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Iran central bank cool on reform bill; Fitch says investors upbeat on SSA

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Iran central bank cool on reform bill; Fitch says investors upbeat on SSA

Welcometo S&P Global Market Intelligence's new Middle East and Africa Daily Dose,our regional news overview published by 9 a.m., Dubai time, Monday to Friday. 

MIDDLEEAST AND NORTH AFRICA

Iranian central bank cool onbanking reform bill:Central Bank of Iran Governor Valiollah Seif called on lawmakers to suspend adebate on a banking reform bill, which proposes the establishment of aregulatory body within the central bank tasked with supervising Iranian banks'compliance with Shariah rules, the FinancialTribune reports. Seif is said to have sent aletter to Ali Larijani, speaker of the parliament, voicing his objection to theproposed bill.

*The Abu Dhabi Global Market's Financial Services Regulatory Authority yesterdaypublished a public consultation papersetting out its proposal to create a so-called regulatory laboratory, whichwould allow financial technology firms to conduct activities in a regulated andcost-effective environment. The consultation will run until June 13.

*Dubai International Financial Centre CEO Arif Amiri said he remains unperturbedby moves to develop rival banking centers in the Middle East such as the KingAbdullah Financial District in Saudi Arabia and the Abu Dhabi Global Market,noting that a slump in commodity prices and a regional economic slowdown didnot stop the Dubai banking hub from posting a record year in 2015, accordingtoBloomberg News.

*Montenegro-based UniversalCapital Bank AD Podgorica opened a representative in the DubaiInternational Financial Centre. Mohammad Akif Raza will head the representativeoffice.

*Kuwaiti lender Warba BankKSCP appointed acting CEO Shaheen Hamad Abdulwahab al-Ghanem itspermanent CEO, Argaam writes.

*First Gulf BankPJSC's head of wholesale and international banking, Simon Penney,resigned after less than three years at the bank to return to the U.K., Reuterswrites,noting that other executives who recently left the bank include Adrian Hodges,head of global markets sales, and Christopher Wilmot, head of treasury.

*Al Baraka Banking GroupBSC posted first-quarter net incomeattributable to equity holders of the parent of $38 million, down 5% on ayearly basis, amid a decline in economic activity in some countries in whichthe group operates because of lower oil prices, as well as the appreciation ofthe dollar against their local currencies.

*Moody's revised theoutlook on Al Madina InsuranceCo. SAOG to stable from positive, reflecting the Omani insurer'sweakening profitability in 2015 driven by underwriting losses, investmentincome volatility and other factors.

*The three-month Emirates IBOR, a benchmark interest rate in the United ArabEmirates that is used to price loans, climbed 3 basis points to 1.07871% onMonday, the highest level in more than three years, Bloomberg News writes. The equivalent interestrate in Qatar surged 6 basis points to 1.5025%, the highest level since January2011.

*The performance of Islamic banks in the GCC countries will be weighed down bythe weak economic environment this year and the next, according to an S&PGlobal Ratings report cited byArgaam. The agency said Islamic banks will be able to "navigate throughthis new environment" with manageable deterioration of their financialprofiles due to sufficient buffers, TheNational notes.

* DohaInsurance Co. QSC, AlKhaleej Takaful Group QSC, and are paying 6.75 million Qatari riyals each to their respective stakes in Qatari UnifiedBureau Insurance WLL, a limited liability company that provides insurance onvehicles entering Qatar and sells insurance cards for vehicles travelingoutside the country, to 25% from 20%.

*Abdelghani Mebarek, director general of small and medium-sized enterprises atthe Algerian Ministry of Industry and Mining, announced plans to establish abank with sole responsibility for financing SME projects, accordingtothe Algeria Press Service.

* As HSBCHoldings Plc looks to exit its Algeria operations, La Nouvelle Tribune says the state's role inAlgeria's banking sector has contributed to flat growth in the sector anddriven away private investment. The bank credit to GDP ratio is only 26% inAlgeria, compared to 76% in Morocco and 78% in Tunisia, according to the report.

* Tunisia's banks had a sluggish first quarter, prioritizingshort-term investment products over more stable investments in a cash-tightenvironment, Il Boursa reports.

EASTAND WEST AFRICA

Kenyaseeks StanChart's SME focus: StandardChartered Plc CEO Bill Winters said the group intends to expand inKenya and other "bright spots in the world," The Star writes. Kenyan President UhuruKenyatta held a meeting with Winters in Nairobi and urged the U.K.-based bankto renew its focus on SMEs and agriculture in the country.

*Equity Group HoldingsLtd. reported unaudited consolidatedprofit after tax, exceptional items and minority interest of 5.13 billionKenyan shillings in the first quarter, up from 4.30 billion shillings in theyear-ago period. The group attributed the increase to a 22% growthin the loan book and a 28% growth in government securities. CEO James Mwangisaid he would focus on expanding Equity Group's subsidiaries across Africainstead of looking for new acquisition targets, Reuters notes.

*Access Bank Plc saidyesterday that the Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission questionedManaging Director and CEO Herbert Wigwe regarding a certain transaction,Reuters reports. The lender said Wigwe wasreleased without charge on Friday, following resolution of "underlyingissues." Nigerian law enforcement authorities also called the heads ofFidelity Bank Plc andSterling Bank Plc forquestioning, who were also released without charge on Friday, accordingtothe Financial Times.

CENTRALAND SOUTHERN AFRICA

Investors upbeat on SSA, saysFitch: FitchRatings said strategic investors arestill looking to expand in sub-Saharan Africa despite the highly speculativefundamental credit quality of banks in the region, except South Africa. Theagency noted that deals continue to flow as banks continue with theirintentions to create pan-African networks despite an "extremelytough" operating environment.

*Old Mutual Plcsubsidiary Mutual and Federal joined a growing list of South African firms thatstopped doing business with Oakbay Investments, a company owned by the Guptafamily, amid allegations that the family wielded political influence due toclose links to South African President Jacob Zuma, accordingtoReuters. Mutual and Federal withdrew its cover for Oakbay Investments due toconcerns about the company's reputation, an insider tells the newswire.

*Moody's yesterday confirmed the long-term deposit ratings of Standard Bank ofSouth Africa, FirstRand BankLtd., Absa BankLtd., Nedbank Ltd.and Investec BankLtd. at Baa2, concluding the review for downgrade that wasinitiated March 10. The rating agency also confirmed 's issuerrating at Baa3 and downgraded ABSA Bank's baseline credit assessment to"baa3" from "baa2". The actions were mainly driven byMoody's decision last week to confirm South Africa's sovereign rating at Baa2.

* Following a similar move by the IMF, the World Bank andseveral other countries, Canada is cutting aid to Mozambique due to concernsover the disclosure in April of more than US$1 billion in "hidden"public debt, Canadian television station CTV News reports.Canada's high commissioner to Mozambique, Shawn Barber, said via Twitterearlier this week that aid to the central government has been suspended.

*The Zambian central bank took over microfinance firms Cetzam Financial ServicesPlc, Genesis Finance Ltd. and Commercial Leasing Zambia Ltd. with immediateeffect over concerns about their capital levels, the Zambia Daily Mail reports.

* The IMF criticized members of the Economic Community ofCentral African States for "excessive use" of the Bank of CentralAfrican States to finance their budget deficits, leading to a decline in foreignexchange reserves and leaving room for further monetary expansion exhausted,Agence Ecofin says.

* Ending a period of interim administration, Commercial Bankof Cameroon appointed Léandre Djummo its new head. Djummo will be assisted byJean-Elisé Goater and Alfred Tiki will chair the bank's board, Jeune Afrique reports.The bank was placed in government hands after the imprisonment of its formerowner, Yves Michel Fotso, on corruption charges.

* Inan auction of short-term debt last week, cash-strappedAngola paid more than 18% on one-year Treasury bills as it struggles with lowoil prices and annual inflation of about 20%, Macauhub reports,citing an Angolan central bank report.

*National Bank of Rwanda Governor John Rwangombwa said the local currency couldfall 8% this year and 5% in both 2017 and 2018, Reuters reports.

INOTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD

*Banco BPI SA directorshave until May 17 to decide on a full takeover bid by Spanish lender that would allowthe Portuguese lender to reduce its exposure to Angola in line with ECBregulations, Diário Económico reports.Tiago Violas Ferreira, who holds a 2.68% stake in BPI, said the offer price wastoo low. In light of his comments, the paper noted that unanimity on thetakeover was unlikely within BPI's board, with directors linked to Angolaninvestor Isabel dos Santos also expected to reject it.

* CitigroupInc. is in negotiations with Citadel Securities LLC for the possible of Automated Trading Desk,the bank's market-making subsidiary, Bloomberg News reports.

* Former DeutscheBank AG Managing Director Martyn Dodgson and chartered accountantAndrew Hind, a former finance director of retail chain Topshop, were of conspiring toengage in insider dealing. The U.K. Financial Conduct Authority said thatbetween November 2006 and March 2010, Dodgson sourced inside information fromwithin the investment banks where he was employed, which also included MorganStanley and Lehman Brothers, and passed the data to Hind, who acted as a"middle man," for their own benefit.

* U.S. FBI agents believe at least one Bangladesh Bankemployee assisted hackers in their attempt to steal almost $1 billion fromthe central bank's account at the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank of New York, The Wall Street Journal reports.

* Fitch Ratings upgraded the sovereign ratings of Argentina followingthe resumption of the country's debt payments with restructured bondholders.The country's long- and short-term foreign-currency issuer default ratings wereraised to B from RD.

S&PGlobal Ratings and S&P Global Market Intelligence are owned by S&PGlobal Inc.

XanaKakoty, Henni Abdelghani, Pádraig Belton and Helen Popper contributed to thisreport.

TheDaily Dose Middle East and Africa has an editorial deadline of 5 a.m. Londontime. Some external links may require a subscription.