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Lebanese central bank seeks more powers; Tunisian parliament rejects government

GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL

* Saudi Indian Company for Cooperative Insurance Wafa Insurance's financial restructuring plan has been approved by the Riyadh commercial court, Argaam reported, citing a bourse statement.

* Saudi Arabia-based Samba Financial Group's board of directors approved a recommendation to distribute 70 halalas, net of zakat, of cash dividends for the second half of 2019.

* United Arab Emirates-based The National Investor Pr. JSC appointed Kashif Zia to succeed Yasser Geissah as managing director, effective Jan. 9.

* Takaful Emarat - Insurance (PSC)'s board of directors approved the resignation of Mohammad al-Hawari as board member and agreed to appoint Mohamed Haji AlKhoori as his replacement, effective Jan. 9.

* Swiss private bank Banque Lombard Odier & Cie SA hired Guy Bambule to manage its Dubai office, finews.com reported, citing an emailed statement.

* Qatar Insurance Co. Q.S.P.C. appointed Salem Khalaf al-Mannai group CEO, Gulf Times reported. Al-Mannai most recently served as the group's deputy president and CEO.

* Oman's Sultan Qaboos bin Said died Jan. 10 and his cousin Haitham bin Tariq al-Said was appointed as his successor, multiple media outlets including Reuters reported.

* S&P Global Ratings said it expects Oman's new leader, Sultan Haitham, to face a challenging trade-off between addressing social concerns and rising fiscal, external and funding pressures in the coming months, adding that further delays in fiscal and structural reforms could result in higher deficits and government debt.

* Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah has declared three days of mourning following the death of Sultan Qaboos of Oman, Arab Times reported. Kuwait's stock exchange said its operations are suspended Jan. 12 and Jan. 13, based on the country's official mourning announcement, and will resume Jan. 14.

* GFH Financial Group (B.S.C.) said that with reference to Al Hilal Bank PJSC's 5.3% ownership in GFH, 2.83% is held by Al Hilal Bank as collateral for financing granted to Integrated Capital while 2.17% is held by the bank as collateral for financing granted to Abu Dhabi Financial Group. Integrated Capital and ADFG retain the voting right of these shares.

REST OF MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

* Bank of Israel Governor Amir Yaron said the central bank is prepared to purchase foreign currency needed to prevent the appreciation of the shekel, Globes reported.

* Lebanese central bank Governor Riad Salamé said he has asked caretaker Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil for additional powers to standardize and regulate controls local commercial banks are imposing on depositors, Reuters wrote. Since October 2019, lenders have been restricting access to deposits and blocking most international transfers in a bid to prevent capital from exiting Lebanon.

* Separately, Salamé said Lebanon's central bank has proposed to have local holders of a $1.2 billion eurobond maturing in March to swap their holdings for longer-dated notes with higher rates to help manage the country's debt crisis, Bloomberg News reported.

* The U.S. government has warned Iraq that it could lose access to a critical central bank account held at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York if it pushes out American troops, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing Iraqi officials.

* The Egyptian government is looking to commence trading on the country's first commodities exchange within the next 36 to 48 weeks, Reuters wrote, citing Internal Trade Development Authority head Ibrahim Ashmawy.

* The Tunisian parliament rejected the government formed by Prime Minister Habib Jemli, giving President Kais Saied a key role in assigning a new candidate to form the government, Bloomberg News reported.

EAST AND WEST AFRICA

* Proposed currency reforms in the West African Economic and Monetary Union will not fundamentally alter the external liquidity risks of Benin and Côte d'Ivoire as the changes are mainly symbolic, according to Fitch Ratings.

* Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria President Uche Olowu said local banks will likely face difficulty in increasing earnings and expanding operations in 2020 due to low interest rates and slow economic recovery, Bloomberg reported. Olowu noted that the central bank's plans to boost minimum capital requirements for lenders this year could spur consolidation in the sector.

* Nigeria-based Access Bank PLC said the country's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission invited several bank officials, including Group Managing Director Herbert Wigwe, for questioning in relation to a probe on credit facilities availed by the defunct Diamond Bank PLC. The bank's statement comes after a report circulated on social media alleging that Wigwe was arrested by the commission.

* Nigerian investors switching into equities after being banned from investing in high-yielding short-term debt sold by the central bank have driven a surge in local stocks this year, the Financial Times wrote.

* A.M. Best affirmed Nigeria-based AXA Mansard Insurance Plc's B+ financial strength rating and "bbb-" long-term issuer credit rating and revised the outlooks on the ratings to stable from negative.

* A.M. Best affirmed Nigeria-based Custodian & Allied Insurance Ltd.'s B financial strength rating and "bb+" long-term issuer credit rating, with stable outlooks.

* The IMF's executive board approved a new three-year policy coordination instrument for Senegal aimed at supporting the country's efforts to consolidate macroeconomic stability and foster sustained and inclusive growth.

* Allianz Burkina Faso changed its name to Sunu Assurances IARD Burkina Faso, following in the steps of Allianz Bénin, which became Sunu Assurances IARD Bénin in October 2019, Financial Afrik reported.

CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN AFRICA

* Most economists expect the South African Reserve Bank to keep interest rates unchanged at its upcoming Jan. 16 meeting but see the regulator making a 25-basis-point cut in May, according to a Reuters poll.

* South Africa's governing political party, the African National Congress, reaffirmed the central bank's role, mandate and independence and called for the nationalization of the regulator to be carried out in a prudent and affordable time frame that will not benefit private shareholder speculators, Bloomberg reported.

* The South African government's failure to quickly carry out structural reforms will result in the loss of its last remaining investment-grade credit rating, Bloomberg wrote, citing Finance Minister Tito Mboweni.

* South Africa-based Rand Merchant Investment Holdings Ltd. said the current estimate of Australian unit Youi Pty Ltd.'s gross losses, excluding potential reinsurance recoveries, related to bushfires in Australia since November 2019 and up to Jan. 8, 2020, ranges between A$25 million and A$40 million.

* South Africa-based Coronation Asset Management Proprietary Ltd. has increased its stake in local banking group Momentum Metropolitan Holdings Ltd. to 5.06%.

* Portugal's central bank has started investigating billionaire Isabel dos Santos, daughter of Angola's former President José Eduardo dos Santos, after Portuguese politician Ana Gomes lodged a complaint to the Attorney General and the fiscal authority in Portugal, Jornal de Angola reported. Gomes questioned dos Santos' financial transactions related to the acquisition of Portuguese engineering company Efacec amid a series of corruption scandals.

* France has removed Botswana from its list of noncooperative states and territories in tax matters after the southern African nation agreed to amend a bilateral tax treaty allowing the exchange of tax information, according to Business Report.

IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD

Asia-Pacific: Yes Bank OKs 100B-rupee issue; China Everbright Bank's new consumer finance unit

Erin Tanchico, Henni Abdelghani, Pádraig Belton and Mariana Aldano contributed to this report.

The Daily Dose Middle East and Africa has an editorial deadline of 4 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.