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MENA news through May 16

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MENA news through May 16

* The U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Central Bank of Iran Governor Valiollah Seif and another senior official for alleged terrorist financing. The department also sanctioned Iraq-based Al-Bilad Islamic Bank and its chairman and CEO, Aras Habib, in relation to the allegations.

* Iranian Ambassador to Germany Ali Majedi said preliminary steps have been taken by Iran to set up a bank for euro-denominated transactions between the Middle Eastern country and the European Union, Sputnik News reported. He added that the bank could be private and based in Germany.

* German insurer Allianz Group is developing plans to wind down its Iran-related business because of potential U.S. sanctions on the country.

* Meanwhile, Netherlands-based ABN AMRO Group NV said it will wind down its operations in Dubai or transfer them to other locations, citing the limited scale of its activities in the country.

* United Arab Emirates-based ADS Investment Solutions and FTSE Russell intend to jointly launch a new Saudi Arabian equities-focused index to be listed on the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange in the next few weeks at the earliest.

MIDDLE EAST

* Saudi Arabia-based lenders Alawwal Bank and Saudi British Bank, which have been in merger talks since late April 2017, have reached an initial agreement on a share exchange ratio that values Alawwal's existing issued ordinary share capital at about 18.6 billion riyals. Under the terms, Alawwal shareholders would receive 0.485 SABB share for each share held in Alawwal.

* National Commercial Bank CEO Saeed Mohammed al-Ghamdi has stepped down. The board of directors named Faisal Omar al-Sakkaf, the Saudi Arabian lender's head of strategy and business development group, as acting CEO.

* Riyad Bank reported first-quarter net profit of 1.14 billion Saudi Arabian riyals, up from 1.05 billion riyals in the same period in 2017. Fellow Saudi lender Arab National Bank's net profit came in at 816.5 million riyals, compared to 768 million riyals a year ago.

* The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority greenlighted the potential merger agreement between Al Ahlia Insurance Co. for Cooperative Insurance and Gulf Union Co-operative Insurance Co.

* S&P Dow Jones Indices is consulting investors on whether Saudi Arabia should be upgraded to emerging market status from its current ranking as a stand-alone country, Reuters reported.

* The Qatar Central Bank has asked banks for more data on U.S. dollar-Qatari riyal trades as part of its investigation into suspected attempts to manipulate the local currency amid a standoff between the country and a group of Arab states, insiders told Reuters.

* Al Khalij Commercial Bank PQSC said it is engaging with third parties over a potential sale of 100% of fully owned subsidiary Al khaliji France SA.

* Union National Bank PJSC reported first-quarter net profit attributable to equity holders of 421.8 million UAE dirhams, down from 449.3 million dirhams in the same period in 2017.

* Abu Dhabi-based Mubadala Development Co. PJSC's attempts to sell Falcon Private Bank AG are facing hurdles due to a misconduct investigation hanging over the Zurich-based unit for allegedly failing to prevent money laundering, insiders told Reuters.

* Shuaa Capital PSC signed an initial agreement with Amwal International Investment Co. KSCP to launch a voluntary acquisition offer for the Kuwaiti investment company after securing in-principle approval from the Central Bank of Kuwait. Separately, Shuaa Capital said it appointed Atif al-Othri CEO of Gulf Finance Saudi Arabia, its fully owned Shariah-compliant business financing arm.

* Abraaj Group Ltd. has assured creditors, including Mashreqbank PSC and France-based Société Générale SA, that the planned sale of stakes in its fund management unit and Pakistani power utility K-Electric Ltd. will help it address any potential liquidity problems, insiders told Bloomberg News.

* Sergey Gorkov, head of Russia-based Vnesheconombank, said the state-owned development lender plans to open a representative office in Abu Dhabi in May that will serve as a platform for interactions between Russian businesses and companies from the Persian Gulf, primarily those from the UAE.

* The Mint Corp. subsidiary Mint Middle East LLC, which recently received preliminary regulatory approval to become a licensed insurance brokerage company in the UAE, has hired a senior insurance professional to establish an insurance brokerage business in the country.

* Bank Dhofar SAOG appointed Jose Joseph deputy general manager and chief risk officer.

* Kuwait-based Noor Financial Investment Co. sought the approval of the Pakistan's central bank to sell part of its 49.11% stake in Meezan Bank Ltd. Noor Financial, which owns 49.11% of Meezan Bank, said it is in preliminary nonbinding talks with an unnamed overseas firm for the sale of a 9.59% stake in the Pakistani lender.

* Nationalist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr emerged as the winner in Iraq's parliamentary election, defeating militia leader Hadi al-Amiri and incumbent Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, Reuters reported.

NORTH AFRICA

* S&P Global Ratings upgraded Egypt's long-term foreign- and local-currency sovereign credit ratings to B from B- with a stable outlook, citing the nation's strengthening economy and improving external position.

* CFG Bank SA plans to form strategic alliances for its asset management operations in Ivory Coast or Senegal as early as 2019, according to Laureen Kouassi-Olsson, regional head for Western and Central Africa at Amethis Finance which recently acquired 13% of the Moroccan lender. Kouassi-Olsson said the plan, which is part of the bank's strategy to expand in French-speaking countries, could include acquisitions in the two countries to gain access to customers and a network that it could overhaul.

* Wafa Assurance SA, the insurance arm of Moroccan lender Attijariwafa Bank SA, named Ramses Arroub chairman and CEO, replacing the retiring Ali Harraj.

* The Central Bank of Tunisia maintained its key interest rate at 5.75%, according to Reuters.

Henni Abdelghani contributed to this report.

This S&P Global Market Intelligence news article may contain information about credit ratings issued by S&P Global Ratings, a separately managed division of S&P Global. Descriptions in this news article were not prepared by S&P Global Ratings.