* The World Bank Group trimmed its global growth forecast for 2019 and 2020, saying that while the economy is headed for a modest rebound this year, the outlook remains fragile amid persisting headwinds. Economic growth for 2019 is now estimated at 2.4%, marking the slowest pace of expansion since the global financial crisis, the World Bank said in its semi-annual Global Economic Prospects report. The revised forecasts represent a 0.2-percentage-point cut from the World Bank's previous estimates for 2019 and 2020. The World Bank also expects regional growth in the Middle East and North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa to accelerate to 2.4% and 2.9%, respectively, in 2020.
GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL
* United Arab Emirates-based Goldilocks Investment Co. Ltd. reduced its stake in GFH Financial Group BSC to 0.39% from 0.82% in 2019. As a result, Abu Dhabi Financial Group's direct and indirect holding in GFH declined to 9.69% from 10.12%.
* Abu Dhabi-based Arab Monetary Fund launched the process of integrating participants into the Buna payment platform for central and commercial banks, which will initially support the U.S. dollar and the euro, Mubasher reported.
* Reham Sultan has assumed her position as acting group head of compliance at Burgan Bank KPSC.
* The extraordinary general meeting of Al Aman Investment Co. KPSC has approved the merger with The Securities House KSCP for a swap rate of 1.403 for every share of Al Aman Investment, with March 1 as the date for receiving the share.
* Kuwait's Capital Markets Authority has issued a disciplinary action against Amwal International Investment Co. KSCP for hiring NCM Capital to provide clients with foreign exchange trading accounts, despite registering Nabila Mohammed Kamal Abdulfattah as fund manager.
* Kuwait's CMA also issued a disciplinary action against Osoul Investment Co. KSCP for not updating the list of insiders within five days of any changes. The company's operations director resigned in August 2019 but was not reflected on the list.
* Kuwaiti private equity firm Al Madina for Finance and Investment Co. KSCP said it will carry out several measures to address its accumulated losses during the 2020 fiscal year, including restructuring its shares in associate companies to boost its share of net profits.
* Bahraini insurer Bahrain National Holding Co. BSC named Masood Bader deputy CEO, effective Jan. 1. Bader's appointment is part of a wider restructuring of the company's senior management structure.
* A.M. Best upgraded Solidarity Bahrain BSC's long-term issuer credit rating to "bbb+" from "bbb" and revised the outlook on the rating to stable from positive. The rating agency also affirmed the insurer's B++ financial strength rating, with a stable outlook.
REST OF MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA
* The Bank of Israel kept its benchmark interest rate unchanged at 0.25%, saying it will be necessary to keep rates at their current level or reduce them to support a process that will see inflation stabilize at the midpoint of the central bank's target range. Governor Amir Yaron said the central bank would have to see a more significant deterioration in economic activity before it lowers short-term rates, Reuters wrote.
* The Israeli government sold a total of $3 billion of U.S. dollar-denominated bonds in an issuance that saw demand reach a record $20 billion and attracted more than 400 investors from 40 countries, Reuters reported, citing the finance ministry.
* Lebanese central bank Governor Riad Salamé said local banks are not at risk of going bankrupt and that deposits remain secure but the country needs foreign support to recover from its ongoing economic and financial crisis, Reuters reported, citing Salamé's interview with broadcaster MTV. Salamé also said banks' efforts to expand abroad will be reviewed and that lenders will "regroup themselves and their capacities in Lebanon."
* A.M. Best upgraded Jordan-based First Insurance Co.'s long-term issuer credit rating to "bbb+" from "bbb" and revised the outlook on the rating to stable from positive. The rating agency also affirmed the company's B++ financial strength rating, with a stable outlook.
* Jordan Insurance Federation President Majed Smeirat said several issues in a proposed new insurance law, including provisions that could result in additional costs for insurers, have to be addressed before it is enacted, Middle East Insurance Review reported, citing Em News.
* Misr Insurance Holding Co. is looking to set up a joint venture with Banque Misr (SAE) and National Bank of Egypt (SAE) this month to create a new life takaful insurance firm, insiders told Amwal Al Ghad. The new company will be 75%-owned by Misr Insurance Holding.
* Egypt's Financial Regulatory Authority has ordered local insurers to include all commissions, rewards or incentives for insurance brokers in insurance contracts to boost transparency after it received complaints from several insurers and policyholders on malpractices, Middle East Insurance Review wrote.
EAST AND WEST AFRICA
* Kenyan analysts expect the country's stocks to rise by up to 15% in the first half following the government's removal of a cap on local bank interest rates in November 2019, Bloomberg News wrote. Cytonn Investments Management Ltd. CEO Edwin Dande said the repeal of the cap will allow lenders to price loans based on borrowers' credit risk and consequently benefit from higher net interest margins.
* Kenyan bank KCB Group PLC has injected 5 billion shillings into unit National Bank of Kenya Ltd., which the group acquired last year, boosting the unit's financial resources and allowing it to meet capital adequacy requirements. Reuters covered.
* Cytonn Asset Managers Ltd., an affiliate of Kenya-based Cytonn Investments Management, has abandoned its credit rating arrangement for its funds with South African rating agency GCR after the funds came under the regulation of the country's Capital Markets Authority, Business Daily Africa wrote.
* Nigeria's central bank retained the 65% minimum loan-to-deposit ratio requirement for local banks in the interim, saying it saw a significant increase in the size of gross credit deposit money banks provide to customers.
* Fitch Ratings revised the outlooks on United Bank for Africa Cameroon SA, United Bank for Africa (Ghana) Ltd. and United Bank for Africa Senegal SA to negative from stable, following a similar action on Nigeria-based parent United Bank for Africa PLC in December 2019.
* Tosin Runsewe resigned as an executive director of Nigeria-based AXA Mansard Insurance Plc, effective Jan. 31. Meanwhile, the company proposed the appointment of Rashidat Adebisi and Tope Adeniyi as executive directors of its board, subject to regulatory approval.
* NSIA Banque Managing Director Léonce Yace said the Côte d'Ivoire-based lender is looking to expand in the 12 west and central African nations where it has existing insurance businesses Bloomberg News reported. Yace added that the bank recently closed its acquisition of Benin-based Diamond Bank SA.
* The U.S. Treasury sanctioned South Sudanese First Vice President Taban Deng Gai over his involvement in serious human rights abuse, including the disappearance and deaths of opposition politician Aggrey Idry and human rights lawyer Dong Samuel Luak. The sanctions effectively freeze Gai's assets and prevent Americans from doing any business with him, Reuters noted.
CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN AFRICA
* Namibia's central bank president, Ipumbu Shiimi, said Isabel Dos Santos' 42.5% stake in Bank BIC Namibia Ltd. had not so far been affected by a freeze on the billionaire businesswoman's assets in neighboring Angola as part of a graft probe, Novo Jornal reported, citing a report in The Namibian. Bank BIC Namibia is part-owned by Angola's Banco BIC SA.
* Angolan central bank Governor José de Lima Massano called for patience among bank customers trying to buy foreign currency, saying the easing of controls on U.S. dollar purchases for overseas travel would take time, O País reported.
* Zimbabwe Stock Exchange approved amendments to rules on listings and market making sought by the country's Securities and Exchange Commission, which will allow the bourse to receive applications for listing of exchange traded funds and exchange traded notes, as well as process applications for prospective market makers.
* Société Commerciale de Banque Cameroun, a subsidiary of Morocco's Attijariwafa bank SA, appointed Alexandre Beziaud CEO, replacing Mohamed Mejbar, Financial Afrik reported. Beziaud was previously CEO of Société Générale Cameroun SA.
IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD
Asia-Pacific: Vietnam to raise 4 banks' capital; Westpac to review operations
Europe: Julius Bär faces €335M claim; new ABN Amro CEO; Santander pumps money into unit
Latin America: Argentine central bank eyes rate cuts; Banco Davivienda gets IFC loan
North America: Jefferies' fiscal Q4 results; AmEx unit eyes China ops; Wells to hike tech hires
Global Insurance: Voya held sale talks; 2019 was second-wettest for US; Suncorp bushfire claims
Erin Tanchico, Henni Abdelghani, Sophie Davies and Helen Popper contributed to this report.
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