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MENA news through July 28

* Fitch Ratings revised its ratings on several sovereigns in Europe, theMiddle East and Africa to reflect its revised sovereign criteria. Among otheractions, the agency assigned Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia short-termlocal-currency issuer default ratings of F1+.

* The Islamic Financial Services Board and the Arab MonetaryFund signeda memorandum of understanding to establish and implement a nonexclusiveframework to promote programs and initiatives that foster the development ofthe Islamic finance sector in the Arab region. The MOU will last for an initialthree-year period.

* HSBCHoldings Plc's Middle East unit named Georges Elhedery CEO for the Middle East and NorthAfrica. Elhedery will also serve as deputy chairman of


* Mohammed al-Jadaan, chairman of Saudi Arabia's CapitalMarket Authority, said the kingdom could allow foreign investors to hold largerstakes in listed firms much earlier than expected, The Wall Street Journal reported."Possibly we will implement it well ahead of what we said, in June 2017.It might be in this year," he said.

* The Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange and the Abu Dhabi GlobalMarket signeda memorandum of understanding to strengthen their bilateral cooperation. Thestock market and the international financial center will look into thepossibility of establishing a financial exchange on the ADGM's Al-Maryah Islandsite, The National said.

* BLOMBANK SAL is intalks with HSBC to acquire the U.K.-based group's Lebanese unit.

* NationalBank of Abu Dhabi PJSC reported a year-over-year in second-quarter unaudited netprofit to 1.38 billion United Arab Emirates dirhams from 1.45 billion dirhams.

* First Gulf Bank posted unaudited profit attributable to equity holdersof the bank of 1.31 billion dirhams in the second quarter, down from 1.45billion dirhams in the same period in 2015. 

* Meanwhile, NBAD CEO Alex Thursby said he would not be apart of the leadership team of the entity arising from the merger between NBADand First Gulf BankPJSC, Reuters noted.

* DubaiIslamic Bank (PJSC) recorded a year-over-year increase in second-quarter net profit attributable toowners of the bank to 928.9 million dirhams from 902.0 million dirhams.

* KuwaitFinance House KSCP reported first-half net profit of 70.9 million dinars,up from 62.3 million dinars in the year-ago period. The company appointed AhmedSaudi al-Kharji president of finance.

* Arab BankingCorp. (BSC) reported second-quarter profit attributable to theshareholders of the parent of $60 million, up from $44 million in the sameperiod a year ago.

* Bad debt weighed on the profitability of banks in the UAE,with several lenders posting an increase in provisions in the first halfcompared to the same period in 2015, Argaam wrote.

* NationalCommercial Bank's board recommended a of 60 Saudi Arabian halalas pershare for the first half, down from 80 halalas paid for the year-ago period.

* Central Bank of Iran Governor Valiollah Seif said twodraft laws on banking, namely the central bank reform bill and the usury-freebanking bill, or the banking reform bill, are now being finalized and will besent to parliament by late August, the Financial Tribune reported, citing ICANA.

* The Bank of Israel said in its latest semiannual financial stabilityreport that banks and insurance companies in the country remained stable up tothe first half but are exposed to the risk of sharp declines in the prices ofhomes and financial assets. 

* BankLeumi le-Israel BM will no longer extend its voluntary staffdeparture program this year to 1,000 from 700 after the Bank of Israel'sbanking supervision department rejected the lender's proposed terms, accordingto Haaretz.

* BankMellat (Public JS)' lawsuit against the U.K. Treasury oversanctions imposed on the lender in 2009 is slated to be heard in the U.K. HighCourt in October, the Financial Tribune wrote. The bank is seeking $4 billion in damages from theTreasury.

* WethaqTakaful Insurance Co. said full motor insurance sales declined lastyear in Kuwait due to a lack of awareness campaigns and illegal competitionamong insurance firms, as well as the increased commission charged by insurancebrokers, Al-Anbaa noted.


* Commercial International Bank (Egypt) SAE reportedconsolidated net profit after minorities of 1.46 billion pounds inthe second quarter, compared to 1.15 billion pounds in the year-agoperiod. Separately, the bank reduced the amount of foreign currency thatcan be spent and withdrawn by its customers abroad, effective Aug. 1, according to Reuters.

* U.K.-based Bupa plans to increase its market share in Egypt byupgrading existing products and creating new insurance policies, AmwalAl Ghad reported. Bupa Egypt also intends to increase capital inthe near term.

* EgyptianPresident Abdel Fattah el-Sisi vowed to solve the country's U.S. dollarshortage by year-end, suggesting an end to the central bank's intervention inpropping up the Egyptian pound, Daily News Egypt wrote.

* Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail ordered central bankGovernor Tarek Amer and Finance Minister Amr el-Garhy to complete talks with anIMF team about a lending program to the country, Reuters reported. The government seeks to secure $7 billionannually over three years.

* The IMF Executive Board approved a two-year arrangement of approximately $3.47billion for Morocco under the institution's precautionary and liquidity line. 

* A surveyby the Moroccan central bank found that lending to the nonfinancial sector grewonly 0.8% in 2015 while the cumulative net profit of banks decreased6.5%, La Nouvelle Tribune reported. The banks' overall Tier 1 capital ratio wasaround 11.8% while their solvency ratio was 13.7% under Basel III rules.

* Tunisianlender Amen Bankdecided to draw on its reserves to increase its share capital by 5.1 milliondinars, creating slightly more than 1 million new shares with a par value of 5dinars each and offering them at a 1:24 ratio to holders of the 24.4 millionexisting shares, Financial Afrik said.

HenniAbdelghani and Pádraig Belton contributed to this report.