MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA
* Saudi Arabia's cabinet approved the country's first modern bankruptcy law, supporting a government bid to attract more investors and restructure its oil-dependent economy, insiders told Reuters. The new law is intended to help companies with debt restructuring and create a more investor-friendly climate ahead of the government's planned multibillion asset sales in 2018 such as the Saudi Aramco IPO.
* Swiss Bankers Association Chairman Herbert Scheidt said his country has not seen any major movement of funds from Saudi Arabia following the Middle Eastern nation's anticorruption crackdown, Reuters wrote. He added that there had been no discussions with the Saudi Arabian government about freezing assets by top officials and businessmen detained last year as part of its probe.
* National Commercial Bank secured approval from Saudi Arabia's Capital Market Authority to increase its capital to 30 billion riyals by transferring 10 billion riyals from its retained earnings, Argaam noted.
* Saudi Arabia's Social Development Bank appointed Ibrahim bin Hamad Al-Rashid as new director general of the bank, replacing Abdullah Abdul Rahman Al-Namlah, Argaam reported.
* Riyad Bank said it will pay an additional zakat claim of 3.5 billion Saudi Arabian riyals for the years 2008 to 2013 after the Saudi General Authority of Zakat and Tax introduced a new accounting method for banks' long-term investments, Argaam noted. Meanwhile, Bank AlBilad said it will pay 615.3 million riyals of additional zakat levy for the period from 2006 to 2014.
* The board of Metlife - AIG - ANB Cooperative Insurance Co. proposed to reduce the company's capital by 48.57% to 180 million Saudi Arabian riyals from 350 million riyals through the cancellation of 17 million shares, Argaam noted. The move is aimed at offsetting 170 million riyals in accumulated losses.
* The Co. for Cooperative Insurance (Tawuniya) said it has received a warning from the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority over the lack of dealing with customer complaints. SAMA gave the insurer 20 days to address the issue or face regulatory sanctions.
* The strong growth in net interest and fee and commission income of the four largest banks in the United Arab Emirates — First Abu Dhabi Bank PJSC, Emirates NBD Bank PJSC, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank PJSC and Dubai Islamic Bank (PJSC) — helped drive higher net profits in the fourth quarter of 2017 despite higher provisioning and operating costs, according to Moody's.
* Emirates NBD Bank PJSC is looking to submit its bid for PAO Sberbank of Russia's Turkish unit, DenizBank AS, in March, insiders told Bloomberg News. The Russian lender, however, could take several months before deciding whether to sell the unit.
* Meanwhile, Tariq Bin Hendi, executive vice president and acting chief investment officer of Emirates NBD, said he expects the Gulf Cooperation Council countries to put in place a regulatory framework for digital currencies "very soon," Zawya reported. Meanwhile, the Central Bank of Iran dismissed reports that it has recognized bitcoin and other virtual currencies as an official means of payment, and warned of severe fluctuations in the value of cryptocurrencies, Mehr News Agency wrote.
* First Abu Dhabi Bank PJSC launched "payit," said to be the country's first fully featured digital wallet, in support of the country's efforts to become a cashless economy, news agency WAM wrote.
* GFH Financial Group BSC said Vice Chairman Ahmed Al-Mutawa has resigned from the board membership at GFH, Khaleeji Commercial Bank BSC and GFH Capital Ltd.
* Al Baraka Banking Group BSC has promoted Ahmed Abdul Ghaffar as senior vice president of investor relations, Hassan Ibrahim Al-Daoudi to deputy director of compliance department, and Ahmed Albalooshi to senior vice president of the IT department, Al-Ayam reported.
* Kuwait Finance House KSCP subsidiary KFH Capital said that its proposal for a market player license is still under internal process, and that it has not submitted yet any formal request to regulatory authorities, Al-Qabas reported.
* Law amendments to Egypt's Capital Markets Act passed by lawmakers last week is credit positive for the country's banks as the increased capital market activity will boost banks' income while also providing funding options, according to Moody's, Egypt Today wrote.
* Morocco's CIH Bank, a subsidiary of Caisse de Dépôt et de Gestion, is to launch mobile payment systems in March, Financial Afrik wrote. It will become the first Moroccan bank to do so.
EAST AND WEST AFRICA
* Interest rates on loans in Ghana will continue to be high until competition among the country's banks improves, according to economist Ebo Turkson, Citi Business News wrote.
* The European Investment Bank is expected to confirm a €69 million investment in Rwanda this week, according to CNBC Africa.
CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN AFRICA
* Jacob Zuma's resignation as South Africa's president reduces the risk of "policy paralysis" in the country, but uncertainty persists over whether his successor, Cyril Ramaphosa, will be able to implement measures aimed at significantly improving economic growth and fiscal policy, according to Fitch Ratings.
* South Africa's finance ministry will tomorrow set out tough measures in the country's 2018 budget to help narrow its deficit and plug the revenue shortfall, Reuters wrote.
* Magda Wierzycka, head of Cape Town-based Sygnia Asset Management, is offering hundreds of thousands of rand in reward for information regarding the whereabouts of fugitive Ajay Gupta, a member of the Gupta family which is accused of using their relationship with former President Jacob Zuma to obtain lucrative state contracts, Bloomberg News reported.
* Capitec Bank Holdings Ltd. CEO Gerrie Fourie said business at the company is "back to normal" weeks after it was accused by Viceroy Research of concealing loan losses and underestimating bad debts, Bloomberg News wrote. He added that the firm is exploring opportunities in South Africa's small- to medium-sized businesses, business banking and insurance sectors.
* The new U.S. ambassador to Angola, Nina Maria Fite, said American banks will only be able to resume dollar-clearing services in the African country once it has addressed concerns about corruption and transparency in the financial system, Novo Jornal reported. Angola's central bank, which conducts most foreign exchange operations in euros due to the shortage of greenbacks, is working with the International Monetary Fund to bring controls in line with international standards.
* Bank Windhoek Ltd. began trading of the Chinese currency renminbi or yuan notes in Namibia as part of efforts to increase business transactions with the Chinese community, Xinhua wrote.
IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD
Asia-Pacific: Bangladesh bourse picks Chinese bid; National Australia Bank to cut 1,000 jobs
Europe: Euronext FY'17 profit up 22.5%; Saga names new chairman; Fitch upgrades Greece
Latin America: Banrisul Q4'17 earnings spike; Rio under army control
Sheryl Obejera, Henni Abdelghani, Sophie Davies and Helen Popper contributed to this report.
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