Summit in Geneva.

Asia still a wealth of wealth players

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A few years ago, domestic and international financial players were chomping at the bit to lure Mrs. Watanabe’s millions of yen or fellow Asians’ yuan, won or dollar holdings from their futons or equal-interest savings accounts.

The global financial crisis in the last year has sparked a rejigging of foreign institutions’ expectations about Asian wealth and their own ability to attract it, with some opting out of the game altogether.

Where are you spending?

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This week we’re getting inside views from some of the biggest names in retail…from high-end fashion houses like Hermes to department store chain J.C. Penney. Optimism among those in the industry about a turnaround toward the end of 2009 springs eternal…but what are you seeing? Where are you spending? Or, are you trading down? Ditching Saks and heading to Target? Barclays retail analyst Bob Drbul says the key for consumers in the current economic environment, no matter where they shop, is “value.” Click here to hear his thoughts:

Are you changing your buying behavior? from Reuters TV on Vimeo.

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