* Moody's said the outlook for the global life insurance sector in 2020 is stable, as low interest rates continue to challenge the industry.
GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL
* A summit of states in the Gulf Cooperation Council called for the finalization of a law on regional economic integration, which includes financial and monetary unity, by 2025, Reuters wrote.
* Moody's said the three biggest lenders in Saudi Arabia — National Commercial Bank, Al Rajhi Banking & Investment Corp., and Saudi British Bank — will likely maintain strong profitability amid a narrowing interest margins on their lending due to falling interest rates.
* Saudi Stock Exchange (Tadawul) is set to become the ninth-biggest stock market today once the shares of Saudi Arabian Oil Co. begins trading, Bloomberg News reported. Saudi Aramco recently raised $25.6 billion in what is considered the biggest IPO in history.
* Saudi Arabia's central bank is ready to intervene should there be a liquidity squeeze in local banks resulting from Aramco's IPO, Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority Governor Ahmed al-Kholifey told Reuters. The central bank is closely monitoring lenders.
* Meanwhile, Al-Kholifey said the cash liquidity of Saudi banks increased by 5% in October, Argaam reported. The governor noted that growth of the private sector is mainly driven by banks' liquidity, especially the real estate lending sector.
* The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority issued rules governing microfinance companies, Okaz reported. The rules, which aim to regulate the licensing provisions and activities of such companies, are part of the central bank's efforts to enhance financial inclusion, stability and support economic development in line with the Vision 2030, it said in statement. SAMA said the new regulations will help achieve several objectives including attracting a new segment of investors and companies with medium capital well as providing consumer finance products within a supervisory framework that ensures consumer protection.
* Qatar National Bank (QPSC) appointed Abdullah Mubarak al-Khalifa CEO, effective Dec. 10. Al-Khalifa was named acting CEO in November 2018.
* Fitch Ratings downgraded to A+ from AA- the long-term issuer default ratings of United Arab Emirates-based HSBC Bank Middle East Ltd. and maintained them on Rating Watch Negative, following a similar action on parent HSBC Holdings PLC. The agency also affirmed the bank's short-term issuer default ratings at F1+ and support rating at 1.
* Dubai-based Mashreqbank PSC launched Mashreq NeoBiz, a digital banking proposition specifically targeting small- and medium-sized enterprises, Gulf News reported.
* Kuwait's Ministry of Commerce and Industry suspended two exchange bureaus for not complying with anti-money laundering and terrorism funding regulations, Al Rai reported.
* Al Salam Bank-Bahrain BSC said it secured the Central Bank of Bahrain's no objection to extend for 90 days beginning Dec. 8 the validity period for the bank to buy up to 4% of its issued shares.
REST OF MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA
* The Israeli central bank is again buying foreign U.S. dollars as it continues intervention in the local foreign exchange market, sources told Globes.
* Analysts believe that Israel's central bank would need to be aggressive to contain the Israeli shekel's rise and further lift inflation through another round of foreign-currency purchases, Reuters reported.
* U.S.-based Stifel Financial Corp. opened its inaugural office in Israel that will focus on investment banking and related institutional services. The company appointed Alain Dobkin as managing director and country head for Israel.
* The Financial Regulatory Authority of Egypt is in discussions with International Finance Corp. on supporting green bond-eligible projects by next year, Sina Bassam, an adviser to the FRA chairman for sustainable development, told Amwal Al Ghad.
* Fitch Ratings affirmed Morocco's BBB-/F3 long- and short-term foreign- and local-currency issuer default ratings, with a stable outlook.
* Assurances Maghrebia SA, a 45 year-old Tunisian insurance firm, plans to pursue an IPO in the first quarter of 2020 on the Tunis stock exchange's main market, according to Il Boursa.
EAST AND WEST AFRICA
* Fitch Ratings affirmed the B+/B long- and short-term foreign- and local-currency issuer default ratings of Kenya, with a stable outlook.
* Chubb Ltd. made a $10 million equity investment in the African Trade Insurance Agency, becoming the first global property and casualty insurance company to become a shareholder in the Kenya-based company.
* FBN Holdings PLC named Alhaji Ado Yakubu Wanka a nonexecutive director of unit First Bank of Nigeria Ltd.
* Nigeria-based Hasal Microfinance Bank Ltd. named Nwanna Njoel-Ezeugo its new managing director, This Day reported. Njoel-Ezeugo replaces Rogers Augustine Nwoke.
* West African states raised a total of 1.137 trillion CFA francs on the region's public securities market in the third quarter of 2019, with Côte d'Ivoire, Mali and Niger in the top three places, Agence Ecofin reported.
CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN AFRICA
* Absa Group Ltd. appointed Cheryl Buss CEO of Absa International to spearhead its global expansion plans. The appointment comes after the group secured regulatory approval in November to set up a representative office in the U.S. — expected to be operational within the next six months, subject to further regulatory approvals.
* Moody's affirmed the Caa2/Not Prime long- and short-term local- and foreign-currency bank deposit ratings of Banque Commerciale Du Congo SA, with the outlook on the long-term ratings to positive from stable. The agency also affirmed the bank's "caa2" baseline and adjusted baseline credit assessments and Caa1(cr)/Not Prime(cr) long- and short-term counterparty risk assessments, among other ratings.
* Zambia's central bank raised the statutory reserve ratio requirement on commercial banks' local- and foreign-currency deposit liabilities to 9% from 5%, effective Dec. 23. The Bank of Zambia also required lenders to hold statutory reserve requirements on a daily basis instead of weekly, effective immediately.
* Angola's central bank has issued new regulations to reduce the limit on the foreign currency position of the country's commercial banks, from 5% to 2.5%, Expansão reported, citing a banking industry source, who said the measure aimed to stop banks from holding on to dollars. At the same time, the central bank's monetary policy committee decided at its Nov. 29 meeting to stop buying foreign currency from oil companies. From Jan. 2, 2020, commercial banks will buy dollars from energy firms at a defined exchange rate.
IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD
Asia-Pacific: China scraps insurance JV ownership limits; Philippines probes Westpac
Europe: Deutsche warns of headwinds; Cboe to acquire EuroCCP; Kazakh banks to get aid
Latin America: XP said to mull higher IPO pricing; Banco BMG nominates new CEO
North America: Texas banks in deal; Morgan Stanley cutting 1,500 jobs; Cboe buying EuroCCP
Global Insurance: US commercial insurance price hikes; global life outlook; Lloyd's debt raise
Erin Tanchico, Henni Abdelghani, Pádraig Belton 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.