* In its latest Global Economic Prospects report, the World Bank said it expects global growth to slow to 2.9% in 2019 due to an increase in downside risks, including the possibility of disorderly financial market movements and escalating trade disputes. Growth in the Middle East and North Africa is expected to follow a recovery in 2018 and rise slightly to 1.9% in 2019, supported by improvements in both oil exporters and oil importers. In the sub-Saharan Africa region, growth is forecasted to pick up to 3.4% this year.
* Kuwait's Public Institution for Social Security filed a $156 million lawsuit against Man Group Plc and its units, claiming that the U.K. asset manager had "secret contracts" with a former executive of the pension fund between 1996 to 2013, Reuters reported. Man Group said it will dispute any claim and intends defend any proceedings, according to the Financial Times.
* Troubled Dubai-based private equity firm Abraaj Group Ltd. will convert its $10 million loan stock in Nigeria-based C&I Leasing Plc into equity. Abraaj will get a 70% stake in the Nigerian firm through the conversion, Bloomberg News noted. Upon completion, C&I Leasing CEO Andrew Otike-Odibi said the company could potentially undertake a rights issue or an IPO to dilute the Dubai firm's holdings to around 30%, according to Bloomberg.
* Al Baraka Banking Group BSC President and CEO Adnan Ahmed Yousif said the Bahrain-based lender is seeking to expand its presence in Asia, specifically in Malaysia, China and Indonesia, as part of its medium-term strategic plan, The Star wrote.
* Very few insurance companies in the area covered by the Conférence Interafricaine des Marchés d'Assurances have carried out the capital increases recommended by the regulator ahead of the upcoming May deadline, Agence Ecofin reported.
GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL
* BNP Paribas, Citigroup, HSBC, JPMorgan and NCB Capital have arranged Saudi Arabia's $7.5 billion bond issuance, the country's first foreign debt sale since the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018, The Wall Street Journal reported. Insiders said the issuance attracted $27 billion in orders, despite international outrage over Khashoggi's death.
* Dubai Islamic Bank PJSC has hired lenders, including First Abu Dhabi Bank and Sharjah Islamic Bank, to arrange a potential issuance of Islamic bonds expected to be of benchmark size, according to Reuters.
* The Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange announced changes on ownership limits for United Fidelity Insurance Co. PSC, which indicate that 51% to 100% of the firm should be owned by UAE nationals and GCC citizens, while foreign citizens will be allowed to own no more than 49%. A similar foreign ownership limit also applies to AXA Green Crescent Insurance Co. PJSC.
* Qatar National Bank QPSC is raising a €2 billion syndicated loan, Reuters reported, citing fixed-income news service LPC.
* Oman Investment & Finance Co. SAOG appointed Vikas Pitti its new CFO, effective Jan. 9.
REST OF MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA
* First International Bank of Israel Ltd.'s ticker symbol on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange was changed to FIBI from FTIN, while that of its parent company and major shareholder, FIBI Holdings Ltd., was changed to FIBIH from FIBI.
* First International Bank of Israel is reducing its staff, with up to 180 employees leaving the lender under a voluntary retirement program, Globes reported. Affected staff would receive compensation of up to 170%.
* Fitch Ratings affirmed Bank Hapoalim BM's ratings, including its A/F1 long- and short-term issuer default ratings. The outlook on the long-term rating is stable.
* PGGM has reportedly taken off five Israeli lenders from its blacklist, The Jerusalem Post wrote, citing news magazine Nieuw Israëlietisch Weekblad. The Dutch pensions group had divested from all five major Israeli banks due to "ethical concerns" relating to their presence or actions in the West Bank.
EAST AND WEST AFRICA
* Consolidated Bank of Kenya Ltd. CEO Thomas Kiyai said the lender will launch its bancassurance unit before March-end, in a bid to diversify its sources of revenue and improve earnings, Business Daily Africa reported.
* AfricInvest raised its stake in Kenyan insurance group Britam Holdings PLC to 16.26%, Business Daily Africa wrote.
* Zenith Bank PLC CEO Peter Amangbo said the Nigerian lender is pushing a retail strategy that focuses on boosting lending to individuals, small businesses and households at affordable interest rates, Vanguard wrote.
* African Development Bank approved a $14.12 million facility to support Nigeria's membership in the African Trade Insurance Agency, paving the way for the pan-African institution to begin its operations in Nigeria.
* First Atlantic Bank Ltd. said it exceeded the 400 million cedi minimum capital requirement set by the Bank of Ghana by 2018-end, Joy Business reported. The lender has obtained central bank approval to merge with Ghanaian peer Energy Commercial Bank Ghana Ltd.
CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN AFRICA
* A South African court ruled that former Mozambican Finance Minister Manuel Chang's detention in South Africa on U.S. charges over $2 billion of fraudulent loans to state-owned firms was legal, Reuters reported.
* Standard Bank de Angola SA became the first company to have its debt securities traded on the local stock exchange, Expansão reported. The bank issued some 4.7 billion kwanzas in three-year bonds with an annual interest rate of 17% as part of a debt program totaling 9.5 billion kwanzas. Of the issuance, bonds worth some 700 million kwanzas had been traded subsequently on the Bodiva exchange.
IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD
Asia-Pacific: CITIC Securities in M&A deal; China to launch medium-term lending facility
Europe: UK faces new hard-Brexit hurdle; Deutsche eyes bonus cut; Carige taps state aid
Latin America: Banco do Brasil may IPO asset management arm; Itaú Corpbanca fine reduced
North America: Blackstone-backed auto lender going public; Citi plans majority-owned Chinese JV
Global Insurance: MetLife's new CEO; sidecars renewed after ILS slump; new state health plans
Deza Mones, Henni Abdelghani, Sophie Davies and Helen Popper contributed to this report.
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