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SSA news through March 31

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SSA news through March 31

* Fitch Ratings changed to negative from stable the outlook on Angola'slong-term foreign- and local-currency issuer default ratings, while affirmingthem at B+. Also, the sovereign's B short-term foreign-currency issuer defaultrating and B+ country ceiling were affirmed. 

* Standard & Poor's Ratings Services the foreign- andlocal-currency long-term sovereign credit ratings on the Republic of Congo to B-from B, with a stable outlook. The agency affirmed the country's B short-termforeign- and local-currency sovereign credit ratings.

* BanqueInternationale pour l'Afrique au Congo faces a temporary liquiditycrisis following the abrupt suspension of the disbursement of some 40 billionCongolese francs which were expected from the country's central bank, JeuneAfrique said.Additionally, Director General Michel Losembe leaves the bank, as his tenureends mid-April. Anne Mbuguje, currently serving as a director of the province ofKinshasa as well as director of public service, will succeed Losembe on aninterim basis.

* The London Stock Exchange launched an African advisorygroup with a view to boost financial markets in the continent, Agence Ecofin reported.

EAST AFRICA

* Kenya plans to implement a new reference lending rate forcommercial banks within two months, following a review initiated in late 2015of the Kenya Banks Reference Rate, also called KBRR, The East African reported.The move is aimed at bringing down the cost of credit at boosting privateinvestment.

* Equity Bank is being probed in relation to allegedcorruption and tax evasion following the apprehension of a tax evasion ring atNamanga border post, Daily Nation reported.The scheme was responsible for 120 million Kenyan shillings in unpaid importduties. The Kenya Revenue Authority plans to expand the inquiry to severalbanks, including National Bank ofKenya Ltd, CommercialBank of Africa Ltd. and Cooperative Bank of Kenya.

*A Kenyan high court ordered unitCfC Stanbic Bank Ltd.and Dyer & Blair Investment Bank to pay around 418 million Kenyan shillingsto John Kung'u Kiarie, an ex-directorof KCB Group Ltd.,formerly Kenya Commercial Bank, for under declaring his returns on investmentand illegally holding his funds, accordingto Daily Nation.

* Five senior managers of Imperial Bank Ltd., accused of organized crime, falseaccounting and money laundering, including Naeem Shah, former head of credit,and James Kaburu, former finance head, were released on cash bails, DailyNation said.The accused are charged with attempting to defraud the bank of some 29 billionKenyan shillings through an illegal overdraft disbursement scheme.

* Meanwhile, a Kenyan tea farmers' agency filed a lawsuitagainst Imperial Bank, claiming the protection of their deposits held at thecollapsed lender, Business Daily Africa wrote.The Kenya Tea Development Agency said it made four deposits totaling 2.9billion Kenyan shillings which were scheduled to mature by December 2015.

* NationalBank of Kenya Ltd reporteda full-year 2015 net loss of 1.18 billion Kenyan shillings, compared to netprofit of 800.7 million shillings earned a year ago. Additionally, the Kenyanlender placed CEO andManaging Director Munir Ahmed, along with five other top managers, on forcedleave, while appointing Wilfred Musau acting CEO, Bloomberg News reported. Themove comes amid an ongoing internal audit and reflects the lender's commitmentto adherence to corporate governance principles and various central bankguidelines, Chairman Mohamed Hassan said, adding, though, that he disagreedwith the decision.

* Pan AfricaInsurance Holdings Ltd. bought an additional 5% stake in Kenyan firm GatewayInsurance at the same rate as the initial stake, for about 55 million Kenyanshillings, Business Daily Africa reported, citing CEO Mugo Kibati. Pan Africa,which in March 2015 acquired a 51% stake in Gateway, sought to buy additionalshares to ensure that the latter's founders complied with insurance regulationsthat limit ownership by individuals at 25%.

* Kenya-based K-Rep Bank received regulatory approval tochange its name to Sidian Bank, effective April 4, Business Daily Africa reported.The move forms part of its new majority shareholder Centum Investments' plansto improve its image and expand its banking business. Formerly a microfinancecompany, K-Rep converted into a bank in 1999, and lends primarily to small andmedium-sized businesses.

* The New Times examinesthe trend of Rwandan lenders shuttering branches, which it says is attributableto a rise in mobile and agency banking. According to Maurice Toroitich,chairman of the Rwanda Bankers Association, lenders are also shutteringunprofitable branches as a cost-cutting measure. The lenders have ATMs oragents to serve customers in areas where they close branches, he added.  

WEST AFRICA

* Demand for Agricultural Development Bank's IPO has been high. Inlight of the lender extending the deadline of the offering to March 24 fromFeb. 26 to permit more retail share purchases, Ghana's Securities and ExchangeCommission approved an increase of 100 million Ghanaian cedis to the size ofthe IPO, which the bank had initially set at 390 million cedis, Citi BusinessNews reported.

* Bank ofGhana said Governor Henry Akpenamawu Kofi Wampah is taking an earlyretirement from thecentral bank, effective April 1. The two deputy governors at the central bankare considered the most likely candidates to succeed Wampah, accordingto Bloomberg News. 

* The Nigerian government is working to retain the right tohouse the headquarters of Regional Maritime Bank in light of lobbying to shiftthe location to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Vanguard reported,citing an interview by Chief Chris Orode, chairman of the bank's committee ofexperts, with News Agency of Nigeria. The Maritime Organisation for West andCentral Africa in July 2008 granted Nigeria approval to host and launch theinstitution but the take-off is being delayed due to lack of funds.

* The Nigerian central bank raised key rates, after cuttingthem in November 2015, to curb inflationary pressures, This Day reported.The monetary policy rate was raisedto 12% from 11%, while the cash reserve ratio was increased to 22.5% from 20%.Certain analysts criticized the move, saying that the factors that lead to arise in inflation were not caused by expansion in the banking sector.

* Nigeria's National Insurance Commission plans to soonstart the issuance of a unique policy identifier to insurance policy holdersacross the country in a move to tighten regulation in the sector, Vanguard reported.The new identification number will help the commission monitor all insurancepolicies issued by underwriters and also track the activities and revenues ofinsurers and insurance brokers.

* The Nairobi Securities Exchange plans to diversify itsrevenue sources, having reported a year-over-year fall in 2015 profits, AgenceEcofin reported.The company seeks to offer domestic investors investments in other Africanmarkets, namely South Africa, Nigeria and Morocco.    

* Skye BankPlc saidthe disclosure of its audited financial statements for the full-year 2015 willbe delayed, and not posted on March 31, as the of its business in June 2015with that of Mainstreet Bank necessitated additional external audit work. Thebank applied for the required approvals for a four-week extension. The lender  also said it a "material"year-over-year fall in the 2015 profit as a result of increased impairment onloans to sectors affected by the prevailing economic headwinds.

SOUTHERN AFRICA

* Foreign companies operating in Zimbabwe have been orderedto comply by March 31 with new rules under which local ownership of Zimbabweanfirms should be at least 51%, CAJ News Africa reported.The licenses of international banks and other foreign entities operating inZimbabwe could be revoked in case of failure to comply with the regulation.South Africa-based Nedbank GroupLtd. and BarclaysAfrica Group Ltd. are some companies that will be affected.

* Also, the Zimbabwean government is in the process ofrevising rules governing mobile banking to improve regulation in the sector, accordingto The Herald.

* Lenders in Zimbabwe have put in place stricter rules forlending in order to reduce losses, accordingto the Financial Gazette. Several banks, including and ZB FinancialHoldings confirmed adopting stricter lending policies.

* South Africa issued a stock exchange operating license toZAR X Stock Exchange, its first in a century. The rival to Johannesburg StockExchange, which expects to launch operations in September, pending approvalfrom the Financial Services Board, seeks to facilitate listings of restrictedshare schemes, which are at present trading over-the-counter, Reuters reported.

* The Angolan central bank increased the benchmark interestrate by 2 percentage points to 14%, while raising the standing lending facilityrate to 16% from 14% and the overnight standing liquidity absorption facilityto 2.25% from 1.75%, Bloomberg News reported.

*African Bank Ltd.curator Tom Winterboer said the remainingsuspensive conditions to the restructuring of the bank have been met, and as aresult the transaction has become unconditional.

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