* Swiss bank UBS Group AG is splitting its wealth management business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa into three as part of the restructuring of its private banking business, Bloomberg News reported. Ali Janoudi will run the Middle East and Africa regions.
* Moody's said the outlook for global investment banks in 2020 is stable, noting that lenders remain largely well-positioned despite the persistent low-interest-rate operating environment and a less-than-robust global economic outlook.
* Global banks are increasingly considering environmental, social and governance factors in their underwriting processes, Fitch Ratings said in a report. The rating agency added that about half of the lending assets covered by the 182 banks that participated in its ESG survey during the third quarter of 2019 were screened by the banks for ESG risks.
GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL
* Moody's said the negative outlook for GCC sovereigns in 2020 reflects its view that the progress of fiscal reforms will remain slow amid an increased level of geopolitical risk, moderate oil prices and weak growth. Moody's added that it expects a further gradual erosion in the region's credit metrics as oil prices remain moderate over the medium-term.
* Saudi Arabia's Capital Market Authority approved new rules aimed at regulating securities clearing activities in the country and specifying requirements for obtaining authorization to carry out such activities, Argaam reported.
* Dhofar International Development & Investment Holding Co. S.A.O.G has ceased to be an investment entity per IFRS 10 accounting standards after the Oman-based firm's board concluded that it no longer meets all qualifying criteria for the designation.
* London-listed, Abu Dhabi-based payments firm Finablr PLC expects no material financial impact after Travelex, its U.K.-based foreign exchange subsidiary brand, was hit by a software virus at the end of 2019.
* Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Investment Company PJSC cut its stake in Italian banking group UniCredit SpA to roughly 2.02% from 4.99%.
* The Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates' control department is working on drafting a comprehensive plan to protect bank customers from banks' mistreatments and failing to solve complaints, Emarat Al Youm reported.
* Humaid al-Qatami, head of Emiratization in the finance and banking sector, said a number of banks in the United Arab Emirates were fined for failing to hire enough local citizens as part of the government's drive to localize the industry, Al-Ittihad reported.
* Bahrain-based United Gulf Holding Company B.S.C. said its acquisition of a 51.8% stake in Bank of Baghdad PJSC is expected to complete in the first quarter. The Bahraini firm has agreed to purchase the stake from Kuwait's Burgan Bank KPSC.
* Kuwait Bahrain International Exchange Company K.P.S.C. said the board of governors of Kuwait's Capital Markets Authority has accepted the delisting of the company from the local stock market, with its last day in the market being April 27, 2020.
* Bahrain Islamic Bank BSC said the closing for receiving acceptances for National Bank of Bahrain BSC's offer to acquire the company's shares has been extended until the end of Jan. 15, with the offer's result to be announced Jan. 16.
REST OF MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA
* Moody's said the negative 2020 outlook for sovereign creditworthiness in the Levant and North Africa region reflects political and social tensions, particularly in Lebanon and Iraq, that will slow down the progress of reforms and constrain the scope for fiscal consolidation.
* Israel's Bank Hapoalim BM said it agreed to boost employees' salaries and that its board approved a new efficiency plan aimed at slashing more than 900 jobs through early retirement until 2022. The lender will book a pretax charge of 210 million shekels in its results for the fourth quarter of 2019 as a result of the wage increases, while salary expenses will add pretax costs of 60 million shekels annually between 2020 and 2022.
* Israel-based, London-listed online trading platform Plus500 Ltd. expects revenue of about $354 million and EBITDA of roughly $190 million for the financial year ended Dec. 31, 2019, down from $720.4 million and $506.0 million, respectively, a year earlier. The projected decline in revenue comes after a series of regulatory measures on contract-for-difference bets.
* Several hackers claiming to be from Iran defaced the websites of Sierra Leone Commercial Bank Ltd. and the U.S. Federal Depository Library Program with pro-Iranian and anti-U.S. messages, The Jerusalem Post reported.
* Investors in Iraqi government bonds are concerned that Iraq could threaten to withhold debt payments to push back against sanctions the U.S. has threatened it would impose on the Middle Eastern nation following the killing of top Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad in the week of Dec. 30, 2019, Bloomberg News reported.
* Lebanon needs a rescue package worth $20 billion to $25 billion to recover from a financial crisis, Reuters reported, citing former Economy Minister Nasser Saidi. Lebanon is reportedly on the verge of defaulting on its debts, with a $1.2 billion eurobond due in March, as the country's politicians have failed to arrange a rescue plan since former Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri's resignation in October 2019.
* Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu formally asked the country's parliament for immunity from prosecution in connection to charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust against him, the Financial Times reported. Netanyahu again denounced the charges as fabrications. Meanwhile, the country's High Court of Justice junked a petition to ban Netanyahu from forming a new government in lieu of the charges, Globes wrote.
* Tokio Marine Egypt General Takaful Co. Managing Director Atsushi Yamakage said the Egyptian insurer is targeting annual growth of its direct premium installments of between 10% and 15%, adding that the company plans to establish a strong footprint in the country's market in the coming period to take advantage of growth opportunities, Daily News Egypt reported.
* Ongoing conflict in Yemen has brought risks to the insurance market to levels that threaten the survival of the companies operating in the sector, Middle East Insurance Review reported, citing Al Araby.
* The Central Bank of Egypt has submitted a new banking law to parliament for discussion and ratification, Al Masry Al Youm reported. The draft law regulates cooperation between the central bank, government and authorities responsible for monitoring the financial sector, and includes regulations related to digital currencies, among other things, Ahram noted.
* Morocco's central bank is set to publish a new overnight benchmark monetary index, called the Moroccan Overnight Index Average, or MONIA, to replace the old benchmark rate in an effort to improve transparency, La Nouvelle Tribune reported.
Henni Abdelghani contributed to this report.
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.