* Julius Bär Gruppe AG is planning several acquisitions in the Middle East and Africa region as part of its global growth strategy, The National reported, citing the head of the Swiss banking group's emerging markets business, Rémy Bersier.
* U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he will not attend the Future Investment Initiative conference in Saudi Arabia, joining several other high-profile government and business leaders who have withdrawn amid public outcry over the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. U.K. International Trade Secretary Liam Fox also pulled out of the event, while Goldman Sachs said it will not send any executives to the conference, BBC News reported.
Meanwhile, top investment bankers at HSBC Holdings PLC, Société Générale SA and Credit Suisse Group AG are looking to attend the conference even though the banks' CEOs previously withdrew from the event, Bloomberg News reported. Morgan Stanley and Citigroup Inc. also expect to send executives.
* The Vision Fund of Japan-based SoftBank Group Corp. is in discussions to acquire a large stake in Acorn OakNorth Holdings Ltd. in a deal that would indirectly make Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund a significant investor in the British digital bank, insiders told Sky News.
* Standard Life Aberdeen PLC unit Aberdeen Standard Investments appointed Edris Alrafi head of the Middle East and Africa regions.
GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL
* Saudi Arabia's Samba Financial Group reported an 8.33% year-over-year rise in its third-quarter net profit to 1.42 billion from 1.31 billion riyals. For the nine months ended Sept. 30, the bank's net profit came in at 4.12 billion riyals, up 8.19% from the year-ago 3.81 billion riyals.
* Riyad Bank's third-quarter net profit amounted to 1.17 billion Saudi Arabian riyals, up 8.17% from 1.08 billion riyals a year ago. For the nine months ended Sept. 30, the bank reported net profit of 3.36 billion riyals, up 13.19% on a yearly basis from 2.97 billion riyals.
* Alinma Bank reported third-quarter net profit of 653 million Saudi Arabian riyals, up from 542 million riyals a year ago. The lender attributed the profit rise to a 14% increase in total operating income and a 9% drop in total operating expenses.
* Ibrahim Al-Zaabi, director general of the UAE Insurance Authority, said the authority plans to increase foreign ownership of insurance companies to 100%, noting that currently foreign insurance firms are allowed to control only 49% of the national insurance firms, Argaam reported. He also said that foreign firms can open fully owned branches.
* Moody's withdrew UAE-based Invest Bank PSC's Ba3/NP long- and short-term bank deposits, its Ba2/NP long- and short-term counterparty risk ratings, its Ba2(cr)/NP(cr) long- and short-term counterparty risk assessments and its "b2" baseline and adjusted baseline credit assessments. The long-term deposit ratings carried a negative outlook at the time of withdrawal.
* A.M. Best affirmed Dubai National Insurance & Reinsurance PSC's financial strength rating at B++ (Good) and its long-term issuer credit rating at "bbb+" and revised the outlooks on the ratings to positive from stable.
* Capital Intelligence Ratings affirmed Bahrain-based Ahli United Bank BSC's financial strength rating at A. Fitch Ratings also affirmed the lender's long- and short-term issuer default and senior unsecured debt ratings at BBB-/F3, its viability rating at "bb+" and its support rating at 2, with a stable outlook on the long-term issuer default rating.
* Bahrain-based Trust International Insurance & Reinsurance Co. said the recent downgrade from A.M. Best poses a "short-term challenge" but that it remains confident about its future, despite a delay in filing full-year 2017 audited financial statements.
REST OF MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA
* Banque Centrale Populaire Co-CEO Kamal Mokdad said the Morocco-based lender plans to acquire banks in at least four African nations, including Kenya, Rwanda, Ghana and Tanzania, in the medium term following its acquisition of Banque des Mascareignes Ltée, Bloomberg wrote. Banque Centrale Populaire also aims to boost its income from Africa to 30% in 2020 from 18% in 2017, Mokdad added.
* Fitch said Iranian banks' engagement with international financial institutions will be limited as lenders elsewhere plan to eliminate any exposure to Iran once U.S. sanctions take effect, The National reported.
* Attijari Bank's third-quarter net banking income totaled 322.7 million dinars, up 20.5% from the same period in 2017, IlBoursa reported.
EAST AND WEST AFRICA
* Fitch affirmed Kenya's long- and short-term foreign- and local-currency issuer default ratings at B+/B and its country ceiling at BB-, with a stable outlook on the long-term ratings.
* Zenith Bank PLC reported third-quarter group profit attributable to equity holders of the parent of 52.67 billion Nigerian nairas, down from 53.86 billion nairas a year ago. For the nine months ended Sept. 30, the bank's attributable profit rose to 143.75 billion nairas from the year-ago 129.05 billion nairas.
* Oragroup SA is to announce a public share offering in Abidjan today, marking a major turning point in the bank's 30-year history, Financial Afrik wrote.
* Ivory Coast's government has opened up the capital in Banque National d'Investissement and the Caisse Nationale des Caisses d'Epargne to private investors, Financial Afrik reported.
* Ghana's Securities and Exchange Commission has decided on a new minimum capital requirement for various capital markets players, which could be given up to one year to meet the new requirement, insiders told Joy Business.
* Ghana-based financial services firm Enterprise Group Ltd is set to expand its life insurance business into the Nigerian market, Joy Business reported.
* Ghanaian Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Charles Wiredu urged the government to consider discussions between Ghana and China on allowing Ghanaian traders to use the Chinese yuan, saying the move should facilitate easy trade and investment between the two countries, Citi Business News reported.
* The extraordinary general meeting of Nigerian insurer Lasaco Assurance Plc resolved to increase the company's share capital to 20 billion shares from 10 billion shares.
* Benin's government has raised $299 million in funding, which is partially guaranteed by the World Bank, to reduce the burden of its debt, Agence Ecofin reported. The IMF said in July that Benin's public debt should reach a record high this year due to the bond issuance strategy adopted by the government to finance its investment programs.
CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN AFRICA
* African Export-Import Bank said it is finalizing a $500 million loan facility for Zimbabwe aimed at securing payments for imports and promoting exports, Reuters reported.
* Stock Exchange of Mauritius Ltd. CEO Sunil Benimadhu said the bourse will launch a new index in November that will be dedicated to African firms to entice more issuers from the region, Reuters reported.
IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD
Asia-Pacific: KKR eyes Aadhar Housing Finance stake; Blue Sky exits A$180M fund
Europe: US futures regulator warns on Brexit; Santander caught up in German fraud probe
Latin America: BanBajío Q3 profit up 27.8%; Mifel postpones IPO; Citibanamex to lay off workers
North America: BB&T, KeyCorp post higher earnings; Invesco confirms deal for OppenheimerFunds
Global Insurance: MassMutual selling funds biz; Travelers' Q3 profit up; Prudential sheds SIFI tag
Sheryl Obejera, Henni Abdelghani, Sophie Davies and Helen Popper contributed to this report.
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