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MENA news through Dec. 18


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MENA news through Dec. 18

* National Bank of Oman SAOG has decided to exit Egypt and close its last branch and operations in the country, subject to regulatory approvals. The lender said it expects to carry out the exit by the end of the first quarter of 2020.

* British telecommunications firm Vodafone Group PLC is looking to turn its M-Pesa African mobile payments service into a financial platform it hopes will be the continent's largest unbanked bank, CEO Nick Read told the Financial Times.


* Shareholders of Dubai Islamic Bank PJSC approved the lender's acquisition of fellow United Arab Emirates-based lender Noor Bank PJSC, which will create a lender with combined assets of more than 275 billion dirhams.

* Saudi Arabian lenders National Commercial Bank and Riyad Bank ended discussions for a potential combination that would have created a merged entity with roughly $200 billion in assets, Bloomberg News wrote, citing regulatory filings.

* Banque Saudi Fransi appointed Abdullah Ali al-Khalifa CFO, insiders told Bloomberg News.

* United Gulf Holding Co. BSC's stake in Kamco Investment Co. KSCP has been reduced to 59.86% from 77.83% following the completion of the merger between Kamco and Global Investment House KSC (Closed). Burgan Bank KPSC's stake in Kamco was also reduced to 3.06% from 3.98%.

* Amlak Finance PJSC said it has made significant progress with its creditors in renegotiating the terms of its financial restructuring plan agreed in 2014 and that it expects to sign a new agreement before the end of 2019. The company said it also expects to book net profit of 9 million dirhams in 2020, but that this will likely decline to losses of 19 million dirhams and 17 million dirhams in in 2021 and 2022, respectively.

* Switzerland-based Swissquote Group Holding AG is considering entering Saudi Arabia as the country introduces several reforms to allow for 100% foreign ownership of businesses, Global CEO Marc Bürki told Arabian Business.

* AL Khazna Insurance Co. PSC said it is reducing its capital to 150 million dirhams from 420 million dirhams to address accumulated losses of 393.7 million dirhams as of Nov. 21.

* First Abu Dhabi Bank PJSC has expanded its presence in Saudi Arabia after opening a branch in Jeddah, its third one in the country.

* Arabian Shield Cooperative Insurance Co. received regulatory approval to appoint Naif bin Sultan bin Mohammed bin Saud al-Kabir and Samir Ibrahim al-Wazan as chairman and vice chairman of the board, respectively.

* Osoul Investment Co. KSCP elected a new board of directors for a three-year term, with Abdullah Mussaad Abdulla al-Dekheel and Sulaiman Ahmed Hamad al-Ameeri as chairman and vice chairman, respectively.

* Qatar First Bank LLC (Public) has obtained all necessary approvals for the reduction of its paid-up capital to 700 million shares from 2 billion shares.

* Kuwait named Mariam al-Aqeel finance minister, Bloomberg News reported, citing state-run news agency KUNA.


* The Tel-Aviv Stock Exchange Ltd. CEO Itai Ben-Zeev said the bourse is in talks with several Israeli firms to expand retail investing on the exchange in 2020, Reuters reported. The bourse previously said it is considering a plan to boost liquidity and improve transparency.

* Lebanon's Byblos Bank SAL said its board of directors approved a capital increase of $135 million through the issuance of cash contribution interests to comply with a central bank order, The Daily Star reported. Meanwhile, BLOM BANK SAL said its board of directors called for an extraordinary general assembly for the review and approval of a proposed increase in its capital, the newspaper wrote.

* Saad Hariri, Lebanon's caretaker prime minister, met with the heads of the World Bank and the IMF to discuss a potential rescue as the country goes deeper into financial crisis, news outlets including Bloomberg News reported.

* Lebanon's central bank has purchased 3 trillion pounds of treasury bills from the government at well below market rates, and is set to buy a further half of the amount at the same rate of 1% by the end of the year to bring down the government's mounting debt costs, an insider told Bloomberg News.

* Egypt's central bank expects to sell part of its stake in United Bank (SAE) in the first half of next year but has not decided yet on the size of the stake, Governor Tarek Amer told Amwal al Ghad.

* Raya Holding Company for Financial Investments SAE is looking at setting up a new business unit focusing on micro-insurance in 2020 as part of the Egypt-based firm's plans to focus on nonbanking financial activities, Chairman Medhat Khalil told Amwal Al Ghad.

* Iranian lawmakers ratified a draft version of a set of banking rules, which includes a proposal to establish the Islamic Republic of Iran Development Bank as well as a scheme to revise the country's decades-old banking laws, Financial Tribune wrote.


* France's Groupe BPCE has decided to sell its 60% stake in Banque Tuniso-Koweitienne to the Tunisian state, Agence Ecofin reported.

* Morocco's central bank kept its key interest rate unchanged at 2.25%.

* Banque Zitouna SA's former CEO, Ezzedine Khoja, has been approached as a potential candidate to become Tunisia's minister of finance, IlBoursa reported.

* Sudan-based Nile Bank struck a deal with U.S. software company Oracle Corp. for the provision of a mobile banking platform, Reuters reported, citing a statement by Sudan's CTC Group.

Henni Abdelghani and Sophie Davies 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.