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MENA news through May 22

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MENA news through May 22

* The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development reduced its 2019 estimates for global growth to 3.2% from the 3.3% growth projected in March, citing vulnerabilities from global trade tensions, increased policy uncertainty and a slowdown in China.

* London Stock Exchange Group officials are seeking to increase the bourse's African listings and strike partnerships with several African exchanges, including those in Kenya and Nigeria, for dual listings, Bloomberg News reported, citing Ibukun Adebayo, the LSE's director of emerging markets and international markets.

* The Islamic Financial Services Board's proposal for central banks to establish and operationalize a Shariah-compliant lender of last resort framework could help boost the Islamic banking industry's stability by curbing banks' exposure to liquidity risks, according to S&P Global Ratings.

* A committee representing London market marine underwriters has expanded its list of high-risk areas in the Middle East following attacks on ships at the port of the emirate of Fujairah on May 12. Oman, the Persian Gulf and adjacent waters and the United Arab Emirates were added to the list.

GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL

* A planned multibillion-dollar debt sale by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia has only attracted tepid interest from banks, sources told Reuters.

* Shareholders of Walaa Cooperative Insurance Co. approved a proposed capital increase to 528 million Saudi Arabian riyals from 440 million riyals through the issuance of bonus shares, Argaam reported.

* The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority fined 16 financial institutions, including Al Rajhi Banking & Investment Corp., Samba Financial Group, National Commercial Bank, Emirates NBD Bank PJSC, Banque Saudi Fransi, Riyad Bank, Bank AlJazira and Alinma Bank, for violating responsible finance principles for individuals.

* Shareholders of Saudi British Bank and Alawwal Bank have approved the two banks' proposed merger. Saudi British Bank shareholders also approved increasing the bank's capital to 20.55 billion riyals from 15.00 billion riyals.

* Saudi British Bank, Bank AlBilad, Saudi Investment Bank and Banque Saudi Fransi, in partnership with the Saudi National Payments scheme, have rolled out Apple Pay services to credit card holders beginning May 21, Argaam reported.

* The Saudi Stock Exchange (Tadawul) established a new listing division as part of an organizational restructuring of the bourse's markets division, Argaam reported.

* Moody's withdrew Union National Bank - PJSC's A1/P-1 long- and short-term bank deposit ratings and its "baa3" baseline and adjusted baseline credit assessments, among other ratings, following the legal completion of its merger with Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank PJSC. The outlook on the long-term deposit rating was stable prior to withdrawal.

* Fitch Ratings assigned United Arab Bank PJSC long- and short-term issuer default ratings of BBB+/F2, a viability rating of "b+", a support rating of 2 and a support rating floor of BBB+, with a stable outlook on the long-term issuer default rating.

* Kuwait's Ministry of Commerce and Industry is finalizing a draft law that would regulate the capital that insurance companies should maintain in the country depending on the type of insurance it provides, Al-Qabas reported.

* Kuwait's Capital Markets Authority took disciplinary action against Al Madar Finance & Investment Co. (K.S.C.P.) for certain violations, including failing to hire a new CEO in a timely manner.

* Mashreqbank PSC raised $175 million through a reopening of a $500 million bond the Dubai-based lender issued in February, Reuters reported.

* Abu Dhabi National Insurance Co. PSC has partnered with First Abu Dhabi Bank PJSC to offer customers new payment options through digital wallet Payit, TradeArabia reported.

* Ebrahim al-Zaabi, director general of the UAE's Insurance Authority, said the investment of insurance companies is set to grow by 10% in 2019 to reach 66 billion dirhams, Al-Ittihad reported.

* The key risk to Qatari banks is now asset quality rather than funding and liquidity, as a result of the banks' concentrated exposure to the weakening real estate market in the country, according to Fitch Ratings.

* Bahrain-based reinsurer Trust International Insurance Co. (B.S.C.) said replacement funds are on the way from its parent after its delayed 2017 financial statements revealed a $92.5 million hole in its solvency capital.

* 21 May Investcorp Bank B.S.C. hired Citigroup and JPMorgan to arrange the refinancing of a $400 million revolving credit facility due in 2020, insiders told Reuters. The Bahrain-based firm also announced that its Strategic Capital Group has partnered with U.S.-based advisory and merchant banking firm Dock Square Capital LLC.

* Oman's Capital Market Authority has issued new regulations on takeover and acquisitions for Muscat Securities Market-listed public joint stock companies, Muscat Daily wrote.

REST OF MIDDLE EAST

* The Bank of Israel kept the interest rate unchanged at 0.25%.

* The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange Ltd. will hold its IPO in early July, insiders told Calcalist. Current estimates for the listing reportedly put the bourse's expected valuation at 600 million Israeli shekels to 650 million shekels.

* A Bank of Israel stress test of the country's banks showed that the stability and resilience of the banking system will not be threatened in the event of a local macroeconomic shock.

* Israel-based Mizrahi Tefahot Bank Ltd. reported first-quarter net profit attributable to shareholders of 404 million shekels, up from 343 million shekels a year ago.

* Israel Discount Bank Ltd. reported first-quarter net profit attributable to shareholders of 405 million shekels, up from 319 million shekels a year ago.

* Iran's central bank extended the deadline for selling shares of five merged banks and credit institutions — namely Ansar Bank, Bank Hekamt Iranian, Mehr Eqtesad Bank, Ghavamin Bank and Kosar Credit Institution — for 15 working days, to June 13, the Financial Tribune reported.

* Capital Intelligence Ratings affirmed Lebanon's long- and short-term foreign- and local-currency ratings at B/B, with a negative outlook.

NORTH AFRICA

* A draft banking law could increase the minimum capital requirement for Egypt's banks to 5 billion Egyptian pounds from 500 million pounds, Bloomberg News reported, citing the Middle East News Agency.

* The monetary policy committee of Egypt's central bank will likely keep interest rates unchanged at its May 23 meeting, Daily News Egypt wrote, citing analysts at HC Securities.

* The IMF said it reached a staff-level agreement with Egyptian authorities to disburse the final tranche of roughly $2 billion of a $12 billion loan to the country.

* Fitch affirmed Tunisia-based lender Caisse De Prets Et De Soutien Des Collectivites Locales' national long- and short-term ratings at AA-(tun)/F1+(tun) and revised the outlook on the company to positive from stable.

* The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development gave Morocco's Banque Marocaine du Commerce Extérieur SA a €5 million loan to finance private sector green projects, Agence Ecofin reported.

Henni Abdelghani and Pádraig Belton contributed to this report.

This S&P Global Market Intelligence news article may contain information about credit ratings issued by S&P Global Ratings. Descriptions in this news article were not prepared by S&P Global Ratings.