MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA
* Fitch Ratings placed Qatar's long- and short-term foreign- and local-currency issuer default ratings of AA/F1+ on rating watch negative, on expectations that the ongoing diplomatic rift between the country and several Arab states will negatively affect Qatar's economy and credit metrics.
* Qatari Finance Minister Ali Shareef al-Emadi said his country was "extremely comfortable" with its financial position, investments and liquidity despite its current row with its Gulf neighbors. "Our reserves and investment funds are more than 250% of GDP, so I don't think there is any reason that people need to be concerned about what's happening or any speculation on the Qatari riyal," the minister told CNBC.
* The geopolitical tensions affecting Qatar could create short-term volatility in the country in terms of risk-adjusted capitalization and operating performance, according to A.M. Best. The agency expects the ongoing dispute to have a limited impact on the credit quality of Qatari insurers, which generally have strong balance sheets, but warned that if the rift persists for a longer period, its economic repercussions on Qatar may be more severe and could begin to impact the country's insurance sector.
* Meanwhile, S&P Global Ratings said its ratings on most Qatari insurers, including Qatar Insurance Co. SAQ and Doha Insurance Co. QSC, are not immediately affected by the country's current diplomatic rift with Saudi Arabia, the United Arabl Emirates, Egypt and other countries. The agency warned, however, that if the dispute persists, the operating environment may become more challenging, particularly for insurers that rely primarily on local business.
* Qatar Reinsurance Co. Ltd. has teamed up with U.S.-based investment firm Centerbridge to table a bid for British car insurer Sabre, Sky News reported. The consortium is competing with buyout firm Warburg Pincus to acquire Sabre from owner BC Partners, which is also working on parallel plans to list the business.
* Fitch revised Bahrain's outlook to negative from stable while affirming its long-term issuer default ratings at BB+. The outlook revision is primarily driven by the absence of a clear medium-term strategy to tackle high deficits and a rapidly growing government debt ratio.
* Omani regulators approved new rules governing the issuance of insurance products, Al Watan reported.
* The loan books of the UAE's largest listed banks grew by 2.13% in the first quarter from the previous quarter, Arabian Business wrote, citing data from professional services firm Alvarez & Marsal.
* Emirates NBD Bank PJSC unit Emirates Islamic Bank PJSC is integrating blockchain technology into its checks to boost fraud prevention, Finextra wrote.
* OLT Holding sal acquired a 42.24% stake in GroupMed Holding sal, the owner of Lebanon-based BankMed SAL, for $1.27 billion.
* The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange has eliminated certain minimum requirements for companies seeking to become a member of the exchange as it seeks to attract new players, Globes reported, citing TASE CEO Ittai Ben-Zeev.
* Bank Melli Iran Inc. will set up a debt collection agency tasked with recovering, settling and reducing the bank's nonperforming loans, the Financial Tribune wrote.
* Central Bank of Iran Governor Valiollah Seif said Iranian banks are establishing 22 correspondent relations with Oberbank AG in Austria, as the two countries seek to expand mutual banking relations, the Financial Tribune reported.
* EFG-Hermes Holding SAE plans to expand into Nigeria through an acquisition and expects to obtain regulatory approval to establish a brokerage business in Kenya in 2017, Reuters wrote, citing Ali Khalpey, CEO of EFG-Hermes' Frontier market unit. Khalpey also told the newswire that the Egyptian bank wants to expand into Bangladesh and Vietnam.
EAST AND WEST AFRICA
* KCB Group Plc CEO Joshua Oigara confirmed reports that the bank has submitted an expression of interest in acquiring a controlling stake in National Bank of Kenya Ltd., Reuters reported. National Bank of Kenya, meanwhile, received a 2.9 billion Kenyan shilling loan from the country's National Social Security Fund, which owns a 48.05% stake in the lender, Business Daily Africa wrote.
* Nigeria's acting president, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, signed the government's 2017 spending plan into law, Reuters reported. Osinbajo said the budget is "designed to bring Nigeria out of recession."
* Ghanaian banks' nonperforming loans rose 24.5% year over year to 7.15 billion Ghanaian cedis in April, with the private sector accounting for as much as 97.5% of the NPLs, Citi Business News wrote, citing data from the Bank of Ghana.
* The Bank of Sierra Leone has expanded its policy on what can count as collateral for loans to include assets such as automobiles and machinery, Financial Afrik reported.
CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN AFRICA
* Moody's downgraded the long-term deposit ratings of Standard Bank Group Ltd. unit Standard Bank of South Africa Ltd., FirstRand Ltd. unit FirstRand Bank Ltd., Barclays Africa Group Ltd. unit Absa Bank Ltd., Nedbank Group Ltd. and Investec Ltd. unit Investec Bank Ltd. to Baa3 from Baa2, following the downgrade on South Africa.
* Moody's also downgraded the global scale insurance financial strength and related debt ratings of South African insurance groups Old Mutual Life Assurance Co. (South Africa) Ltd., MMI Holdings Ltd., Standard Insurance Ltd., and Guardrisk Insurance Co. Ltd. and its related entities. The rating agency also downgraded certain ratings of the Development Bank of Southern Africa, the Industrial Development Corp. of South Africa Ltd. and the Land & Agricultural Development Bank of South Africa.
* MMI signed a deal with African Bank that will enable the insurer to offer loans and take deposits, Reuters reported. As part of the deal, MMI intends to utilize the South African lender to amass a loan book in excess of 10 billion South African rand over the next five years and split the profits equally with African Bank.
* The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe is processing Barclays Plc's application to sell a 68% stake in Barclays Bank of Zimbabwe Ltd. to Malawi-based First Merchant Bank Ltd., Chinese news agency Xinhua reported. Central bank Governor John Mangudya reportedly told lawmakers that the sale was in accordance with Zimbabwe's indigenization policy.
* Mangudya also rejected suggestions to adopt the South African rand as the country's main currency, saying such a move will not help solve structural problems in Zimbabwe's economy, Xinhua wrote.
* BIM – Banco Internacional de Moçambique SA launched a Chinese foreign exchange service aimed at facilitating business and trade between customers and Chinese suppliers, Macauhub reported.
IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD
Asia-Pacific: Westpac in talks for fund sale; NAB faces fresh false ID witnessing claims
Europe: Vicenza, Veneto rescue underway; Banco Popular faces claims; Deutsche eyes Asia
Latin America: Court dismisses Temer campaign case; Fitch sees more Mexican bank IPOs
North America: Mnuchin hints at superpowers; Puerto Rico votes to become 51st state
North America Insurance: HHS review finds improper payments by Medicare; US life sector grew profit in Q1
Leo Magno, Henni Abdelghani, Pádraig Belton, and Mariana Aldano contributed to this report.
The Daily Dose Middle East and Africa has an editorial deadline of 5 a.m. London time. Some external links may require a subscription. S&P Global Ratings and S&P Global Market Intelligence are owned by S&P Global Inc.