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MENA news through Aug. 2

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MENA news through Aug. 2

MIDDLE EAST

* Qatar filed a legal complaint before the World Trade Organization to challenge a trade boycott imposed by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, setting off a 60-day deadline for the three Arab states to settle the complaint or face litigation at the WTO and potential trade sanctions, Reuters reported. The WTO complaint did not include Egypt, the fourth country involved in the boycott.

* Iraq's $1 billion bond maturing in 2023 received high demand from investors when it launched yesterday, attracting about $6.6 billion of orders, the Financial Times reported. The transaction marks the country's first independent bond sale in more than 10 years. Reuters also covered.

* Saudi Arabia's Capital Market Authority granted Moody's Investors Service Middle East Ltd. authorization to conduct credit rating activities in the country.

* Saudi Re for Cooperative Reinsurance Co. signed a shareholder agreement to acquire 49.9% of the ordinary shares of Probitas Holdings Bermuda Ltd. for $25 million, as well as the ownership structure of three of Probitas' subsidiaries. Completion of the transaction is subject to approvals by the Saudi Monetary Agency and the Lloyd's of London insurance market in the U.K.

* Israeli holding company IDB Development Corp. Ltd. received an offer from an unnamed international firm to acquire its 49.9% stake in Clal Insurance Enterprises Holdings Ltd.at a company value of 4.71 billion Israeli shekels, Globes reported. The company is obliged to divest its stake in the Tel Aviv-based insurer by 2019-end under Israel's concentration regulations.

* Dubai-based SHUAA Capital PSC said that it acquired 14,491,378 shares in Amwal International Investment, representing about 8% of the Kuwait-based investment firm's share capital. SHUAA Capital unit Gulf Finance Corp. PJSC also owns roughly 3% of Amwal.

* Bahrain-based investment firm Investcorp Technology Partners said it has completed the acquisition of Impero Holdings Ltd. for an enterprise value of £27.5 million for its fourth Technology Fund. Impero is a U.K.-based provider of online student safety, classroom and school network management software.

* Bank Audi SAL reported unaudited consolidated first-half group share profit of 449.21 billion Lebanese pounds, up from the year-ago 322.03 billion pounds.

* Ahli United Bank B.S.C. reported second-quarter net profit attributable to the owners of the bank of $151.9 million, up from $146.6 million in the same period in 2016. The Bahrain-based lender's first-half attributable net profit rose year over year to $311.3 million from $301.2 million.

* Jordan-based Arab Bank Group reported first-half profit attributable to the bank's shareholders of $409.9 million, compared to $418.7 million in the same period in 2016.

* Mizrahi Tefahot Bank Ltd. is in discussions to acquire a controlling stake in Union Bank of Israel Ltd., Globes reported, citing Mizrahi Tefahot CEO Eldad Fresher. The price of the purchase, if it materializes, would be 0.6x equity at a valuation of 1.4 billion Israeli shekels, representing a 10% premium to the market price. The potential acquisition would be effected through a share swap, according to Reuters.

* United Gulf Bank BSC's shareholders are reviewing the company's operational structure and exploring options to separate its regulated banking activities from the core investments portfolio. "The strategic realignment of operations would set out clear goals for the two distinct business lines and would help enhance performance and bring capital efficiency to the business," the bank said.

* Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank PJSC raised $320 million through the issuance of a five-year Formosa bond, insiders told Reuters.

* Oman is currently in discussions with international lenders about raising additional funds through a loan and bonds as part of efforts to plug its budget deficit for 2017, insiders told Reuters. The government has also signed a $3.55 billion term loan with a group of Chinese financial institutions, Oman Tribune reported. The transaction size was raised from the originally planned $2 billion as a result of strong demand from the Chinese lending base.

* Khaleeji Commercial Bank BSC appointed Ahmed Khalil al-Mutawa chairman and Abdulkareem Ahmed Bucheeri vice chairman.

* AXA Green Crescent Insurance Co. said CFO Enrique Avila has resigned.

* Saudi Aramco's advisers recommended the London Stock Exchange for the oil firm's IPO, which is expected to be the biggest in history, insiders told Reuters. The advisers reportedly preferred the LSE over the New York Stock Exchange as disclosure rules in the U.S. were said to be a concern for Saudi authorities.

NORTH AFRICA

* Commercial International Bank (Egypt) SAE sold a 3.45% stake in investment banking unit CI Capital Holding Co. SAE for 44.9 million Egyptian pounds. Following the transaction, the lender will retain a minority stake of 10% in CI Capital.

* Tunisia's Wifak Bank has opened three new branches in the country — in Gabès, Sousse-Sahloul and Msaken — taking its total number of branches to 12, L'Economiste Maghrebin wrote. The entity said it will open seven more new branches imminently and that it plans to have a total of 32 branches by year-end.

* Egyptian Finance Minister Amr El-Garhy said his country plans to issue between $2 billion and $4 billion in U.S. dollar-denominated eurobonds in the first quarter of 2018, Reuters reported, citing news agency MENA. El-Garhy added that there are no plans for any international bond sales in the rest of this year.

* Tunisia's central bank has relaxed rules for converting foreign currency, giving banks until year-end to convert foreign-currency and convertible dinar accounts into a single resident person account, Jeune Afrique wrote.

* Arsène Coulibaly has been appointed CEO of Atlantic Business International, the holding company of Morocco's Banque Centrale Populaire, Financial Afrik wrote.

* Crédit du Maroc SA has launched its Islamic finance activities and services under the Arreda brand, having received approval from Morocco's central bank, Financial Afrik wrote. The bank said it will open 12 sales points across the country in the coming weeks and raise the number to 30 by 2020.

Henni Abdelghani and Sophie Davies contributed to this report.