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S&P cuts Lebanese banks; Dubai Islamic Bank shareholders OKs Noor Bank takeover

* British telecom company Vodafone Group PLC is looking to turn its M-Pesa African mobile payments service into a financial platform it hopes will be the continent's largest unbanked bank, CEO Nick Read told the Financial Times. Read said the company will partner with key financial institutions and consider strategic technology partnerships to achieve the goal.


* Shareholders of Dubai Islamic Bank (PJSC) approved the lender's acquisition of fellow United Arab Emirates-based lender Noor Bank PJSC, which will be carried out through a share swap at a ratio of 5.49 Noor Bank shares for 1 new Dubai Islamic Bank share. The deal, which will see Dubai Islamic Bank increase its capital to 7,240,744,377 shares from 6,589,585,179 shares, will create a lender with combined assets of more than 275 billion dirhams.

* Switzerland-based online bank Swissquote Group Holding AG, which currently uses Dubai as a hub, is considering entering Saudi Arabia as the country introduces several reforms to allow for 100% foreign ownership of businesses, Global CEO Marc Bürki told Arabian Business.

* Arabian Shield Cooperative Insurance Co. received regulatory approval to appoint Naif bin Sultan bin Mohammed bin Saud al-Kabir and Samir Ibrahim al-Wazan as chairman and vice chairman of the board, respectively.

* Gulf Union Co-operative Insurance Co. has elected a new board of directors for a three-year term.

* The Kuwaiti government named Mariam al-Aqeel finance minister, Bloomberg News reported, citing state-run news agency KUNA. Al-Aqeel, who will automatically head the Kuwait Investment Authority following her appointment, is reportedly the first female in the Gulf region to be appointed finance minister.

* Brokerage firms in Kuwait are benefiting from a liquidity surplus of 5 million dinars following a decision to reduce the capital of securities brokerage firms to 5 million dinars from 10 million dinars, as companies were required to have 10 million dinars to have a brokerage license, Al-Jarida reported.

* United Gulf Holding Company B.S.C.'s stake in KAMCO Investment Company K.S.C.P. has been reduced to 59.86% from 77.83% following the completion of the merger between KAMCO and Global Investment House KSC (Closed) and the completion of the swap agreement of 0.75522821 of KAMCO share for every share of Global. Furthermore, Burgan Bank KPSC's ownership in KAMCO has been reduced to 3.06% from 3.98%.

* SICO BSC (c) has been appointed as issue execution adviser, receiving agent, and allotment agent in the proposed voluntary acquisition of Bahrain Islamic Bank BSC by National Bank of Bahrain BSC.


* The Tel-Aviv Stock Exchange Ltd.CEO Itai Ben-Zeev said the bourse is in talks with several Israeli firms to expand retail investing on the exchange in 2020, Reuters reported. The move is part of efforts to attract Israelis priced out of the bourse due to local banks' high commissions, Ben-Zeev added.

* Fitch Ratings said fresh elections in Israel set to be held in March 2020 will likely further delay fiscal consolidation in the country, which it now expects to be unlikely until the middle of next year at the earliest.

* S&P Global Ratings downgraded the long-term issuer credit ratings of Lebanese lenders Bank Audi SAL, BLOM BANK SAL and BankMed SAL to selective default from CCC, following a request from the central bank for lenders to pay, in Lebanese pounds, half of the interest due on customers' U.S. dollar-denominated term deposits. The agency also lowered the short-term issuer credit ratings of Bank Audi and Bankmed to SD from C and took all the ratings off from CreditWatch with negative implications.

* Lebanon's Byblos Bank SAL said its board of directors approved a capital increase of $135 million through the issuance of cash contribution interests to comply with a central bank order, The Daily Star reported.

* HSBC Bank Egypt SAE has launched global payments service SWIFT in Egypt, Daily News Egypt reported, citing Ahmed Badawi, the lender's country head in charge of global liquidity and cash management.

* Mohamed Omran, chairman of Egypt's Financial Regulatory Authority, said the regulator has approved the first program to offer short-term bonds of 2 billion pounds to a securities brokerage firm, Amwal Al Ghad reported.

* A.M. Best affirmed the B++ financial strength ratings and "bbb" long-term issuer credit ratings of Egypt-based Misr Insurance Holding Co.'s local units Misr Life Insurance Co. and Misr Insurance Co., with stable outlooks.


* U.S. investment company Amassment Corp.'s Canadian unit has pulled back its offer to acquire defunct Kenyan lender Imperial Bank Ltd.'s 49 billion shillings worth of assets following the expiration of a Dec. 13 deadline, The Star reported, citing Amassment CEO Randy Sidhu. Sidhu claimed that the Kenya Depositors Insurance Corporation was lax and unwilling to provide feedback on the deal, despite the Canadian unit revising its bid to fully compensate depositors without requiring the regulator to incur any capital compensation.

* Fitch Ratings said some systemic risks posed by small Kenyan lenders can be eased through the ongoing consolidation among banks, Business Daily Africa reported.

* More than 40 Kenyan lenders, through the Kenyan Bankers Association, have opposed a case filed by nearly 200 account holders seeking compensation from illegal interest charges they were slapped with decades earlier, Business Daily Africa wrote.

* Around 629 retired employees of Standard Chartered Bank Kenya Ltd. claiming a total of 14.9 billion shillings from the lender arising from the conversion of their pension funds have suffered a delay in their efforts after an arbitration process stalled, Business Daily Africa wrote.

* Olusegun Omosehin will retire as managing director and CEO of Nigerian insurer Mutual Benefits Assurance Plc, effective Dec. 23. Femi Asenuga will succeed Omosehin, subject to regulatory approvals.

* Unity Bank PLC has partnered with fellow Nigeria-based firm Veritas Kapital Assurance Plc to establish a financial solution that will provide customers with access to insurance services while carrying out banking transactions, The Punch reported.

* The IMF's executive board approved a financing package for Somalia that will help the fund cover its share of debt relief to the country, according to IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva.


* Fitch Ratings affirmed South Africa's long- and short-term foreign- and local-currency issuer default ratings at BB+/B, among other affirmations, with negative outlooks on the long-term issuer default ratings.

* South African insurer African Phoenix Investments Ltd.'s acquisition of 100% of the shares in and claims on loan account against API Capital Pty Ltd. will take effect from Dec. 31, after all conditions precedent to the deal are met.

* South African telecommunications firm MTN Group Ltd. said its MoMo mobile money service will go live in South Africa in January 2020, following the finalization of engagements with all relevant regulators, including the central bank.

* South African financial services firm Ecsponent Ltd. said George Manyere will take over as the company's acting CEO as part a wider restructuring of the company's board, which will see CEO Terence Gregory leave the company, effective Dec. 31. Gregory, who will not move to a nonexecutive director role as previously announced, is set to be replaced by Financial Director Dirk van der Merwe, but Manyere will serve as acting CEO while Ecsponent searches for van der Merwe's successor as financial director.

* South African private equity firm African Equity Empowerment Investments Ltd. said its directors expect the company's basic loss per share for the year ended Aug. 31 will be between 189.5 cents per share and 391.6 cents per share, down by between 119% and 139% from earnings of 1010.01 cents a year ago, mainly due to a one-off accounting loss on a deemed disposal of an associate related to the restoration of the firm's control over AYO Technology Solutions Ltd. Meanwhile, the group's headline earnings per share for the period is expected to be between 111.74 cents and 116.58 cents per share, up by between 361% and 381%, compared to 24.24 cents a year ago.

* Private and corporate loans became more expensive in Angola after the consecutive raise of the Luanda interbank offered rate, or Luibor, the interbank loan rates, which went up to 27.62% in November, the highest rate ever recorded in Angola, Expansão wrote. The figure indicates that there is a liquidity shortage and banks that have money are choosing to direct their capital to other investments.

* Zimbabwe-based First Capital Bank Ltd. said it is addressing post-implementation issues it discovered from the migration of its core banking system in the first quarter, adding that it is working with the central bank on its legacy debt position, which it expects to resolve by the end of the year.

* The Central African Economic and Monetary Community's economic and financial situation has improved but remains fragile, the IMF said, noting that economic activity has remained well below pre-crisis levels.

* The IMF's executive board approved a three-year loan program of $282.8 million for Equatorial Guinea to support the government's economic program aimed at addressing financial sector vulnerabilities, among other things. The move allows the immediate disbursement of roughly $40.4 million to the country.


Asia-Pacific: HK bourse enhances ESG focus; Westpac served with shareholder litigation

Europe: Crédit Agricole sees Q4 profit hit; UniCredit exits Pekao; BBVA eyes job cuts

Latin America: Argentina's Q3 GDP down 1.7%; BICE may shift to development banking

North America: Bank deals in Maine, Texas; firms settle GSE bond rigging case for $250M

Global Insurance: New York Life/Cigna deal progress; Voya divestment; new AIG president

Erin Tanchico, Henni Abdelghani, Sophie Davies and Mariana Aldano contributed to this report.

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This S&P Global Market Intelligence news article may contain information about credit ratings issued by S&P Global Ratings. Descriptions in this news article were not prepared by S&P Global Ratings.