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South Africa ratings ball in Fitch's court; Hapoalim mulls Isracard sale


* Bank Hapoalim BM is looking into a potential sale of credit card unit Isracard. The bank could sell the unit's shares to the public or to an investor or a consortium, or distribute the shares as a dividend to its stakeholders.

* Delek Group Ltd. raised the asking price for the sale of its 52.3% stake in Phoenix Holdings Ltd. to Yango Investment Pte. Ltd. to 2.15 billion Israeli shekels from 1.97 billion shekels. The last date for completion of the terms for closing was extended to June 4, after Delek and Yango failed to complete the conditions by the previous deadline of March 31.

* The Bank of Israel kept the interest rate unchanged at 0.1% and said it expects to begin gradually increasing the rate from the second quarter of 2018.

* Bank AlJazira secured the Saudi Capital Market Authority's approval to increase its capital to 5.20 billion Saudi riyals from 4.00 billion riyals.

* National Bank of Abu Dhabi PJSC and First Gulf Bank PJSC will fully integrate their operations and records by 2019, Arabian Business reports, citing WAM. The combined entity will seek shareholder approval for its new name, First Abu Dhabi Bank, on April 24.

* The Qatar Investment Authority sold a roughly 2.5% stake in Banco Santander (Brasil) SA through unit Qatar Holding LLC, generating 2.3 billion Brazilian reais in proceeds for the Qatari sovereign wealth fund.

* The shareholders of Qatar-based Commercial Bank (PSQC) approved a plan to issue certificates of deposits of up to $5 billion, The Peninsula writes.

* Ithmaar Holding BSC shareholders approved a proposal to list Ithmaar on additional stock exchanges, CPI FInanical reports. Ithmaar Holding is currently listed on the Bahrain Bourse and Boursa Kuwait.

* IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said the fund is working with the Egyptian government to help bring inflation in Egypt under control.


* Chase Bank (Kenya) Ltd. attracted interest from major foreign and local investors, including FirstRand Ltd.'s Rand Merchant Bank and Morocco-based Attijariwafa Bank SA, The Star reports. The Central Bank of Kenya last week invited investors to place their bids for Chase Bank, and extended the troubled lender's receivership by six months.

* Moody's said international financial institutions are prepared to support Nigeria in raising $3.5 billion in foreign debt this year as the improvement in the country's oil output aids economic recovery, Bloomberg News reports.

* Union Bank of Nigeria Plc CEO Emeka Emuwa said the lender is seeking to raise 50 billion naira by the end of the second quarter through a rights issue to boost its capital ratio to above 18% from 13.4% as of the third quarter of 2016, Reuters reports. Emuwa added that the lender sees opportunities in agribusiness and other industries.

* The Central Bank of West African States denied involvement in a project that aims to introduce a digital currency in Senegal and said it will not consider joining the initiative, Bloomberg News writes. Dakar, Senegal-based Banque Régionale de Marchés said in 2016 that it was working with a European startup on a plan to issue e-currency called eCFA this year.


* Analysts expect Fitch Ratings to follow S&P Global Ratings' lead and downgrade South Africa's credit rating to junk status amid the political turmoil in the country, Reuters writes. Getting downgraded to junk by at least two rating agencies would lead to South Africa dropping out of several widely used global bond indexes and losing more than $10 billion in investment funds.

* Following S&P's downgrade of South Africa to junk and the subsequent similar actions on its largest banks, the South African Reserve Bank stressed that banks in the country are "adequately capitalized" to cope with the effects of a sub-investment grade credit rating. South Africa's overall financial system "remains healthy, robust and resilient" despite headwinds caused by elevated levels of economic, financial and political events as well as global financial market volatility, the central bank added.

* Anglo-South African financial group Old Mutual Plc put its 50% stake in an insurance joint venture with the Chinese state-run power group Guodian Corp. up for sale, insiders tell Reuters.

* Former South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said he will not resign as a lawmaker before April 18, when a motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma is scheduled to be voted on in parliament, Bloomberg News reports.

* Some of the banks accused by South Africa's Competition Commission of conspiring to manipulating the rand have raised objections regarding the investigation into the issue, saying the case lacks specific detail regarding anti-competitive conduct, insiders tell Reuters. The lenders also questioned whether the regulator can impose penalties on banks with no subsidiaries or branches in South Africa.

* Net 1 UEPS Technologies Inc. appointed Christopher Seabrooke chairman. He replaces Serge Belamant, who will continue on as a director and CEO.

* Banco Nacional de Angola Governor Valter Filipe da Silva said the Angolan financial system is now in a "much better" position than before he took the helm of the central bank, Novo Jornal reports.


Asia-Pacific: Old Mutual to sell Chinese JV stake; Indian officials deny Axis Bank stake sale

Europe: Lloyds blames tech for branch cull; investors flock to Deutsche Bank

Latin America: 3 suitors remain for Banco Patagonia; QIA sells Santander Brasil stake

North America: PacWest Bancorp acquiring CU Bancorp for $705M; Cohn could back Glass-Steagall

North America Insurance: House unlikely to act on healthcare before recess; commercial P&C rates rise

Leo Magno, Sarah Raslan, Sophie Davies and Helen Popper contributed to this report.

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