Investments in Islamic bonds known as "sukuk" are set to grow worldwide as financial centres vie to tap an increasing appetite for Muslim-friendly debt, experts and officials said Tuesday.
The global value of outstanding sukuk was $269.4 billion at the end of 2013, but the market is expected to expand at a double-digit rate, said the governor of Dubai International Financial Centre, Essa Kazim.
"The sukuk market is likely to sustain double-digit growth in the next three years with assets in Islamic finance expected to reach $2.8 trillion by 2015," he told participants at the 10th World Islamic Economic Forum in Dubai.
Last year the Gulf emirate set itself a target to become a global hub for Islam-compliant products and services within three years.
Kazim said Dubai was now the third global centre for sukuk following the recent listing of $750 million in such bonds by its government, and plans by Hong Kong to list its first successful offering of $1 billion on Nasdaq Dubai.
Kuala Lumpur and London continue to be the main centres for sukuk.
London aims to maintain and expand its "position as the Western hub for Islamic finance," said Britain's economic secretary to the treasury, Andrea Leadsom.
She said the United Kingdom had been delivering on promises to expand Islamic finance, including creating an Islamic index on the London Stock Exchange.
The British government issued in June 200 million pounds ($323.3 million) of sovereign sukuk, an offering that was nearly 12 times oversubscribed, she said.
The Bank of England has commenced feasibility work for establishing sharia-compliant facilities, she added.
The governor of the Central Bank of Malaysia, Zeti Akhtar Aziz, said the sukuk market offered a strong opportunity to drive infrastructure development.
She said that Asia required $8.3 trillion through to the year 2020 to meet infrastructure needs, while the Middle East needed more than $2 trillion.
Islamic sharia law prohibits trade in debt.
Unlike conventional bonds, which give ownership of debt, sukuk are asset-based securities that give investors a share.
But instead of just focusing on government issuance of sukuk, priority "should be given to project-specific sukuk," said Abdul Aziz Al Hinai, vice president for finance at Islamic Development Bank.
"Sovereign sukuk are seen as debt instruments, whereas Islamic finance always encourages productivity," he said.
In addition to sharia-friendly financial instruments and insurance, the Islamic economy includes halal food products and Islam-compliant tourism, culture and education.