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Bank Leumi's Q1 profit rises; Gulf Capital on M&A hunt; Kenya, Ghana hold rates


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Bank Leumi's Q1 profit rises; Gulf Capital on M&A hunt; Kenya, Ghana hold rates


* The wave of consolidation in the Gulf region's banking sector is about to end as most M&A activities involved banks with common shareholders, thus the pool of banks with similar owners is smaller, according to S&P Global Ratings. If ever a new wave of M&A deals sparks, it would be purely for economic reasons, the agency added.

* Abu Dhabi-based private equity firm Gulf Capital Pvt. JSC is looking at bolt-on acquisitions in the Gulf, Africa and South East Asia, CEO Karim el-Solh told Reuters following the company's acquisition of a 70% stake in Medica Holding for an undisclosed amount. El-Solh added that his company is targeting sectors such as healthcare, payments, e-commerce, financial technology and education.

* Bahrain-based Venture Capital Bank closed its acquisition of a majority stake in the franchises of Caribou Coffee Co. Inc. and Fuddruckers Restaurant. The asset manager intends to invest an additional $5 million in both franchises in the coming years.

* IB Capital, a wholly owned unit of Bahraini lender Ithmaar Holding BSC, increased its stake in Solidarity Group Holding BSC (c) to more than 50% in December last year.

* Moody's downgraded Bahrain-based Gulf International Bank BSC's baseline and adjusted baseline credit assessments to "ba2" from "ba1". The agency affirmed the bank's Baa1/P-2 long- and short-term bank deposit ratings and revised the outlook on the long-term rating to stable from negative.

* S&P Global Ratings upgraded Sharjah Islamic Bank PJSC's long-term issuer credit rating to A- from BBB+ with a stable outlook, while affirming its A-2 short-term issuer credit rating.

* Fitch Ratings affirmed the long- and short-term foreign- and local-currency issuer default ratings of Qatar at AA-/F1+, with a stable outlook on the long-term ratings.

* Moody's upgraded the baseline and adjusted baseline credit assessments of Kuwait Finance House KSCP to "baa3" from "ba1" and affirmed its long-and short-term local- and foreign-currency deposit ratings at A1/P-1.

*Kuwait's Commerce and Industry Ministry is conducting final meetings with relevant authorities to approve proposed amendments to the insurance sector regulation, which includes the creation of an independent regulatory body to oversee the sector following 40 years of lacking such authority, according to Al-Anba.

* A. Rajkumar stepped down as deputy general manager for corporate credit at Al Omaniya Financial Services yesterday due to health and personal reasons. The company said Viju Varghese will act as corporate credit head.

* Oman-based Bank Muscat SAOG's board established a task force that will oversee the bank's nonperforming assets.


* Bank Leumi le-Israel BM's first-quarter unaudited net income attributable to shareholders rose to 1.09 billion shekels from 730 million shekels a year earlier. The bank's board of directors also approved a share buyback plan of up to 700 million shekels, to be carried out in two stages.


* The Central Bank of Kenya left its benchmark interest rate unchanged for a fifth time in a row at 9.00%, saying inflation remains within its target in the near term and that the economy is "operating close to its potential." The country's inflation rate surged to a 19-month high of 6.6% last month compared to 4.4% in March. Bloomberg News has a report.

* Separately, the Bank of Ghana maintained its benchmark interest rate at 16% amid rising headline inflation, which stood at 9.5% in April compared to 9.3% a month earlier.

* Diamond Trust Bank Kenya Ltd. posted first-quarter group profit after tax and non-controlling interests of 1.83 billion Kenyan shillings, up from the year-ago 1.68 billion shillings.

* Kenya mortgage lender HF Group PLC plans to double its housing loans to 12,000 over the next two years on the back of higher demand for lower-cost housing segment, Group CEO Robert Kibaara told Business Daily Africa.

* Nigeria-based Unity Bank PLC dismissed allegations by the country's Special Presidential Investigation Panel for Recovery of Public Property that the lender owes the government roughly 7 billion naira, calling the claim "false and unfounded." The panel had threated to take actions to recover the money from the bank, Business Post noted.

* GCB Bank Ltd. Managing Director Ray Sowah said the formation of a special court for financial cases in Ghana will help settle disputes amicably, Citi Business News wrote. The central bank earlier suggested to the country's chief justice a plan to form such a court to deal with the adjudication of financial disputes, as the slow pace of the judiciary in handling cases has partly contributed to bank's high stock of bad loans.

* Ghanaian central bank Governor Ernest Addison said lenders in the country can withstand financial shocks from exchange rate and interest rate movements based on the result of an assessment of the local banking sector, Citi Business News wrote.

* Ghana's National Investment Bank Ltd. named Samuel Sarpong managing director, according to Joy Business.


* Peter Mutharika was declared Malawi's president for a second term after the country's high court lifted an injunction order filed by the opposition against the announcement of the election results, media outlets including BBC News and the Financial Times reported.

* Russia's VTB Bank PJSC confirmed that it is weighing plans to sell its stake in Angola-based Banco VTB Africa SA but that it was too early to talk about the details of the potential deal, Reuters wrote. VTB Bank holds 50.1% of Banco VTB Africa.

* Mozambique's finance ministry warned that the depreciation of the metical currency could make the country's public debt less sustainable between this year and 2021, O País wrote. Mozambique's debt-to-GDP ratio is already more than 100% and 84% of the public debt is in foreign currency, making it sensitive to exchange rate variations.


Asia-Pacific: China issues Baoshang Bank notice; Japan's Polaris Capital to form ¥150B fund

Europe: UK PM confirms resignation; EU election results; Groupe BPCE gets new chair

Latin America: Cielo cancels guidance, cuts dividend payout; BancoEstado's profit falls

Deza Mones, Henni Abdelghani, Sophie Davies and Helen Popper contributed to this report.

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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.