GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL
* Saudi Arabian Finance Minister Mohammed al-Jadaan said the merger of Saudi British Bank and Alawwal Bank is line with the kingdom's economic and capital market reforms through 2030, in terms of the finance and client base the new entity will have, Argaam reported, citing Al-Eqtisadiah.
* The Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia will exceed its goal of raising assets to $600 billion by 2020 amid a push to lower the local economy's reliance on oil, Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told Bloomberg News. He added that the sovereign wealth fund will look to diversify investments outside of Saudi Arabia in 2019.
* U.K. asset manager Standard Life Aberdeen PLC is in discussions with Saudi Arabia about launching one or more investment vehicles aimed at bringing foreign real estate and infrastructure investment into the country, insiders told Bloomberg News. Standard Life Aberdeen could reportedly open an office in Riyadh to manage the funds from there.
* S&P Global Ratings affirmed Saudi Arabia's unsolicited long- and short-term foreign- and local-currency sovereign credit ratings at A-/A-2, with a stable outlook.
* Fitch Ratings downgraded Saudi Arabia-based Islamic Corp. for the Development of the Private Sector's long-term issuer default rating to AA- from AA, with a stable outlook, and affirmed its short-term issuer default rating at F1+.
* Saudi Arabia and Bahrain's credit bureaus inked an agreement to share credit information, Arab News reported.
* Bahrain's parliament passed a draft law that will introduce value-added tax for the first time in the nation, Reuters reported, citing state news agency BNA.
* Bahrain-based Gulf International Bank BSC said it canceled a planned U.S. dollar bond issuance due to prevailing market conditions, despite strong investor demand, Reuters reported.
* Capital Intelligence Ratings revised the outlook on Bahrain's ratings to negative from stable and affirmed its long-term foreign- and local-currency sovereign ratings at BB and its short-term foreign- and local-currency ratings at B.
* Moody's maintained the negative outlook on Oman's banking system, reflecting the government's diminishing capacity to support the country's banks in case of need.
* Obaid al-Zaabi, CEO of the United Arab Emirates' Securities and Commodities Authority, said the authority has introduced new measures to be applied on companies with losses exceeding 50% of their capital, wherein the authority will be in charge of overseeing restructuring plans, among others, Emarat Alyoum reported.
* Rashid al-Baloushi, CEO of the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange, said the exchange is in talks with many companies that are planning to list in the local stock market, adding that the exchange plans to expand the secondary market as well as offer dual listing and boost foreign investment, Al Bayan reported.
* Osoul Investment Co. KSCP appointed Hussein Youcef as financial director.
*Amwal International Investment Co. KSCP's board has resigned following Shuaa Capital PSC's acquisition of the majority of the Kuwaiti company's shares.
REST OF MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA
* Israel's new central bank chief is expected to be announced by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon in the coming days, an insider told Reuters.
* Two former employees of Standard Chartered PLC are facing criminal charges from U.S. prosecutors over alleged sanctions breaches involving companies linked to Iran, insiders told the Financial Times.
* Iran's parliament has passed new measures to counter the funding of terrorism in a bid to help remove the Middle Eastern nation from investment blacklists amid reimposed U.S. sanctions, Reuters reported.
* Iran could slide into recession in 2019 with the reimposition of U.S. sanctions, Argaam reported, citing Fitch Solutions.
* CFG Bank SA CEO Younes Benjelloun said the Moroccan lender expects to return to profit in 2021 in line with its business plan, adding that the bank will consider an IPO once it becomes profitable, Reuters reported. Benjelloun said CFG Bank has no plans to set up commercial lenders in sub-Saharan Africa, but noted that the lender is open to brokerage or asset management activities in African markets.
* S&P Global Ratings lowered the outlook on Morocco to negative from stable and affirmed the country's long- and short-term foreign- and local-currency sovereign credit ratings at BBB-/A-3.
* Morocco's Ministry of Economy and Finance said the country has issued its first sukuk sovereign certificates, which are of the Ijara type, La Nouvelle Tribune wrote. The certificates are worth 1 billion dirhams, repayable over a period of five years and offer an annual return of 2.66%.
* Fitch Ratings revised Egypt-based African Export-Import Bank's outlook to stable from negative and affirmed its BBB-/F3 long- and short-term foreign- and local-currency issuer default ratings and BBB- senior unsecured debt rating.
EAST AND WEST AFRICA
* Nigerian Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed said the country will prosecute those responsible for Skye Bank PLC's failure, Reuters reported. Last month, the Central Bank of Nigeria revoked Skye Bank's operating license and established a bridge bank called Polaris Bank to assume the defunct lender's assets and liabilities.
* Nigerian central bank Governor Godwin Emefiele said the regulator could lower the $8.1 billion it initially asked South African telecommunications firm MTN Group Ltd. to repatriate, Reuters reported. The central bank claims that the amount was illegally transferred by MTN abroad, in violation of foreign exchange regulations.
* Fitch Ratings affirmed Cote d'Ivoire's long-term foreign- and local-currency issuer default ratings at B+, with a stable outlook. The rating agency also affirmed the country's short-term foreign- and local-currency issuer default ratings at B and its country ceiling at BBB-.
CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN AFRICA
* Nhlanhla Nene, South Africa's finance minister, apologized for previously holding several meetings with Ajay, Atul and Rajesh Gupta, Reuters reported. The three are members of the controversial Gupta family, who are accused of using their close ties with former South African President Jacob Zuma to siphon off billions of rand from state funds. Nene is facing pressure to resign following his admission, insiders told Bloomberg News. Former Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas, South African Reserve Bank Governor Lesetja Kganyago and one of his deputies, Daniel Mminele, are reportedly considered as front-runners to replace Nene.
* Mozambique's central bank authorized Banco Oportunidade de Moçambique SA to change its commercial name to MyBucks Bank Mozambique, Macauhub wrote. Luxembourg-based financial technology firm MyBucks is listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, with presence in 13 countries around Europe, Africa and Australia.
* Fitch Ratings raised its outlook on Gabon to stable from negative affirmed the long-term foreign-currency issuer default rating at B.
* Calixte Nganongo, the Republic of the Congo's finance minister, said the country may get out of recession by 2019-end after its economy grows as much as 3.7% during that year, compared to an estimated 2% in 2018, Bloomberg News reported.
IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD
Asia-Pacific: China cuts reserve ratio; Axis Bank stake sale delayed; India holds rates steady
Erin Tanchico, Henni Abdelghani, Sophie Davies and Mariana Aldano contributed to this report.
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