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MENA news through April 27

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MENA news through April 27

* The IMF expectseconomic growth in the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council to slow to 1.8% in2016 compared to 3.3% in 2015, the FinancialTimes noted.The IMF also warned that low oil prices and fiscal tightening would continue topose challenges for the medium term.

* Meanwhile, KPMG said GCC banks generally fared well in2015, despite an economic environment characterized by marginal compression,tightening liquidity and moderate asset and profit growth, among others, CPIFinancial reported.In a report covering 56 listed banks in the six GCC countries, KPMG added thatthe outlook for the coming years remains relatively positive given theexpectation of continued government support for the sector as well ascommitment for infrastructure investment.

MIDDLE EAST

* Saudi Arabia pledged to diversify its economy in a bid toend its "addiction to oil" and boost its private sector, the Financial Times reported.As part of the overhaul, the Middle Eastern country is planning to lista 5% stake in oil firm Saudi Aramco and transfer its ownership to the state'sPublic Investment Fund, which will bolster the wealth fund's value to as muchas $3 trillion. Masood Ahmed, director of the IMF's Middle East and centralAsia department, welcomed the plans but added that Saudi Arabia should alsofocus on attracting more private investment, accordingto CNBC.

* The three-month Saudi interbank offered rate hit aseven-year high Sunday, rising 1.5 basis points to 2.004%, accordingto Bloomberg News.

* The United Arab Emirates' , Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank PJSC and reportedyear-over-year falls in first-quarter profit as loan provisions rose. Profitwas down 10.7% atNational Bank of Abu Dhabi to 1.27 billion UAE dirhams, as the net impairmentcharge rose to 294.9 million dirhams from 170.2 million dirhams. Profitattributable to equity shareholders was down18% to 1.02 billion dirhams at Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, with impairmentsallowances rising 46% to 352 million dirhams. And at First Gulf Bank, profitattributed to equity holders of the bank fell to 1.33billion dirhams from 1.42 billion dirhams, as provisions increased to 376.0million dirhams from 358.9 million dirhams.

* Profits did rise year over year at Dubai Islamic Bank (PJSC) and ,Emirates 24/7 noted,although impairment losses nearly doubled year over year at the latter.

* A survey by the UAE central bank showed a rebound incredit demand in the January-March quarter after a dip in the previous quarter,Reuters reported.However, the central bank noted that continued tightening credit conditions forbusiness loans indicate reduced willingness of financial institutions to extendsuch loans, which in part reflects the negative effect of lower oil prices.

* A consortium led by Jordan-based  expressed interest inacquiring MESCInvestment PSC, in which Dubai Islamic Bank holds a 40% stake through whollyowned subsidiaries Petra Ltd. and Levant One Ltd. MESC Investment owns 52% ofJordan Dubai IslamicBank. Although Dubai Islamic Bank is reportedly seeking to expandin Kenya, it is also looking to exit certain markets such as Jordan in aneffort to cut costs.

* Meanwhile, the board of Dubai Islamic Bank the issuance of988,437,777 shares at 3.20 dirhams each.

* U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the country isnot, and will not, "stand in the way" of foreign banks seeking to dobusiness with Iran, Reuters reported.His statement follows concerns raised by the Iranian government about notgetting the full economic effect of the recent nuclear deal because ofuncertainty in the business community outside the U.S. about investing in Iran.

* Bank ofIreland and AlliedIrish Banks Plc still refuse to facilitate financial transactionswith Iran and are keeping their restrictions on processing Iranian money inplace, The Irish Times reported.Bank of Ireland said that although certain sanction restrictions had beenlifted, there are still ongoing requirements and regulations that remain,including the continued application of U.S. primary sanctions. AIB said itwould keep its restrictions involving Iranian-related transactions under review.

* QatarNational Bank SAQ is investigating an alleged security breach ofcustomer data that has been leaked online, accordingto International Business Times. Meanwhile, the bank is reportedly planningto issue a Formosabond — debt issued in Taiwan but not in the local currency — or an Australiandollar-denominated bond as early as the second quarter and is in talks withother banks about financing. The lender could issue a Chinese yuan-denominatedbond amounting to between US$400 million and US$500 million, while theAustralian dollar-denominated bond could range between A$300 million and A$400million.

* Qatar FirstBank LLC listed its shares on the Qatar Stock Exchange's bankingand financial services sector under the symbol QFBQ. CEO Ziad Makkawi toldReuters that the lender will raise no new money from the listing.

* GulfInternational Bank B.S.C. issued a 2 billion Saudi Arabian riyal senior unsecuredbond, the first bond issue by a financial company in the riyal market sinceSeptember 2015.

* Kuwait's Capital Markets Authority greenlighted 's proposed capital increase, Reuters reported.The bank plans to raise its capital by 6.5% through a rights issue involving343.96 million shares to be issued at 0.4 dinar per share. Meanwhile, unitBoubyan Bank K.S.C.P.mandated banks for a series of fixed income meetings with investors ahead of apotential dollar-denominated sukuk issue aimed at bolstering its capital base, accordingto Reuters.

* BankDhofarSAOG presented Bank Sohar SAOG the terms for a proposed merger whichReuters notedwould pave the way for the creation of Oman's second-largest bank with a marketcapitalization of $1.81 billion and assets of $13.69 billion.

* Bank MuscatSAOG's five-year $500 million bond issue attracted orders of more than $1.2 billion,including interest from joint lead managers. The bond was launched at 260 basispoints over midswaps, compared to the initial price guidance of 275 basispoints over midswaps.

* Standard & Poor's Ratings Services to negative from stable theoutlook on Jordan, citing mounting pressures attributable to ongoing regionalconflicts. The agency also revised to negative from stable the outlooks onArab Bank Plc andJordan Islamic Bank,having earlier done the same on the latter's parent, AlBaraka Banking Group B.S.C.

* Fitch Ratings revisedthe outlook on Israel's A long-term foreign-currency issuer default rating topositive from stable, to reflect the continued strengthening of the country'sexternal finances in 2015.

* The Bank of Israel's Monetary Committee keptthe interest rate for May unchanged at 0.1%, citing an inflation environmentthat remains low and the continued moderation in global economic activity,among other factors. Meanwhile, a draft amendment to the country's Fair CreditLaw suggests imposing a ceiling on rates charged by banks and non-bank lenders,equivalent to no more than 3x the average interest charged by banks, which iscurrently 3%, Globes wrote.The original draft of the legislation set the maximum interest rate forborrowers of both bank and non-bank loans at 20% plus the prime rate.

* Bank Leumile-Israel B.M. Deputy CEO Daniel Tsiddon over a new Israeli law cappingthe total compensation of banks and insurance executives at 2.5 millionshekels, or no more than 44x the pay that the lowest-earning worker at thecompany draws.

* Shareholders of Jordan's shareholders electedAbdel al-Khatib chairman and Abdulla al-Khalifa vice chairman. Al-Khatibsucceeds Michel Marto, who stepped down to fulfill corporate governance rulesissued by the Jordanian central bank.

NORTH AFRICA

* The United Arab Emirates pledged $4 billion in aid toEgypt to help boost its economy, accordingto Gulf News. Half of the funding will be allocated for developmentprojects, while the rest will be deposited in the country's central bank toshore up its currency reserves.

* Hisham Ramez Abdel Hafez, former governorof the Central Bank of Egypt , will no longer be joining Commercial International Bank (Egypt)as vice chairman following his appointment as chairman of the board ofArab InternationalBank. Mohamed Kamal el-Din Barakat was appointed deputy chairmanand CEO of Arab International Bank, while central bank Deputy Governor GamalNegm was appointed to the bank's board.

* The Mauritanian central bank's monetary policy councilgranted approval to a new institution called the Mauritanian Bank for Industry,Financial Afrik reported.The new bank has capital of approximately $20 million and is 60%-owned byUAE-based investors and 40% by Mauritanian businessman Zeine Ould Abidine.

* SociétéTunisienne de Banque unit STB Finance named Houcine Trad presidentof its board of directors, accordingto L'Economiste Maghrébin.

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