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Bank Hapoalim to ax more than 900 jobs by 2022; Mubadala cuts stake in UniCredit

GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL

* Moody's said the negative outlook for GCC sovereigns in 2020 reflects its view that the progress of fiscal reforms will remain slow amid an increased level of geopolitical risk, moderate oil prices and weak growth, noting it expects a further gradual erosion in the region's credit metrics as oil prices remain moderate over the medium-term.

* Saudi Arabia's Capital Market Authority approved new rules aimed at regulating securities clearing activities in the country and specifying requirements for obtaining authorization to carry out such activities, Argaam reported.

* Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd. is preparing to open its second branch in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Al Eqtisadiah reported.

* Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Investment Company PJSC cut its stake in Italian banking group UniCredit SpA to roughly 2.02% from 4.99%, Bloomberg News reported, citing Italian market regulator Consob. The shares are valued at about €850 million based on the Jan. 7 closing price.

* London-listed, Abu Dhabi-based payments firm Finablr PLC expects no material financial impact after Travelex, its U.K.-based foreign exchange subsidiary brand, was hit by a software virus at the end of 2019. BBC News reported that a gang bearing the same name as the ransomware, Sodinokibi, took responsibility for the attack and is demanding a ransom of $6 million in exchange for restoring Travelex's network. Travelex said it found no evidence that structured personal customer data has been encrypted and that there was no evidence of any data being exfiltrated.

* Dubai Islamic Bank (PJSC) re-formed the board of directors of Noor Bank PJSC to ensure a smooth acquisition of the latter, according to Argaam. Current Dubai Islamic Bank board members were appointed in the board of Noor Bank, including Yahaya Lootah, Hamad Bouamim, Ahmed bin Humaidan, Abdullah Alhamli, in addition to DIB CEO Adnan Chilwan.

* Dubai-based Amlak Finance PJSC said 95% of its creditors have approved its debt restructuring terms, with the company currently in talks with the remaining 5%.

* The Bank of England's Prudential Regulation Authority approved the change in control of the wider BLME Group that will result from the implementation of Kuwait-based Boubyan Bank KSCP's takeover of British lender BLME Holdings PLC.

* Arzan Financial Group for Financing and Investment - KPSC subsidiary Arzan Capital Holding Ltd., which is 78.60% owned by the group, sold a 24% stake in Hill Top Netherlands 4 PLC for €10.6 million. Arzan Capital's equity in Hill Top Netherlands has decreased to 25% from 49%, Mubasher noted.

* Kuwait's Ministry of Commerce and Industry closed three exchange bureaus for failing to meet regulatory requirements related to money laundering, Al-Anba reported.

* Kuwait's Capital Markets Authority renewed the collective investment scheme licenses of KAMCO Investment Fund, Masaref Investment Fund and Al-Durra Islamic Fund for three years.

* Dhofar International Development & Investment Holding Co. S.A.O.G has ceased to be an investment entity per IFRS 10 accounting standards after the Oman-based firm's board concluded that it no longer meets all qualifying criteria for the designation. As a result, the company will prepare separate accounts for its stand-alone and consolidated results.

REST OF MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

* Moody's said the negative 2020 outlook for sovereign creditworthiness in the Levant and North Africa region reflects political and social tensions, particularly in Lebanon and Iraq, that will slow down progress of reforms and constrain the scope for fiscal consolidation.

* Bank of Israel Governor Amir Yaron told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he intends to recommend the appointment of Andrew Abir, a member of the central bank's monetary committee and head of its markets department, as deputy governor. The role has been vacant since the end of Nadine Baudot-Trajtenberg's five-year term in February 2019, Reuters noted.

* Israel's Bank Hapoalim BM said it agreed to boost employees' salaries and that its board approved a new efficiency plan aimed at slashing more than 900 jobs through early retirement until 2022, Reuters reported, citing a regulatory filing. The lender will book a pretax charge of 210 million shekels in its results for the fourth quarter of 2019 as a result of the wage increases, while salary expenses will add pretax costs of 60 million shekels annually between 2020 and 2022.

* Jordan's central bank said all Lebanese banks operating in the country are stable, adding that risks to the lenders from the political tensions in Lebanon are very limited, The Jordan Times wrote.

EAST AND WEST AFRICA

* Nigeria's National Insurance Commission has mandated Odion Unuakhe to wind up the assets of collapsed company Investment and Allied Assurance Plc, The Punch reported. The insurance firm's license was canceled by the regulator in August 2018 due to operational and corporate governance lapses.

* Pius Agboola, director of policy and regulation at Nigeria's National Insurance Commission, said six insurers told the regulator that they plan to merge to meet its recapitalization requirements, The Punch wrote. Agboola also said the regulator extended the license renewal period for insurance brokers and loss adjusters to two years from one year, with the change to take effect in April 2020.

* Nigeria-based Leadway Assurance Co. Ltd. appointed Tunde Hassan-Odukale managing director and CEO, The Punch reported. He replaces Oye Hassan-Odukale, who has retired.

* The Nigerian Stock Exchange approved Continental Reinsurance Plc's application to delist from the bourse's daily official list, The Punch reported.

* Zedcrest Capital Ltd. Group CEO Adedayo Amzat said the Nigerian capital management firm has concluded plans to establish two new business lines that will become operational this year, The Punch wrote.

* The IMF completed the first review of Mali's performance under its program supported by a three-year arrangement under the fund's extended credit facility, allowing the disbursement of about $27.63 million to the country. The IMF allowed the disbursement of roughly $19.5 million to Niger after completing the fifth review of the country's economic and financial program supported by the ECF framework.

* Burkina Faso plans to mobilize 25 billion CFA francs on the money market of the West African Economic and Monetary Union, becoming the first of the union's eight member states to do so this year, Agence Ecofin reported. The operation will consist of an issue of treasury bills with a maturity of 12 months. Each voucher will have a unit value of 1 million CFA francs and will be subscribed at multiple rates.

CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN AFRICA

* Angolan prosecutors could eventually seek to freeze the Portuguese assets of billionaire businesswoman Isabel dos Santos, including a stake in Banco BIC Português SA, "if necessary," according to a spokesman for the attorney general's office, Angop reported. A Luanda court last month ordered a freeze on the assets of Dos Santos, her husband Sindika Dokolo, and Banco de Fomento Angola SA Chairman Mário Leite da Silva. Dos Santos, daughter of Angola's former President José Eduardo dos Santos, denies wrongdoing and says the corruption charges are politically motivated.

* Angola's central bank is set to launch a new series of more durable banknotes, a measure aimed at reducing the cost of maintaining the amount of cash in circulation, governor José de Lima Massano said, Angop wrote. The two series of banknotes will operate simultaneously this year before the old notes are phased out.

* Bankers Association of Zimbabwe CEO Sijabuliso Biyam said local banks could cut more jobs this year as the economy suffers from negative growth and the sector moves away from cash and toward digital services, Bloomberg News reported.

IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD

Asia-Pacific: China drafts financial leasing rules; India may raise rating agencies' fine

Europe: UK suspends no-deal Brexit planning; Barclays urged to end fossil-fuel lending

Latin America: S&P upgrades Argentina; Caixa selects banks for insurance unit IPO

North America: CIBC eyeing 'tuck-in' wealth management deals; Goldman revamps business segments

Global Insurance: Hagibis, Faxai insured losses; war cover review; Aflac unit in deal

Erin Tanchico, Henni Abdelghani, Sophie Davies and Helen Popper contributed to this report.

The Daily Dose Middle East and Africa has an editorial deadline of 4 a.m. London time. Some external links may require a subscription. Links are current as of publication time, and we are not responsible if those links are unavailable later.

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.