* Malaysian state-backed lender Industrial Development Finance is exploring a potential merger with the local unit of Saudi Arabia-based Al Rajhi Banking & Investment Corp., insiders told Arabian Business. A deal could reportedly create an entity with combined net assets of about 1.5 billion ringgit to 2.5 billion ringgit.
GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL
* Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates Governor Mubarak Rashed al-Mansoori said interbank rates in the country dropped in the last three months due to good liquidity in the money market, Reuters reported.
* Al-Mansoori also said the UAE and Saudi Arabia have begun using financial technology for cross-border settlements, and that the UAE's central bank is drawing up a strategic plan aimed at developing fintech that will be supported by a legislative and regulatory framework, Reuters noted.
* Fitch Ratings said the murder of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi is unlikely to have an impact on its assessment of the country's credit risk, Reuters reported.
* A.M. Best affirmed insurer Solidarity Bahrain BSC's B++ (Good) financial strength rating and "bbb" long-term issuer credit rating, with stable and positive outlooks, respectively.
* Kuwait's central bank has obliged local banks to use security system developed by the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, or SWIFT, to increase security against cyberattacks, Al-Qabas reported.
REST OF MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA
* Commercial banks in Lebanon are offering customers higher interest rates on the Lebanese pound to dissuade them from converting their deposits to U.S. dollars and preserve the existing dollar liquidity held at correspondent banks, The Daily Star reported.
* Lebanon-based Bank Audi SAL said it agreed a $75 million trade financing deal with shareholder European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to facilitate foreign trade, Reuters reported.
* A.M. Best affirmed Jordan-based First Insurance Co.'s B++ (Good) financial strength rating and "bbb" long-term issuer credit rating, with stable and positive outlooks, respectively.
* Fitch Ratings upgraded Union de Factoring's national long-term rating to BB+(tun) from BB(tun) and downgraded that of Tunisie Leasing & Factoring SA to BBB(tun) from BBB+(tun), while affirming the ratings of five other Tunisian leasing companies.
* A recent decision by Egypt's finance ministry to allow the customs dollar exchange rate for non-essential and luxury goods to be set by the country's central bank will lead to higher costs in the insurance market, particularly the auto and medical insurance sectors, Middle East Insurance Review noted, citing industry experts.
* Industrial Development and Workers Bank aims to pump 5 billion Egyptian pounds into small businesses during 2019, Amwal Al Ghad reported, citing Tarek Galal, the Egyptian state-run lender's head for the SMEs sector.
EAST AND WEST AFRICA
* Nigeria's Minister of Budget Udoma Udo Udoma said he expects Nigeria's economy to grow 2% in 2018 and 3% in 2019, Reuters reported.
* Diamond Bank PLC's shareholders are urging Nigerian regulators to prevent the loss of their investments after a letter supposedly written by former Chairman Oluseyi Bickerstheth revealed how directors fired from the lender resisted corporate governance abuse allegedly carried out by some of the bank's executives, including CEO Uzoma Dozie, Business Post reported. Bickerstheth also said there were efforts to allow Access Bank PLC to take over the lender.
* Alhaji Baba Tela has retired as an independent nonexecutive director of Nigeria-based Zenith Bank PLC's board, effective Oct. 2, following the expiration of his term.
* Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is set to arraign on Dec. 17 First Bank Executive Director Dauda Lawal and Fidelity Bank Managing Director Nnamdi Okonkwo before the Federal High Court in Lagos over charges that they allegedly assisted former Minister of Petroleum Resources Diezani Alison-Madueke in hiding $153 million in 2015, Business Post reported.
* Meanwhile, Tunde Ayeni, former chairman of Skye Bank PLC, is in the custody of the EFCC for questioning related to the collapse of the lender, Business Post wrote.
* CalBank Ltd. is seeking shareholder approval to increase its capital to 400 million Ghanaian cedis from 350 million cedis through the transfer of 50 million cedis of income surplus, Joy Business reported.
* Agricultural Development Bank Ltd. will hold an extraordinary general meeting next week to seek shareholder approval to raise at least 450 million cedis through a renounceable rights issue to meet the Bank of Ghana's minimum capital requirement ahead of the December-end deadline, Joy Business wrote.
* Ecobank Transnational Inc. has selected Ghana-based mobile payments firm MFS Africa Ltd. as its partner for digital payments, Business Post reported.
* A Nigerian court yesterday adjourned until Jan. 22, 2019, a case related to the dispute between MTN Group Ltd. and the country's central bank over the telecommunications firm's transfer of $8.1 billion funds in alleged violation of foreign exchange rules, Reuters reported. The move comes as the two sides continue efforts to reach an out-of-court settlement, a central bank lawyer told the court.
CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN AFRICA
* South Africa-based Investec Bank Ltd. named Philip Alan Hourquebie an independent nonexecutive director of its board, effective Dec. 12. Meanwhile, Glynn Robert Burger stepped down as an executive director of the bank, but will remain with the lender as group risk and finance director until his retirement on March 31, 2019.
* Mozambique's Moza Banco SA is to get a capital injection of 3 billion meticais, equivalent to roughly $50 million, in the coming days due to the entry of the Arise investment fund into the bank's share capital, Jornal Notícias reported, citing a report in the Carta newspaper. It will come at a time when the bank is recovering following acute solvency problems in 2016 that led the central bank to take control of its management.
* Angola's troubled Banco Angolano de Negócios e Comércio SA has limited customer withdrawals to 10,000 kwanzas per day due to a liquidity crunch and closed nine branches last week, O País reported.
* Moody's assigned Botswana-based Letshego Holdings Ltd. local-and foreign-currency corporate family ratings of Ba2 and affirmed the company's long- and short-term local- and foreign-currency issuer ratings at Ba3/NP, while withdrawing the stable outlook on the long-term rating, among other ratings actions on several finance companies in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
* Abdelwafi Atif has been named CEO of Banque des Mascareignes Ltée and Sangeetha Ramkelawon deputy CEO, Financial Afrik reported.
IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD
Asia-Pacific: Anbang sells 35% stake in local bank; Bandhan Bank gets nod to open 40 branches
Europe: UK's May faces no-confidence vote; French banks move to appease protesters
Latin America: Fitch ups Paraguay outlook; US probes Grupo Aval over road project
North America: Morgan Stanley to lead Uber's 2019 IPO; Berkshire Hills, SI Financial ink deal
Global Insurance: US-UK covered agreement; AIG returns to CLOs; Federal Life completes conversion
Sheryl Obejera, Henni Abdelghani, Sophie Davies and Helen Popper 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.