GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL
* Qatar National Bank (QPSC) booked full-year 2018 net profit attributable to equity holders of the bank of 13.79 billion Qatari riyals, up from 13.13 billion riyals in the year-ago period. The lender's board proposed a cash dividend of 6.0 riyals per share for 2018.
* Emirates NBD Bank PJSC reported full-year 2018 consolidated group profit attributable to equity holders of 10.04 billion United Arab Emirates dirhams, up 20% from the year-ago 8.35 billion dirhams. The bank's board is proposing a cash dividend of 40 fils per share for 2018.
* Samba Financial Group reported full-year 2018 net profit of 5.53 billion Saudi Arabian riyals, an increase of 10% from the 5.02 billion riyals it earned in 2017. The Riyadh-based lender said the increase was mainly driven by an increase in net special commission income, which rose on yearly basis to 6.15 billion riyals from 5.73 billion riyals.
* Bank Muscat SAOG posted unaudited preliminary full-year 2018 net profit of 179.6 million Omani rials, up 1.6% from 176.8 million rials in 2017.
* Kuwait Finance House KSCP CEO Mazin Saad al-Nahedh said the company could exit Malaysia and pull out from investments worth up to $400 million in 2019 due to tough competition in the Southeast Asian nation, The Malaysian Reserve reported.
* Malaysian Industrial Development Finance Bhd. has obtained approval from Malaysia's central bank to proceed with talks on a proposed merger with Saudi Arabia-based Al Rajhi Banking & Investment Corp.'s local arm, Al Rajhi Banking & Investment Corp. (Malaysia) Bhd., DealStreetAsia reported, citing an announcement from the Malaysian bank.
* Toronto-based Brookfield Asset Management Inc. has walked away from its bid to acquire certain assets in Turkey managed by Dubai-based private equity firm Abraaj Group Ltd. due to concerns over Turkey's unstable economy and previous cases of mismanagement at Abraaj, insiders told Private Equity News.
* Commercial Bank of Dubai PSC has not agreed to any structural change with its exposure to Abraaj, following media reports that the lender is set to take stakes in Abraaj's funds that were offered as security against the approximately $170 million loan it lent the troubled private equity firm.
* National International Holding Company K.S.C.P. completed its acquisition of 29.59% of Kuwait-based asset manager Coast Investment & Development Co. K.S.C.P. from Al Khair National for Stocks and Real Estate Co. for 6.3 million Kuwaiti dinars.
* BBK BSC CEO Reyadh Sater said the Bahrain-based lender has plans to expand internationally and has recently opened a new branch in India and an office in Turkey, Al-Watan reported.
* Riyad Bank has hired Goldman Sachs Group to serve as an adviser on its merger talks with Saudi Arabia-based peer National Commercial Bank, sources told Reuters. National Commercial Bank is also reportedly weighing proposals after several banks, including U.K.-based HSBC Holdings and U.S.-based Citigroup Inc., pitched to land advisory roles for the potential deal.
* Qatar Investment Authority plans to increase its U.S. investments to $45 billion over the next two years and shift focus away from Europe, Reuters reported, citing the sovereign wealth fund's CEO, Mansour Ibrahim al-Mahmoud.
* Oman-based Bank Sohar SAOG, which now operates as Sohar International, appointed Craig Barrington Bell as its new CFO, effective Jan. 3.
* The Saudi Arabian government has reportedly hired HSBC banker Rayyan Nagadi to set up a privatization unit at the ministry of finance, sources told Bloomberg News.
* Bahrain's Al Baraka Banking Group BSC said that it has no immediate and concrete expansion plans for Malaysia.
* The Securities House K.S.C.P.'s board has recommended the cancellation of some of the Kuwait-based company's activities, including serving as a nonregistered financial broker, investment supervisor and custodian agent.
* Bahrain's Investcorp Bank B.S.C. has partnered with U.K. investment company Coller Capital Ltd. to set up a $1 billion European private equity portfolio.
REST OF MIDDLE EAST
* Iran's Securities and Exchange Organization is looking to form a new anti-money laundering mechanism to allow authorities to closely monitor trade in the capital market, Financial Tribune reported.
* A former Standard Chartered PLC banker is poised to plead guilty to criminal charges in the U.S. for alleged breaches of Iran sanctions, insiders told the Financial Times.
* Bank Hapoalim BM became the first Israeli lender to sign up for SWIFT's Global Payments Innovation, allowing the bank to process faster cross-border payments transactions.
* QNB ALAHLI SAE's board proposed to increase the bank's issued and paid-up capital to 10.77 billion Egyptian pounds from 9.79 billion pounds, Thomson Reuters' Zawya reported.
* For 2020, National Bank of Egypt (SAE) plans to boost its investments in small and medium-sized enterprises to 100 billion pounds, Amwal Al Ghad reported, citing Mamdouh Afia, the bank's SME finance head.
* Tunisian market intermediary firm Tunisie Valeurs SA obtained regulatory approval to become an investment bank, according to Il Boursa.
* Egypt's central bank has completed the final draft of the country's new banking law, which would give the regulator more power to monitor money exchange and money transfer firms, credit risk guarantee institutions, credit granting entities and payments systems, Amwal Al Ghad reported, citing central bank Deputy Governor Lobna Helal.
Henni Abdelghani and Pádraig Belton contributed to this report.
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