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MENA news through Feb. 21

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MENA news through Feb. 21

MIDDLE EAST

* Saudi Arabia's cabinet approved the country's first modern bankruptcy law in a bid to attract more investors and restructure its oil-dependent economy.

* Samba Financial Group reported fourth-quarter 2017 net profit of 1.21 billion Saudi Arabian riyals, up 11.38% from the year-ago 1.09 billion riyals. Saudi British Bank also reported an increase in fourth-quarter net profit to 706 million riyals from the year-ago 607 million riyals.

* Saudi Arabia's Capital Market Authority approved National Commercial Bank's request to increase its capital to 30 billion riyals from 20 billion riyals. The regulator also approved Bank AlJazira's request to boost its capital through a 3 billion riyal rights issue.

* Metlife - AIG - ANB Cooperative Insurance Co.'s board proposed reducing the company's capital by 48.57% to 180 million riyals through the cancellation of 17 million shares. In contrast, the board of Arabian Shield Cooperative Insurance Co. recommended a 50% capital increase to 300 million riyals through the issuance of 1 bonus share for every 2 shares held, Argaam wrote.

* Qatar injected roughly $43 billion into its financial system in 2017 after its dispute with neighboring Arab states prompted deposit outflows of $22 billion between June and December of that year, Bloomberg News reported, citing Mohamed Damak, S&P Global Ratings' global head of Islamic finance.

* Qatar's Commercial Bank (PSQC) has agreed in principle to sell its 40% stake in United Arab Emirates-based United Arab Bank PJSC to private equity firm Tabarak Investment, insiders told Reuters.

* 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.

* Ahli United Bank BSC reported fourth-quarter 2017 net profit attributable to owners of $150.0 million, up year over year from $128.5 million. Al Baraka Banking Group BSC, meanwhile, posted an 8% decline in fourth-quarter net income attributable to equity holders of the parent to $32 million.

* Bahraini Finance Minister Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed al-Khalifa said the country will press ahead with the implementation of value-added tax, after resistance from some members of parliament slowed the plan down, and will "aim to have everything set up" for the plan by the end of the year, Reuters reported.

* Israel's central bank published its final criteria for entities looking to purchase the credit card companies that will be separated from Bank Hapoalim BM and Bank Leumi le-Israel BM, in a bid to boost competition in Israel's financial industry. The two lenders are required by law to sell the credit card companies they own by 2020 or reduce their holdings to below 40% if the companies' shares are issued on the stock exchange.

* Central Bank of Iran Governor Valiollah Seif said the regulator will raise deposit rates, allowing lenders to offer up to 20% interest on fixed one-year deposits for two weeks, as part of efforts to strengthen the Iranian rial, Reuters reported.

* Iran is working on a plan to launch its own virtual currency, Press TV reported, citing Mohammad Azari Jahromi, the country's minister of information and communications technology. The project is headed by Post Bank of Iran.

NORTH AFRICA

* Tunisia's parliament approved the appointment of former World Bank official Marouane el-Abassi as the new Central Bank of Tunisia governor. He replaces Chedli Ayari, who resigned at the request of Prime Minister Youssef Chahed.

* The Central Bank of Egypt lowered its overnight deposit rate, overnight lending rate and the rate of its main operation to 17.75%, 18.75% and 18.25%, respectively, citing the easing of underlying inflationary pressures.

* Qatar National Bank (QPSC) hired CI Capital to advise on the sale of around 2.1% of the group's stake in Egyptian unit QNB ALAHLI SAE to comply with the free float requirements of the Egyptian Stock Exchange.

* France's Groupe BPCE agreed to divest Mauritius-based Banque des Mascareignes Ltée and the latter's Madagascan unit, Banque des Mascareignes Madagascar, to Morocco's Banque Centrale Populaire and its strategic partner in Madagascar, Groupe Sipromad.

Sophie Davies contributed to this report. S&P Global Ratings and S&P Global Market Intelligence are owned by S&P Global Inc.