Editor's Note: The Daily Dose Middle East and Africa will not be published Dec. 24, 25 and 26 on account of the holidays. The feature will return Dec. 27.
* Total economic losses from natural and man-made disasters fell to around $140 billion in 2019 from $176 billion in 2018, according to Swiss Re AG preliminary sigma estimates, of which $133 billion came from natural catastrophes and $7 billion from man-made disasters. Meanwhile, global insured losses in 2019 are estimated at $56 billion, down from $93 billion in 2018, and below the annual average of $75 billion for the previous 10 years.
* U.K.-based ICBC Standard Bank PLC, a joint venture between Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and South African lender Standard Bank Group Ltd., has abandoned plans to close its base metals business, Reuters reported. ICBC Standard Bank, which still intends to shutter its equities business, reportedly plans to merge its base metals and precious metals units instead in a bid to reduce costs.
* The West African Economic and Monetary Union has agreed with France to change its CFA franc currency's name to eco, as part of reforms to the monetary union's currency arrangements with the European nation, Bloomberg News reported. The eco will remain pegged to the euro but the monetary union will no longer be required to keep 50% of its currency reserves in France. The reforms will only affect the West African CFA franc used by Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea Bissau, Côte d'Ivoire, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo, Reuters noted.
* Meanwhile, IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva welcomed the changes to the West African CFA franc framework, saying the move constitutes "a key step in the modernization of long-standing arrangements between the West African Economic and Monetary Union and France."
GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL
* A.M. Best revised the outlooks to negative from stable and affirmed the A financial strength rating and "a" long-term issuer credit ratings of Qatar Insurance Co. QSPC and Bermuda-based unit Qatar Reinsurance Co.
* A consultancy committee of UAE securities markets has recommended the establishment of a unified clearance company that manage operations on Dubai and Abu Dhabi markets, instead of two separate companies, to improve efficiency, and help upgrade local stock markets, Emarat Al Youm reported.
* The CEO of the United Arab Emirates' Securities and Commodities Authority, Obaid al-Zaabi, said local stock markets are set to meet the requirements for an upgrade to advanced markets in 2020, Al-Ittihad reported.
* Banks in the Gulf Cooperation Council are expected to complete in early 2020 an upgrade of systems related to money transfer to allow the direct remittance without the need of intermediate banks, Emarat Al Youm reported. The newspaper also said that the UAE Central Bank expects Gulf Payments Co. to complete requirements by the second quarter of 2020, while some GCC countries will start the process Feb. 27, 2020.
REST OF MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA
* S&P Global Ratings affirmed Lebanon's CCC/C long- and short-term foreign- and local-currency sovereign credit ratings, saying the country's central government remains current on its commercial debt obligations despite rising distress in the commercial banking system. The outlook on the country remains negative.
* State-owned Export Guarantee Fund of Iran is set to increase its capital by €100 million in the March 2020-2021 budget, according to the Financial Tribune.
* S&P Global Ratings placed the B long-term issuer credit rating and CCC+ subordinated debt ratings of Tunisia-based Banque Tuniso-Koweitienne on CreditWatch Negative, after the Tunisian government agreed to acquire a 60% stake in the lender from French banking group Groupe BPCE.
* Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has tasked Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly to directly oversee the country's investment and administrative reform portfolios, Reuters wrote.
* Egypt's central bank raised the borrowing limit on personal loans, credit cards and loans for purchasing personal cars to 50% of the monthly total income of a bank client from 35%, according to Egypt Today.
* Protesters in Algeria rejected the recent election of President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, who was sworn in Dec. 19, as illegitimate and continued to demand that the old ruling elite give up their power and that the military withdraw from politics, held power, Reuters reported. Meanwhile, Tebboune named Sabri Boukadoum interim prime minister.
EAST AND WEST AFRICA
* Barclays Bank of Kenya Ltd.'s transition process in rebranding to the Absa Group Ltd. brand is about 85% complete, with the lender investing as much as 910 million shillings into the separation program as of September, Kenya News Agency reported, citing Caroline Ndung'u, marketing and corporation relation director at the bank.
* Ghana's high court has given the Bank of Ghana, the attorney-general and the receiver of GN Savings and Loans Ltd. one month to file their defense in response to a lawsuit by GN Savings and Loans over the withdrawal of its license, Ghana News Agency wrote. The central bank revoked GN Savings and Loans' license in August, saying it was insolvent.
* Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has arrested Onuebuchi Julius for impersonating Central Bank of Nigeria Governor Godwin Emefiele and committing fraud, Premium Times wrote. The fraudster has reportedly benefited as much as 4.5 million naira from his scams.
* The Development Bank of Rwanda PLC appointed Kampeta Sayinzoga CEO, replacing Eric Rutabana.
* The IMF's executive board approved three-year extended credit facility and extended fund facility arrangements for Ethiopia worth about $2.9 billion, enabling the immediate disbursement of roughly $308.4 million. The financing package is aimed at supporting the implementation of the country's economic reform program.
* Fitch Ratings affirmed the BB/B long- and short-term foreign- and local-currency ratings, BBB- country ceiling and BB long-term senior unsecured rating of Seychelles. The outlook is stable.
* S&P Global Ratings affirmed Benin's B+/B long- and short-term sovereign credit ratings, with a stable outlook.
CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN AFRICA
* The South African Reserve Bank imposed administrative sanctions on Standard Bank Group unit Standard Bank of South Africa Ltd., Grobank Ltd., Ubank Ltd., Bank of China Limited Johannesburg Branch and HBZ Bank Ltd. for weaknesses in their money laundering control measures and directed the lenders to take remedial actions. The central bank, however, noted that sanctions were imposed because of weaknesses identified in the banks' money laundering control measures and not because they were found to have facilitated transactions involving money laundering or financing of terrorism. Standard Bank of South Africa said it has taken immediate action to address issues identified by the central bank.
* José Pedro de Morais, former Angolan central bank chief and finance minister, has been appointed as chairman of Banco Keve SA, Novo Jornal reported. He replaces Rui Campos in the post.
* Botswana-based Letshego Holdings Ltd. expects after-tax group profit for the year ending Dec. 31 to be between 25% and 30% higher than the 510 million pula earned in the same period in 2018. The financial services group also appointed Abiodun Odubola and Philip Odera as independent nonexecutive directors.
* Mozambique's central bank has stripped seven financial institutions including credit unions and foreign exchange houses of their operating licenses due to various irregularities, O País reported. The companies included Mapiko-Cooperativa de Poupança e Crédito and UGC – Cooperativa de Poupança e Crédito.
* Fitch Ratings affirmed Zambia's CCC/C long- and short-term foreign- and local-currency issuer default ratings. The country's B- country ceiling and its CCC long-term senior unsecured rating were also affirmed.
* The Congolese subsidiary of Nigeria's Access Bank PLC will receive a $10 million loan from Dutch development bank FMO, Agence Ecofin reported. The operation will be rolled out in two installments, including one via the Massif Fund, a fund set up by the Dutch government to support innovative companies in developing countries.
* The executive board of the IMF approved a three-year extended credit facility arrangement for the Central African Republic amounting to roughly $115.1 million. The approval enables the immediate release of about $16.4 million to the country.
IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD
Asia-Pacific: Amundi wins approval for China JV; Apollo, others shortlisted for UDC Finance
Sheryl Obejera, Henni Abdelghani, Sophie Davies and Helen Popper contributed to this report.
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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.