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Zimbabwe cuts withdrawal charges; Japanese bank to open Saudi branch

* Moody's said yesterday that the African banking sector, overall, has a stable outlook for next year, but noted that there is considerable regional divergence, with east Africa likely to be the most resilient African region and west, central and southern Africa facing a range of challenges.

* The Islamic Corp. for the Development of the Private Sector, a member of the Islamic Development Bank, signed a memorandum of understanding with the Eastern & Southern African Trade & Development Bank envisaging bilateral cooperation to facilitate financing and investment projects in their common member countries.

* U.S. agency Overseas Private Investment Corp. injected $200 million in equal parts into investment funds Apis Growth Fund II and Helios Credit Partner, which have significant operations in Africa, Agence Ecofin writes. The aim is to help the two firms promote financial inclusion in the region, including improving access to finance through the internet.

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

* The Saudi Arabian government licensed Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc.'s Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi to open a branch in the country, the Saudi Press Agency reports. The government authorized the finance minister to decide on any subsequent request from the Japanese lender to open other branches in the country.

* Bank Hapoalim BM CEO Ari Pinto said the Israeli banking system is facing "unbridled incitement" from legislators and regulators as part of attempts to divert attention from Israel's real problems, Globes writes. Pinto said some regulators and legislators are more inclined to make further "headline-making new measures" instead of examining the impact of previous measures.

* Pakistani officials are set to review a proposal for the country's banks to establish branches in Iran, according to Pakistani lawmaker Muhammad Ijaz-ul-Haq, the Financial Tribune reports, citing Banker.ir.

* Fitch Ratings said lending by Qatari Islamic banks grew 7.2% in the first half, generally outpacing the 6.5% growth at conventional banks, mainly due to higher retail and real estate financing. The rating agency noted that liquidity is tightening and financing-to-deposit ratios are increasing across all banks in Qatar, mainly due to government deposit withdrawals.

EAST AND WEST AFRICA

* Nigerian lawmaker John Enoh is sponsoring a bill in the Nigerian legislature that would allow the country's central bank to set exchange rates itself and repeal existing legislation in which the rates are set by counterparties, Bloomberg News writes. The draft law, which Enoh said will be put to a public hearing in 2017, would let the central bank freely defend the naira, which has dropped about 37% against the U.S. dollar since its peg was abolished in June.

* Premium Bank, formerly known as City Investments Co. Ltd., has commenced full banking operations in Ghana after receiving a banking license from the central bank in the second quarter, Joy Business reports. The company previously operated as a finance house focused on small and medium-sized enterprises.

* Adelhelm Meru, permanent secretary at Tanzania's Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, said the government intends to establish an industrial development bank soon to hasten the flow of investment and loans for industrial development in the country, Daily News reports.

* Penalties imposed by the Central Bank of Kenya on erring commercial banks reached 40 million shillings in 2015, more than doubling from 16 million shillings a year ago, Business Daily Africa writes. The increase reflects the increased oversight of the banking sector since Patrick Njoroge took over the central bank in June last year.

* Kenya-based reinsurer Zep-Re named Hope Murera managing director, replacing Rajni Varia, Business Daily Africa reports.

CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN AFRICA

* As expected, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe yesterday cut banks' cash withdrawal charges, adopting a proportional pricing model to replace the fixed charges currently in place. The new applicable charges put in place are a maximum of 1% of an amount withdrawn at an ATM and 1.25% for over-the-counter withdrawals.

* The Angolan central bank approved Portugal-based Banco BPI SA's sale of a 2% stake in Banco de Fomento Angola SA to Unitel, which is controlled by Angolan businesswoman Isabel dos Santos. The stake sale will allow the Portuguese lender to comply with a regulatory demand to reduce its exposure to Angola, according to Jornal de Negócios.

* South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said recent economic data showed that the country's economy is in the process of recovering, Reuters reports. Improved electricity supply, easing drought and a depreciation in the real exchange rate, among others, were cited as factors supporting the economic recovery.

* S&P Global Ratings lowered the long-term counterparty credit and financial strength ratings of four South African insurers and reinsurers, including Santam Ltd. and Allianz Global Corporate and Specialty South Africa Ltd., following the recent downgrade of South Africa's long-term local-currency rating. S&P said economic conditions in the country have led to increased asset risk in domestic insurers' balance sheets due to their significant exposure to rand-denominated government bonds.

* IMF representative Alfredo Baldini said Zambia should delay its planned refinancing of eurobonds amounting to $2.8 billion until financing conditions ease, noting it would be very expensive to do so as current financing conditions are tight, Reuters reports.

* Stanbic Bank Botswana Ltd. named Lesego Osman head of its global markets team, effective immediately, Weekend Post reports. Osman was previously head of global markets at Standard Bank Malawi.

IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD

Asia-Pacific: Indonesia, Japan extend currency swap; Philippines-EU free trade talks delayed

Europe: UniCredit, Amundi strike Pioneer deal; UK banks could face fresh PPI bill

Latin America: Banco do Brasil expects lower payroll costs; Fitch cuts outlook on Mexico

North America: Prudential's Wells tie-up may mean it got fake accounts too

North America Insurance: Wells Fargo sales scandal hits Prudential Financial; Aetna defends exchange exit

Leo Magno, Sarah Raslan, Sophie Davies and Mariana Aldano contributed to this report.

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