* The IMF saidin its latest world economic outlook report thatthe outlook across the Middle East, North Africa, Afghanistan and Pakistanregion has weakened considerably because of further declines in oil prices andintensifying conflicts and security risks. Growth in Gulf Cooperation Councilmember states is now expected to decline to 1.8% in 2016 from 3.3% in 2015,picking up to more than 2% over the medium term.
* Meanwhile, a report from the Kuwait FinancialCentre said GCC member states are expected to borrow between $285 billion and $390billion through 2020 to finance budget deficits caused by the slump in oilprices, Agence France Presse wrote. GCC states areexpected to record a shortfall of $318 billion in 2015 and 2016.
* Saudi Arabia and Egypt agreed to launch aninvestment fund with a capital of 60 billion Saudi riyals and made otherinvestment agreements as part of Saudi Arabia's strategy shift to focus more onfinancial support that will also aid the kingdom's return on investment,Reuters reported.Egypt's minister of international cooperation, Sahar Nasr, said thecountry also inked development agreements with Saudi Arabia worth $590 million.
* National Commercial Bank a year-over-year rise infirst-quarter profit to 2.63 billion Saudi riyals from 2.61 billion riyals onthe back of increases in net special commission income and income from bankingservices and foreign exchange.
* Banque Saudi Fransi posteda first-quarter net profit of 1.08 billion riyals, up from 1.05 billion riyalsin the year-ago period, while Saudi British Bank reporteda first-quarter net profit of 1.14 billion riyals, compared to 1.12 billionriyals a year earlier.
* Fitch Ratings downgraded Saudi Arabia's long-term foreign- andlocal-currency issuer default ratings to AA- from AA, citing the downwardrevision of its oil price assumptions for 2016 and 2017 to $35 per barrel and$45 per barrel, respectively, which has major negative implications for SaudiArabia's fiscal and external balances. The agency said the country'sbanking sector remains healthy, although the weaker economic climate hasstarted to affect profitability.
* Standard & Poor's Ratings Services, meanwhile,affirmed Saudi Arabia's A-/A-2 unsolicited long- and short-term foreign- andlocal-currency sovereign credit ratings, with a stable outlook, noting that itexpects the country's external and government balancesheet positions to remain strong over 2016 to 2019.
* Moody's saidthe Central Bank of Oman's late-March decisionto ease the eligibility criteria of lenders' reserves, to provide greaterflexibility for banks in liquidity management, credit deployment andinvestments, is credit-negative for Omani lenders because it will negativelyaffect their asset quality and solvency. "The change will alsonegatively affect banks' capitalization buffers, given our expectation of areduction in their risk-adjusted capital ratios resulting from the increase inprivate lending or in government securities investment," Moody's added.
* Oman's centralbank this week raisedthe maximum permissible limit on investment in government development bonds andsukuk to 45% from 30% of a bank's net worth, with effect from April 1, toprovide licensed banks with enhanced opportunities for investing surplus moneybeyond the stipulated lending ratio limitation.
* The Qatar Central Bank set the ceiling on openpositions that the country's lenders can hold in U.S. dollars at 25% of capitaland reserves, and also set a 5% ceiling for all other foreign currencies, foran aggregate ceiling of 30%, accordingto Reuters. Lenders have 12 months to comply with the new rules.
* Moody's said executive instructions for the Qatariinsurance sector and principles of governance of the country's insurance firms issuedby the central bank are credit-positive, as they will bolster several creditcharacteristics, including asset quality, capital and reserve adequacy, ThePeninsula Qatar noted."The QCB's instructions aim to ensure the stability andsustainability of the insurance industry by improving the solvency of the 31insurance companies operating in Qatar," Moody's added.
* Turkey's Banking Regulation and Supervision Agencyapproved the transferof the 99.81% stake held by NationalBank of Greece SA, NBGI Holdings BV and in Finansbank AS to Qatar National Bank SAQ.
* Investment firm Dubai Group, which is controlled by ,is said to have tapped Emirates NBD PJSC to look for a buyer for itsstake in SHUAA CapitalPSC. Dubai Group owns a 48% stake inSHUAA Capital worth approximately $100 million.
* Israeli Supervisor of Banks Hedva Ber is lookingat increasing the maximum stake institutional investors can own in Israelilenders, Haaretz reported.The consideration comes after recent data published by and revealed that the country's institutional investors are nearing the stockceiling for both banks, which is set at 5%.
* The Bank of England's Prudential RegulationAuthority imposed a fine of nearly £1.4 million on unit QIB (UK) Plc for "significant failings" inassessing, maintaining and reporting its financial resources. Accordingly, the bank wastemporarily significantly undercapitalized and open to higher levels of riskthan it had appreciated.
* Iranian government spokesman Mohammad BaqerNowbakht toldMehr News Agency that the government is determined to clear piles ofoutstanding debts to lenders in the fiscal year starting March 20 or by thenext year at the latest to allow banks to lend at lower rates. Iran is lookingat several options to reform the country's banking system and boost banks'lending ability, he added.
* In addition, Reuters that Iran's government is lookingat ways to reduce its direct borrowing from banks and instead source fundingfrom capital markets.
* Hussein Yaqoubi, the Iranian central bank's deputyfor international affairs, said Iran and Turkey agreed to establish a jointbanking committee comprising four state-owned and four private lenders fromeach country to "revive two-way banking relations to pre-sanctionslevel," the Islamic Republic News Agency reported.The two countries also intend to set up a joint lender, Mahmoud Vaezi, Iran'sminister of communications and IT, toldHabertürk.
* Central Bank ofIran Governor Valiollah Seif also called for the expansion of bankingcooperation with Kazakhstan by setting up branches of both countries' lendersin each of the territories to restore bilateral banking links, Mehr News Agencywrote.And Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said Italy will send a specialmission of banks to Iran to follow up on some 50 trade agreements betweenItalian and Iranian firms, Reuters reported. Managing DirectorMohammad Kazem Chaghazardi said Italy's central bank authorized the lender toreopen its branch in Rome, Tasnim News Agency wrote.
* Saudi Arabia-based appointedAhmed Ghouth CEO. Ghouth has been deputy CEO for more than six years. AmmarShata, founder of the asset management and investment firm, will continue asexecutive director.
* AhliBank QSC issued a debut international bond of $500 million.The lender set final price thoughts for the five-year bond at 260 basispoints over midswaps.
* DohaBank Q.S.C. will seekshareholder approval to issue up to $3.0 billion in certificate of depositseither directly or through a special purpose vehicle guaranteed by the bank.The lender will also ask shareholders for approval to issue $2.0 billion ineuro commercial paper, with a maximum tenor of up to one year.
* Motaz Alangari is joining Morgan Stanley as head of investment banking for SaudiArabia from Samba FinancialGroup's Samba Capital.
* Lebanon's central bank banned the issuance and useof prepaid cards that do not carry the name of the user in a bid to fight moneylaundering and terrorism, The Daily Star reported.
* Egyptian FinancialSupervisory Authority head Sherif Sami said the acquisition of byBeltone Financial HoldingSAE would be delayed pending resolution of a court appeal byshareholders of CI Capital and parent Commercial International Bank (Egypt) SAE, protestingagainst selling their shares, Reuters reported.
* Morocco's Attijariwafa Bank SA will reportedly 's stake in BanqueInternationale pour le Commerce et l'Investissement du Gabon, signaling theFrench bank's retreat from Gabon. Attijariwafa Bank will run thelargest banking network in Gabon, since it already owns .
* S&P affirmed its BBB-/A-3 long- and short-termforeign- and local-currency sovereign credit ratings on Morocco, with a stableoutlook, saying it expects public finance reforms to proceed, while fiscal andcurrent account deficits continue to decline over the next few years amidimproving economic growth.
* Tunisia lawmakersapproved a law that will enhance the Central Bank of Tunisia's autonomy fromthe government and allow the central bank to have absolute control overmonetary policy, currency reserves and gold reserves, Reuters reported.The law will also permit the government to establish a committee that willexamine the central bank in case of any suspicions of corruption or criminalactions.
S&P Ratings andGlobal Market Intelligence are owned by McGraw Hill Financial Inc.