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MENA news through Dec. 14

* Bahrain, Oman, Russia and eight other nonmembers of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed to reduce their oil production by a combined 558,000 barrels a day for a six-month period beginning in January 2017, just days after OPEC member countries decided to cut their own oil production by 1.2 million barrels a day.


* The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority raised the reverse repo rate to 75 basis points from 50 basis points with immediate effect, but kept the repo rate at 200 basis points, citing "recent developments" in domestic and international financial markets. The move followed the U.S. Federal Reserve's decision to raise, for only the second time since the 2008 global financial crisis, its key interest rate by 25 basis points.

* Also following the Fed's rate hike, the Central Bank of Kuwait raised its discount rate by 25 basis points to 2.50%, effective today, citing "movements in interest rates on major international currencies." The Bahraini central bank also raised by 25 basis points the policy interest rate on its one-week deposit facility to 1.00%, the overnight deposit rate to 0.75%, the one-month deposit rate to 1.50% and the lending rate to 2.75%, Reuters reported.

* The Saudi Arabian government authorized Japan-based Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi to open a branch in the country, according to the Saudi Press Agency. The government mandated the finance minister to decide on any subsequent request from the Japanese lender to open other branches in the country.

* Banks and other financial institutions in the UAE have advised expatriates that they will be required to collect clients' tax details beginning Jan. 1, 2017, due to the implementation of a new global policy designed to fight against cross-border tax evasion, Gulf News reported. Separately, the UAE's central bank revised its anti-money laundering regulation to prohibit the use of assumed names or numbers to open bank accounts.

* S&P Global Ratings downgraded Bahrain's long-term foreign- and local-currency sovereign credit ratings to BB- from BB, reflecting a reduction in the country's foreign exchange reserves.

* Bank Alkhair BSC (c) sold its stake in Pakistan's Burj Bank to Al Baraka Bank (Pakistan) Ltd., CPI Financial reported.

* Pakistani officials are set to review a proposal for the country's banks to establish branches in Iran, according to Pakistani lawmaker Muhammad Ijaz-ul-Haq, the Financial Tribune wrote.

* Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said Iran and Russia are discussing the possibility of creating a joint Islamic bank, according to Tasnim News Agency.

* Bank Mellat (Public JS) intends to launch a subsidiary in Malaysia and a branch in Georgia in the next two months, the Financial Tribune reported.

* Hedva Ber, supervisor of banks at the Israeli central bank, said she expects the banking sector to save at least 1 billion shekels annually from 2020 through cost cuts that include mandatory job cuts and branch closures, Reuters wrote. Israel's largest banks are expected to shed approximately 5,100 jobs over the next five years, or 10% of the total workforce, while some 200 branches, or 20% of the total, are due to be closed.

* Maharan Frozenfar, chairman of Israeli Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon's advisory committee, signaled that the government may not rush into approving China-based Fujian Yango Group Co. Ltd.'s acquisition of Phoenix Holdings Ltd. after casting doubts on the benefits of selling local insurers to Chinese firms, Bloomberg News reported. Frozenfar said it was "not clear what benefits" Chinese firms can provide with regard to managing pensions.

* Israeli investment house Halman-Aldubi signed a deal to launch a reverse merger with Soho Real Estate and list on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange under the name Halman-Aldubi Investment House, according to Reuters. Halman-Aldubi told the newswire that it plans to carry out the transaction by 2016-end.

* The Qatar Investment Authority will invest $10 billion in infrastructure projects in the U.S., insiders told Reuters. It is unclear if the amount will be part of the $35 billion that the sovereign wealth fund pledged to invest in unspecified projects in the U.S. between 2016 and 2021.

* Doha Bank QSC opened a representative office in Bangladesh, The Daily Star wrote.


* Egyptian central bank Governor Tarek Amer said there will be no interventions in the currency market to boost the pound, Reuters wrote, citing an interview published by business newsletter Enterprise. Egypt abandoned its peg to the U.S. dollar last month and has seen the local currency fall steadily since. Amer said: "We want this newborn child to start standing on its own feet and supporting itself."

* South Africa-based Sanlam Ltd. and majority-owned unit Santam Insurance Ltd. will increase their stake in Morocco-based Saham Finances SA by a further 16.6% to 46.6% for $329 million, plus transaction costs. Sanlam and Santam first acquired a 30% stake in Saham Finances in February.

* Moroccan Finance Minister Mohamed Boussaid said the country plans to issue its first Islamic bond in the first half of 2017. The size of the sukuk is still undecided.

* Algerian Finance Minister Hadji Baba Ammi said the government is looking into the possibility of opening subsidiaries of its national banks in other countries, particularly in the rest of Africa, Agence Ecofin wrote.

S&P Global Ratings and S&P Global Market Intelligence are owned by S&P Global Inc.

Sophie Davies contributed to this article.