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MENA news through Aug. 8

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MENA news through Aug. 8

GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL

* Saudi Arabia suspended new trade and investment with Canada after the latter called for the "immediate release" of arrested civil rights activists. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said his country is "considering additional measures" against Canada, while the Saudi central bank and state pension funds have mandated their overseas fund managers to put their Canadian equities, bonds and cash holdings up for sale "no matter the cost."

* The board of Saudi Arabia's Capital Market Authority approved the instructions on the price stabilization mechanism for IPOs.

* The Saudi General Authority for Competition approved Gulf Union Co-operative Insurance Co.'s planned acquisition of Al Ahlia Insurance Co. for Cooperative Insurance for Cooperative Insurance, Argaam reported.

* SABB Takaful Co. received a no-objection letter from the Saudi central bank on the appointment of Mohammed al-Shaya as its chairman, Argaam reported.

* U.K.-based Bupa increased its stake in Bupa Arabia For Cooperative Insurance Co. by 5% to 39.25% after it acquired a portion of Nazer Group Holding Co. Ltd.'s stake in the Saudi Arabia-based company.

* The assets of Islamic banks in the United Arab Emirates increased 6.7% on a yearly basis to 565 billion dirhams in the first half, Gulf News wrote, citing central bank data.

* U.S. private equity firms TPG and KKR & Co. have emerged as the frontrunners from an initial list of six bidders vying to take over the management of Abraaj Group Ltd.'s $1 billion healthcare fund, insiders told Reuters. Meanwhile, a group of dealmakers at Abraaj is seeking to spin off the embattled firm's $375 million North Africa fund, a move that could complicate the Dubai-based group's efforts to offload its entire asset management unit, The Wall Street Journal wrote.

* UAE-based Shuaa Capital PSC said it aims to make dividend payouts for the first time in 10 years as it reported a 21% year-over-year increase in second-quarter profits to 14.6 million dirhams, Arabian Business noted. Meanwhile, Shuaa Capital plans to team up with Saudi Arabia's Jabal Omar Development Co. to offer and manage real estate investment funds in Saudi Arabia, Mubasher Info wrote.

* The Central Bank of Kuwait dismissed a report that bank loans owed by expatriates in the country has reached $1.8 billion in the last four years, describing the amount as "altogether incorrect," Arabian Business wrote.

* Kuwait's cabinet formed new board of the Capital Market Authority, with Ahmed al-Mulhim serving as chairman and Othman Alissa as deputy chairman, Al-Qabas reported.

* Al Baraka Banking Group BSC reported second-quarter net income attributable to equity holders of the parent of $39.3 million, compared to the year-ago $35.7 million. For the first half, attributable net income ticked up year over year to $74.3 million from $69.7 million.

* Moody's downgraded Bahrain's long-term issuer ratings to B2 from B1 and maintained its negative outlook.

* Gulf International Bank BSC said it is in the final phase of converting its branches in Saudi Arabia into a locally incorporated bank named Gulf International Bank - Saudi Arabia, Trade Arabia wrote.

* Bahrain Kuwait Insurance Co. BSC Chairman Murad Ali Mohamed Murad said the company is planning to combine its branches and some supportive services with Takaful International Co. BSC to trim operating expenses, Thomson Reuters' Zawya reported, citing Al Ayam.

* Bank Sohar SAOG CFO Pieter de Witt will leave the Omani lender in November due to personal reasons.

REST OF MIDDLE EAST

* Iran implemented emergency currency reforms to ease rules on the sale of foreign currency ahead of anticipated U.S. sanctions, according to Reuters.

* A rule change by the German central bank to its terms and conditions on cash withdrawals has made it more difficult for Iran to move €300 million from Hamburg-based Europäisch-Iranische Handelsbank AG, which the Middle East nation owns, back to Iran to boost funds amid U.S. sanctions, the Financial Times reported.

* Iranian authorities have arrested seven individuals, including a former deputy central bank governor and five foreign exchange brokers, over alleged economic crimes, Reuters reported.

* The Export Development Bank of Iran inked a deal with Russia's Mir Business Bank to finance the imports of essential goods from Russia, the Financial Tribune reported.

* S&P Global Ratings upgraded Israel's long-term and short-term foreign- and local-currency sovereign credit ratings to AA-/A-1+ from A+/A-1 with a stable outlook.

* Mizrahi Tefahot Bank Ltd. said the U.S. Department of Justice's proposal that it pay a fine of $342 million to end a tax evasion investigation was not acceptable to the bank.

* Bank Hapoalim BM is weighing a restructuring plan under which the Israeli lender would shut down dozens of branches in the coming years, insiders told Globes.

* Meanwhile, Mizrahi Tefahot Bank and Union Bank of Israel Ltd. will turn to Israel's antitrust court to appeal a decision by the country's anti-trust regulator opposing their planned 1.4 billion shekel merger, Reuters reported.

NORTH AFRICA

* The Central Bank of Egypt is set to launch the national payment card in the electronic market by the end of the year, Daily News Egypt wrote.

* Commercial International Bank (Egypt) SAE reported second-quarter net profit of 2.40 billion Egyptian pounds, up 31% from 1.83 billion pounds a year earlier. For the first half, net profit came in at 4.42 billion pounds, a 24% increase from the year-ago 3.56 billion pounds.

* Banque Misr SAE Chairman Mohamed El-Etreby said the lender will open a representative office in Beijing as part of its new strategy of expanding in new international markets, Amwal Al Ghad wrote.

* National Bank of Egypt SAE has approved loan applications for roughly 3,000 clients under its 3 billion pound mortgage finance initiative, its head of banking retail risk Karim Soos told Mubasher.

* Refinancing of Tunisian banks by the country's central bank hit a record 16.04 billion dinars last week, up from 9.9 billion dinars at the same point in 2017, with lower liquidity in the banking system making banks rely more on the central bank for purchasing foreign currencies, Il Boursa said.

Henni Abdelghani and Pádraig Belton contributed to this report.

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