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SSA news through March 29

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SSA news through March 29

EAST AFRICA

* Rwanda's central bank maintained the key repo rate at 5.5% in the second quarter to encourage the banking sector to continue financing the economy.

* The ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front elected Abiye Ahmed chairperson of the country's ruling coalition, effectively making him prime minister, Reuters wrote. He would succeed Hailemariam Desalegn, who resigned as prime minister last month.

* Shareholders of Sidian Bank Ltd. approved the Kenya-based lender's plan to increase its capital by 1.5 billion Kenyan shillings via a rights issue. Centum Investment Co. Ltd., the lender's biggest shareholder, has subscribed its full rights of about 1.1 billion shillings.

WEST AFRICA

* French digital lender Orange Bank SA has applied for a banking license to the West African Economic and Monetary Union in a bid to expand its operations in the eight countries that comprise the currency union, the Financial Times reported. The bank expects to commence operations in the region by 2018-end.

* The Bank of Ghana trimmed the monetary policy rate by 200 basis points to 18% as both the inflation rate and inflation expectations continue to decline.

* Separately, the Bank of Ghana issued a directive banning executives from serving as both chairman and CEO of any regulated financial institution, Citi Business News wrote. The central bank also set a maximum tenure limit for a CEO or managing director at three terms of four years each.

* U.S. private equity firm Milost Global Inc. said it has ended discussions with Nigeria-based Unity Bank Plc regarding a $1 billion capital injection, after it had been threatened with being run out of Nigeria if it went ahead with the deal, Bloomberg News reported. Meanwhile, two unnamed foreign investors are set to acquire a minority stake in Unity Bank this year, Reuters reported, citing CEO Tomi Somefun.

* Another Nigerian lender, ASO Savings & Loans Plc, denied media reports that Milost Global was investing $250 million into the bank, Business Post Nigeria reported.

* United Bank for Africa Plc reported full-year 2017 group profit attributable to owners of the parent of 76.05 billion Nigerian naira, up from 69.40 billion naira a year ago.

* Separately, United Bank for Africa unit United Bank for Africa (UK) Ltd. secured a wholesale banking license from the U.K. Prudential Regulation Authority.

* Guaranty Trust Bank Ghana Ltd. named Thomas John managing director, effective March 16, Citi Business News reported. He succeeds Lekan Sanusi, who was named managing director of Guaranty Trust Bank (Uganda) Ltd.

* UniBank (Ghana) Ltd. is no longer seeking arbitration over the Bank of Ghana's takeover of the lender, Joy Business wrote.

* Nigeria's government named Joseph Nnanna, a deputy governor for economic policies at the central bank, as board chairman of the Nigerian Export-Import Bank, Vanguard reported.

* Sierra Leone's National Electoral Commission said the country's presidential election run-off, initially set for March 27, will now take place March 31.

* Burkina Faso obtained approval from the West African Economic and Monetary Union's banking commission for the creation of a new agricultural bank, to be called the Banque Agricole du Faso, according to Financial Afrik.

SOUTHERN AFRICA

* The South African Reserve Bank reduced its repurchase rate by 25 basis points to 6.5%, effective March 29.

* A boost to South Africa's economy from rising investor confidence after a leadership change and new policy announcements will not be enough to reduce very high unemployment and the ability of reforms to quickly ease structural challenges to the country's growth remains to be seen, according to S&P Global Ratings.

* Moody's confirmed South Africa's long-term issuer and senior unsecured ratings at Baa3, with a stable outlook, concluding a review for downgrade that began in November 2017. The agency expects the previous weakening of South Africa's institutions to reverse under a more transparent and predictable policy framework. The Baa3 rating is the agency's lowest investment-grade level, Bloomberg noted.

* Sanlam Ltd. raised gross proceeds of roughly 5.70 billion South African rand, or approximately $490 million, through the sale of a total of 65,517,241 new ordinary shares to institutional investors, at a price of 87.00 rand per share. The South Africa-based financial services group's share capital will increase to 2,231,989,047 shares from 2,166,471,806 upon admission of the new shares to trading.

* Alexander Forbes Group Holdings Ltd. is partnering with Evo Financial Services as part of plans to grow its healthcare business, Bloomberg wrote.

* Finbond Group Ltd.'s board of directors resolved to implement a capital raising of about 412 million South African rand through a partially underwritten rights offering to partially repay loans that allowed the company to conclude its acquisitions of Americash Holding LLC and CreditBox.com LLC.

* Capitec Bank Holdings Ltd. said it aims to launch a funeral cover plan underwritten by Sanlam in May, confirming reports about a potential partnership between the two South African firms.

* Angola's attorney general has charged José Filomeno dos Santos, son of former Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos, with fraud for allegedly transferring $500 million in funds abroad from the country's central bank while serving as head of the sovereign wealth fund, the Financial Times reported, citing state radio. HSBC Holdings Plc froze an account linked to the alleged fraud. Meanwhile, Standard Chartered Plc said the funds were transferred out of the central bank's account in the lender, Reuters reported.

* The Reserve Bank of Malawi maintained the policy rate at 16%, the liquidity reserve requirement at 7.5% and the Lombard rate at 200 basis points above the policy rate.

* Malawi became the 18th member of Africa Finance Corp., a pan-African multilateral development finance institution.

* Ian Khama is expected to step down April 1 as Botswana's president, according to Bloomberg. Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi will lead the country until the next presidential election set for October 2019.

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.

Sophie Davies contributed to this report.