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MENA news through Dec. 11


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MENA news through Dec. 11

* Moody's revised the 2020 outlook for banks in Africa to negative from stable, reflecting their worsening operating conditions and the increasing pressure on asset quality. The agency said there will be regional variation, with banks in Egypt, Morocco, Mauritius and Kenya expected to be more resilient than banks in South Africa, Nigeria, Tunisia and Angola.


* Qatar National Bank (QPSC) named acting CEO Abdullah Mubarak al-Khalifa group CEO, effective Dec. 10. Al-Khalifa has been serving as acting CEO since 2018 after taking over from Ali Ahmed al-Kuwari.

* Saudi Arabia could price international bonds as early as January 2020 as part of plans to raise $32 billion of debt in that year, Fahad al-Saif, president of the country's debt management office, told Reuters.

* Saudi Arabian Oil Co. hit the limit of price moves during its Dec. 11 stock market debut, giving the oil giant a valuation of about $1.88 trillion, below the $2 trillion valuation sought by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

* The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority Governor Ahmed al-Kholifey told Reuters that the central bank is ready to intervene should there be a liquidity squeeze in local banks resulting from Aramco's IPO. Al-Kholifey also noted that the cash liquidity of Saudi lenders increased by 5% in October, Argaam reported.

* Moody's said the three biggest lenders in Saudi Arabia — National Commercial Bank, Al Rajhi Banking & Investment Corp., and Saudi British Bank — will likely maintain strong profitability amid a narrowing interest margins on their lending due to falling interest rates.

* The Saudi central bank issued rules aimed to regulate the licensing provisions and activities of microfinance companies, Okaz reported. The rules are part of the regulator's efforts to enhance financial inclusion and stability, and support economic development.

* The board of Saudi Indian Co. for Cooperative Insurance Wafa Insurance approved the appointment of Siraj Jamal as CEO, effective Dec. 9, Argaam reported.

* Saudi Arabia-based Al Alamiya for Cooperative Insurance Co. obtained central bank approval for its group credit life product, Argaam reported.

* Abu Dhabi Global Market's new free zone licensing regime for digital banks received "a significant level of interest" from the region, Asia, Europe and the U.S., according to regulators.

* United Arab Emirates asset manager Dalma Capital Management Ltd. is offering international investors access to Saudi Aramco's IPO via a dedicated protected cell.

* Dubai-based Mashreqbank PSC launched Mashreq NeoBiz, a digital banking proposition specifically targeting small- and medium-sized enterprises, Gulf News reported.

* The board of BLME Holdings PLC approved the terms of Kuwaiti lender Boubyan Bank KSCP's offer to acquire all remaining shares it does not currently own in the London-based bank.

* Boursa Kuwait Securities Co. KPSC signed a market player contract with Kuwait and Middle East Financial Investment Company KSCP, as the company managed to meet all the regulatory requirements, Al-Jarida reported.

* First Takaful Insurance Co. - KPSC CEO Hussain al-Ataal said Kuwait's insurance sector is currently without any regulatory body as it is yet to be set up, which may result in delays in renewing and issuing licenses for the 39 insurance companies operating in the country by year-end, Al-Qabas wrote .

* Moody's said National Bank of Bahrain BSC's planned acquisition of Bahrain Islamic Bank BSC is credit positive for the latter, Gulf Digital News reported.

* Bahrain's central bank launched a new liquidity management tool for Islamic retail banks as part of efforts to develop Islamic banking in the country, Thomson Reuters' Zawya reported.

* Bahrain's Arab Banking Corp. (BSC) launched the operations of its digital bank in Tunisia, The Arab Weekly reported.

* Al Salam Bank-Bahrain BSC said it secured the Central Bank of Bahrain's "no objection" to extend for 90 days beginning Dec. 8 the validity period for the bank to buy up to 4% of its issued shares.

* A summit of states in the Gulf Cooperation Council called for the finalization of a law on regional economic integration, which includes financial and monetary union, by 2025, Reuters wrote.


* Israel's Competition Authority will not object to a court decision allowing the proposed merger of Mizrahi Tefahot Bank Ltd. and Union Bank of Israel Ltd., Reuters reported, citing the regulator.

* U.S.-based Stifel Financial Corp. opened its inaugural office in Israel that will focus on investment banking and related institutional services.

* Lebanese banks may be breaking rules by capping the weekly amount of withdrawals people can make from accounts without clear regulations, legal sources told Gulf News.


* Banque Misr (SAE) Vice Chairman Akef El-Maghraby said the Egyptian bank is in discussions with the Saudi Arabian central bank for a license to open a new branch in Saudi Arabia, Thomson Reuters' Zawya reported.

* The Financial Regulatory Authority of Egypt is in discussions with International Finance Corp. on supporting green bond-eligible projects by next year, Sina Bassam, an adviser to the FRA chairman for sustainable development, told Amwal Al Ghad.

* Fitch Ratings affirmed Morocco's BBB-/F3 long- and short-term foreign- and local-currency issuer default ratings, with a stable outlook.

* Spain's Bankia SA opened a representative office in Morocco to support Spanish companies operating in the country, according to Financial Afrik.

* Tunisian insurance firm Assurances Maghrebia SA plans to pursue an IPO in the first quarter of 2020 on the Tunis stock exchange's main market, according to Il Boursa.

* Algerian interim President Abdelkader Bensalah named Latrach Lazhar as managing director of Banque Extérieure d'Algérie and Frahta Miloud as managing director of Banque Extérieure d'Algérie, Sabq Press reported.

Henni Abdelghani and Pádraig Belton contributed to this report.

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