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MENA/SSA news through Dec. 28

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MENA/SSA news through Dec. 28

* Fairfax Africa Holdings Corp., an investment holding company set up by Canada-based Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. to invest in public and private equity securities and debt instruments of African businesses with a view to acquiring control or significant influence positions, filed a preliminary prospectus with the securities regulatory authorities of all Canadian provinces and territories for an IPO of subordinate voting shares.

* Lebanese investment firm EuroMena closed its third fund at $150 million, Agence Ecofin reported. The fund is aimed at extending EuroMena's footprint into sub-Saharan Africa.

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

* German lender Commerzbank AG notified its clients in the Gulf region that it would no longer process euro-clearing transactions beginning next year due to concerns about compliance, insiders told Reuters. A spokesman for the German bank told the newswire that the firm had ceased offering "certain transaction banking services" in individual countries.

* SHUAA Capital PSC acquired a 14% ownership stake in GFH Financial Group B.S.C unit Khaleeji Commercial Bank BSC. SHUAA Capital purchased the stake from Alimtiaz Investment Group Co. in a special auction at a price of 65 Bahraini fils per share, for a total value of 9.6 million dinars.

* Bahrain's central bank decided to submit a petition to the competent court for compulsory liquidation of Future Bank B.S.C. (c), a joint venture between two Iranian lenders, Bank Saderat Iran and Bank Melli Iran Inc., and Ahli United Bank B.S.C.

* National Bank of Abu Dhabi PJSC Deputy group CEO Abdulla Mohammed Saleh AbdulRaheem is among four executives leaving the lender ahead of its merger with First Gulf Bank PJSC, insiders told Reuters.

* U.S.-based investment banking firm NMS Capital Advisors LLC opened a representative office in Dubai and named Murray Watson and Graham Bell managing directors.

* Saudi British Bank's board of directors recommended the distribution of a cash dividend of 35 fils per share for the second half of 2016.

* Mizrahi Tefahot Bank Ltd.'s board of directors approved a streamlining plan that will allow the early retirement of roughly 300 employees between 2017 and 2021, costing the Israeli lender an estimated 300 million shekels, which will be booked in the bank's 2016 year-end report, Globes reported. The plan is expected to result in pretax annual savings of 70 million shekels.

* Israel's central bank kept its benchmark interest rate at 0.1% and said it expects it to remain at its current level in the first three quarters of next year, before gradually rising from the fourth quarter. The regulator raised its economic growth forecast for this year to 3.5% from 2.8%, and said GDP is forecast to grow 3.2% in 2017 and 3.1% the following year.

* Data from Saudi Arabia's central bank showed that deposits at commercial banks hit the highest level this year in November, with the liquidity crisis dampening as the government liquidates foreign assets to pay its bills, Reuters reported. Bank deposits rose to 1.624 trillion riyals from 1.610 trillion riyals in October, the fourth straight month-on-month gain.

* Sukuk issuance from the Middle East will likely rebound next year following an increase in demand, but the market still lacks a considerable investor base for bonds with long maturities, according to Reuters.

* The presidents of Iran and Kazakhstan signed cooperation agreements to enhance banking relations between the two nations by opening new branches and introducing broad banking transactions, Tasnim News Agency reported.

* The Central Bank of Iran authorized a number of banks to trade in foreign exchange at a free market rate in a bid to unify exchange rates, Reuters reported, citing a statement on the regulator's website. Iran has two exchange rates, a free market rate and an official rate that is set by the central bank.

* The Central Bank of Tunisia stated new conditions under which it will provide financial assistance to banks and financial institutions, Il Boursa reported. The conditions include limiting financial assistance to a period of three months, renewable up to three times.

* Egyptian companies unable to repay U.S.-dollar denominated debts following the devaluation of the pound will be allowed to set a fixed exchange rate with lenders, Bloomberg News reported, citing a statement from Federation of Egyptian Industries Deputy Chairman Tarek Tawfik. The central bank will also allow firms to repay their debts in installments over a period of one to three years.

* Moody's said the Central Bank of Egypt's plan to roll out new regulations and customer due diligence procedures for mobile payment services in the country is credit positive for local banks as the rules will help boost financial inclusion and enable lenders to create new business opportunities, Daily News Egypt wrote.

EAST AND WEST AFRICA

* The National Bank of Rwanda reduced its repo rate to 6.25% from 6.50% to further support the financing of the economy by the banking sector. Headline inflation declined to 6.4% in November from 7.4% in October, and is expected to continue to decline in the coming quarter.* The Central Bank of Kenya said its next monetary policy meeting will be held Jan. 30, 2017. The central bank's benchmark lending rate currently stands at 10%, Reuters noted.

* The Kenya Deposit Insurance Corp. will commence a third disbursement of funds to depositors of failed Imperial Bank Ltd., according to Kenya's central bank. Verified depositors will get the funds from NIC Bank Ltd.

* Barclays Bank of Kenya Ltd. launched a multicurrency prepaid card, enabling its clients to hold up to nine currencies, including the U.S. dollar and euro, in one card, Standard Digital wrote. The card is primarily targeted at importers and exporters, as well as travelers and students abroad.

* National Bank of Kenya Ltd intends to lay off employees and offer an incentive for early voluntary retirement beginning January, Standard Digital reported, citing a circular from Wilfred Musau, the bank's managing director.

* The Uganda Revenue Authority reinstated KCB Group Ltd. unit KCB Uganda to its payment portal. The URA deactivated the bank from the portal Dec. 21 due to a dispute between the regulator and a client of the bank, The East African reported.

* Ethiopia-based Nile Insurance Co. named Hailu Makonnen CEO to replace Melaku Sissay, Addis Fortune wrote. The appointment is subject to regulatory approval.

* Development Bank of Ethiopia named former Minister of Education Shiferaw Shigute chairman of its board, replacing Ahmed Abitwe, Addis Fortune reported.

CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN AFRICA

* The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating the sale of $850 million in bonds issued by Mozambique and sold by Credit Suisse Group AG, JSC VTB Bank, and BNP Paribas SA, The Wall Street Journal reported. The proceeds from the bonds, sold in 2013 and meant to develop tuna fishing in the impoverished nation, were allegedly also used to buy military equipment.

* Mozambique finalized the process of estimating the value of assets of collapsed bank Nosso Banco, O País reported. The revenue from the assets sale will be used to repay depositors and creditors who lost money with the bank's bankruptcy.

* The Democratic Republic of the Congo's central bank reduced its GDP growth forecast for the year to 2.5%, citing low commodity prices, Reuters reported.

Henni Abdelghani, Pádraig Belton and Mariana Aldano contributed to this report.