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Oman bucks the Fed trend; bitcoin piques Nigeria's interest

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

* Central Bank of Oman Executive President Hamood Sangour al-Zadjali tells Reuters that the regulator does not intend to "blindly" follow the U.S. Federal Reserve's decision to raise interest rates. "Even though the Omani rial is pegged to the U.S. dollar, the economic cycle in the U.S. is different from the local economic cycle," he said. Oman is the only GCC member that did not announce a rate hike following the Fed move.

* Fitch Ratings downgraded the long-term foreign-currency issuer default ratings of a number of Oman-based banks, primarily reflecting a change in the agency's assessment of the country's ability to support domestic lenders. The affected banks include Bank Dhofar SAOG, National Bank of Oman SAOG, Ahli Bank SAOG and Bank Sohar SAOG.

* Oil giant BP handed over shares worth roughly $2.2 billion to the Abu Dhabi government in exchange for a 10% stake in Abu Dhabi Co. for Onshore Petroleum Operations, The Daily Telegraph of the U.K. reports. The shares represent a 2% stake in BP, making the Abu Dhabi government one of the largest shareholders in the oil company.

* Kuwait's central bank is set to issue the new legislation regarding the corporate governance of Islamic banks in the next few days, Al-Qabas writes.

* Kuwait's Capital Market Authority granted Gulf Bank K.S.C.P. the license to operate securities market activities, Reuters reports.

* Development Bank plans to gain control of Ibdar Bank B.S.C. (c) by buying the stakes held by Ibdar's Kuwaiti owners, Al-Jarida writes.

* Bank al Etihad's board approved a proposal to increase the bank's capital to 160 million dinars from 125 million dinars, Reuters notes.

* Ajman Bank PJSC and Takaful Emarat Insurance PSC signed a cooperation agreement under which the Shariah-compliant life and health insurance provider will offer its services to the bank's clients, CPI Financial reports.

* The commercial sector in Jordan renewed its decision to not implement social health insurance, saying it will add more pressure on the sector, Adustour writes.

* National Takaful Co. (Watania) said Khaled A. Al Khoori resigned as chairman of the board.

* Al Alamiya for Cooperative Insurance Co. said Adel Bin Al Sheikh submitted his resignation as a nonexecutive director representing Riyad Bank.

* Saudi British Bank elected a new board of directors for a three-year term beginning Jan. 1, 2017. Four members represent foreign partner HSBC Holdings Plc.

* Egypt's Housing & Development Bank has gone live with the Temenos core banking platform, Daily News Egypt reports.

* Limited investment opportunities have constrained the growth of Egypt's banks, Daily News Egypt reports, citing bankers. After the devaluation of the currency, liquidity of roughly 64 billion Egyptian pounds has entered the system, with few places to go.

* Meanwhile, Banque Misr - SAE signed a memorandum of understanding with Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd. for a $500 million loan that will be used to boost dollar liquidity in Egypt and finance joint Egyptian-Chinese projects, Reuters reports. The Egyptian lender also signed a framework agreement worth $500 million with China Export and Credit Insurance Corp.

EAST AND WEST AFRICA

* Nigeria Deposit Insurance Commission Managing Director Alhaji Umaru Ibrahim indicated that the commission and the Central Bank of Nigeria established a committee to look into bitcoin with a view to legalizing the digital currency's use in transactions, NTA reports.

* Nigeria's overnight lending rate declined to around 3% last week from an average of 3.9% a week earlier amid expectations that budget cash will be injected into the banking system, Reuters reports. Nigeria on Thursday distributed 387 billion naira of revenue among the three tiers of government, with a portion allocated to state and local governments passing through the banking system.

* Economist Godfred Bokpin called on the Bank of Ghana to assess the formula it uses in calculating the policy rate, saying that the current method is ineffective, Citi Business News reports.

* Access Bank Plc unit Access Bank (Ghana) Ltd. will officially list on the Ghana Stock Exchange on Dec. 21 after raising the minimum subscription required for its IPO to be deemed successful, Citi Business News reports. The bank raised 29.62 million cedis, lower than its initial target of 104 million cedis but higher than the minimum requirement of 21 million cedis.

* Nigerian Minister of Agriculture Audu Ogbe said Nigeria will restructure Bank of Agriculture, giving it more funds to ensure that farmers can avail loans at single-digit rates, TVC News reports.

* Qatar National Bank SAQ has raised its stake in Ecobank Transnational Inc. by more than 60% over the last two years, The Nation notes.

* In Uganda, 17 insurance companies formed a consortium to cover oil and gas risks, Agence Ecofin reports.

* BOA Capital launched West Africa's first bond index, designed with assistance from Banque Marocaine du Commerce Exterieur -SA and Bank of Africa, Agence Ecofin reports.

CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN AFRICA

* Deutsche Bank AG, the only lender that was still providing dollar clearing services in Angola, halted the service in mid-November, Bloomberg News says. Angola's central bank is said to be encouraging the use of euros, the South African rand and the Chinese yuan.

* Banco de Moçambique Governor Rogério Zandamela sought to reassure customers of Moza Banco SA that their deposits are safe now that the lender is under central bank administration, O País reports. Worried savers continue to pull cash out of the bank, which was put under control of the monetary authority in late September, but Zandamela said Moza Banco was now "one of the safest banks in the system."

* Meanwhile, Moza Banco, Mozambique's fourth-largest lender, opened three new branches as part of a government initiative to expand the use of banking services across the country, Jornal Notícias reports. Banco Comercial e de Investimento SA has also opened several new branches as part of the "One District, One Bank" program, which aims to extend access to financial services to 35% of the population by 2022.

* Congo-Kinshasa is attempting to convince the governor of the Banque Centrale du Congo, Deogratias Mutombo, to give parliamentary testimony about the state of Banque Internationale pour l'Afrique au Congo, Le Potentiel says. BIAC, Congo's third-largest lender by assets, was placed under supervision earlier this year, with a cap imposed on withdrawals.

IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD

Asia-Pacific: Bank of Singapore mulls opening UK bank; National Australia Bank sues Google

Xana Kakoty, Henni Abdelghani, Pádraig Belton and Helen Popper 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.