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Hapoalim Q1 profit up; Israel faces snap election; Liberia revamps central bank

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Hapoalim Q1 profit up; Israel faces snap election; Liberia revamps central bank

* The U.S. Treasury Department warned that the European payments system created to trade with Iran without violating U.S. sanctions could face "severe consequences," including a loss of access to the U.S. financial system.

* London-headquartered private equity firm Helios Investment Partners LLP aims to raise about $1.25 billion for a pan-Africa investment fund, insiders told Bloomberg News. Helios, which focuses on African investments, could reportedly start fundraising for the vehicle later this year.

GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL

* Commercial Bank of Dubai PSC has refuted reports suggesting that it is engaged in merger discussions. The statement comes after Bloomberg reported that Al Futtaim Group, its second-largest individual shareholder, is considering options including selling its stake in the lender, The National wrote.

* Arif Naqvi, the founder of collapsed private equity firm The Abraaj Group, was released from custody last Tuesday after paying £15 million as conditional bail. The bail conditions are tantamount to house arrest since Naqvi is required to surrender his travel documents, wear an electronic tag and remain in his London home.

* Sharjah Islamic Bank PJSC is positive about its ability to expand its services and activities, its CEO Mohammed Abdullah said, adding that it has undertaken all the necessary requirements to maintain assets and deposits, Al Khaleej reported.

* The Dubai International Financial Centre said all financial authorities in the UAE, including the Securities and Commodities Authority and the Abu Dhabi Global Market, are working on introducing a new regulation that allows the selling of any financial instruments licensed by one of these authorities to be sold anywhere in the country, according to Argaam.

* Saudi Investment Bank completed the acquisition of 18.7 million of its own shares from Japan's Mizuho Bank Ltd. for 13.5 riyals per share, or about 253.1 million riyals in total, Argaam noted.

* The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority has cleared Al Ahlia Insurance Co. for Cooperative Insurance's 23.1% capital reduction plan, trimming the company's capital down to 123 million riyals from 160 million riyals, Argaam reported.

* The shareholders of Chubb Arabia Cooperative Insurance Co. will meet June 27 to decide on the recommendation of the company's board to withhold dividend payouts for 2018, Argaam wrote.

* Kuwait International Bank KSCP has begun marketing $300 million of perpetual Islamic bonds, or sukuk, to shore up its Tier 1 capital, according to a document seen by Reuters.

* S&P Global Ratings kept the BBB local-currency issuer credit and financial strength ratings of Doha Bank Assurance Co. LLC on CreditWatch with negative implications, where the rating was initially placed April 11.

* Capital Intelligence Ratings affirmed the long- and short-term foreign-currency ratings of Qatar National Bank QPSC at AA-/A1+, with a stable outlook on the long-term rating. QNB was also assigned a bank stand-alone rating and core financial strength rating of "a-."

REST OF MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

* Israel is set to hold a snap election on Sept. 17 after its parliament had voted to dissolve itself following Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's failure to form a coalition government. Netanyahu, who faces possible indictment in three separate corruption cases, reportedly struggled to form a government due to infighting among his allies and disputes over proposed measures to shield him from prosecution.

* Israel-based Bank Hapoalim BM's first-quarter net profit attributed to shareholders rose on a yearly basis to 821 million shekels from 628 million shekels. The plans to buy back shares with proceeds from the sale of its stake of about 65.2% in credit card unit Isracard Ltd., subject to regulatory and board approvals.

* Banks in the Sudanese city of Khartoum were closed yesterday on the second day of strikes of public and private enterprises pressuring the military to yield power to civilians, Reuters reported. The financial sector widely participated in the strike, including employees of the central bank, leaving cash machines not restocked for days.

* The Egyptian government is working on a bill that will allow the central bank to regulate cryptocurrencies, marking a softening of its stance on digital currencies following its decision to ban all cryptocurrencies under Islamic law early last year, CoinDesk reported, citing the Middle East News Agency. The ban was implemented amid fears that virtual currencies could be used on tax evasion, money laundering and other financial crimes.

* Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi appointed Fakhry Elfiky a board member of the country's central bank, replacing Hala al-Saeed, Daily News Egypt noted.

* CDC Group PLC, the U.K.'s development financial institution, has received approval from Egypt's central bank to provide up to $200 million in Tier 2 capital to Egyptian banks. The firm noted that it is currently in talks with several banks over possible funding for their loan book expansion.

EAST AND WEST AFRICA

* Liberian central bank Executive Governor Nathaniel Patray will retire in the next three months, while Mounir Siaplay stepped down as deputy governor for economic policy, as President George Weah announced an overhaul of the regulator's leadership, Bloomberg wrote. Weah said the government will open nominations for new executives.

* Nairobi Securities Exchange Plc clinched regulatory approval to proceed with the launch of a derivatives market, becoming the second African bourse to do so, and said it expects to begin trading of futures contracts in July. The Kenyan Capital Markets Authority noted that the derivatives market will initially offer equity single stock futures and equity index futures and, eventually, other financial and commodities derivatives.

* Kenya's central bank wants all mobile loan providers in the country to be subjected to stricter regulations under a banking charter, which took effect yesterday, Standard Digital reported.

* Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in for a second term yesterday, news outlets including Al Jazeera and ThisDay reported. Buhari beat main opponent, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, with 56% of the votes in his favor in the February elections.

* Safiétou Niang Sarr was appointed new director general of Banque De Dakar, according to Financial Afrik. Previously deputy general manager, she will assume the post following the resignation of Ibrahima Fall.

CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN AFRICA

* South African banking group FirstRand Ltd. will cut prices on its retail banking offerings, following a similar move by peers including Standard Bank Group Ltd. amid increasing competition from new digital rivals, Christoph Nieuwoudt, head of consumer banking at the bank's retail unit, told Reuters.

* South African parametric disaster insurance provider African Risk Capacity aims to become an independent company over the next five years after its cooperation agreement with the World Food Programme expires in 2024, Artemis reported.

* African Phoenix Investments Ltd. appointed Thiru Pather an independent nonexecutive director. Meanwhile, Nonzukiso Siyotula stepped down from a similar role.

* The Angolan government is yet to present a bill that will tackle money laundering and terrorism financing, a target set out by the IMF as part of its financing program for the country, Expansão reported. A government official reportedly said the bill, which was due to be submitted March-end, will be presented later this year.

IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD

Asia-Pacific: ANZ Bank New Zealand names interim CEO; Bandhan Bank to open 16 branches

Europe: Scope cuts Deutsche; Abanca closes in on Liberbank bid; NordLB, Helaba post Q1

Latin America: BTG selling 2B reais of shares in banking unit; Alignvest-Sagicor deal approved

North America: Piper Jaffray agrees to sell Advisory Research; 2 California banks in deal

Global Insurance: AIG could sell Manhattan HQ; tornadoes lash Midwest; Old Republic proxy access

Deza Mones, Henni Abdelghani, Sophie Davies and Helen Popper contributed to this report.

The Daily Dose Middle East and Africa has an editorial deadline of 5 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.