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South Africa downgraded; European, African banks eye Moza Banco

* Zineb Abbad El Andaloussi has been appointed director general of pan-African investor Helios Investment Partners, Jeune Afrique reports. She previously worked at Rothschild before founding Euromed Advisory.

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

* The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to weigh an appeal by plaintiffs seeking to hold Arab Bank Plc financially liable for attacks in Israel and in the Palestinian territories by militant groups, Reuters reports. The plaintiffs, which accused the bank of deliberately financing terrorism, are seeking to overturn a ruling that the bank could not be litigated under the Alien Tort Statute because it is a corporation.

* Moody's upgraded First Gulf Bank PJSC's long-term local- and foreign-currency deposit and foreign-currency debt ratings to Aa3 from A2 and affirmed its short-term local and foreign-currency deposit rating at P-1, among other actions. The bank's ratings will subsequently be withdrawn following the completion of its merger with National Bank of Abu Dhabi PJSC.

* John Iossifidis, the head of corporate and investment banking at Mashreqbank PSC, is departing to become CEO of fellow Dubai-based lender Noor Bank PJSC, insiders tell Reuters.

* Masraf Al Rayan (QPSC) Chairman Hussain Ali al-Abdulla said the bank's proposed merger with fellow Qatari lenders Barwa Bank QSC and International Bank of Qatar (QSC) could take six months to complete, Reuters reports.

* Qatar Insurance Co. SAQ unit Antares Underwriting Services Ltd. signed a lease for a new London headquarters that is more than twice the size of its existing premises in the city, Bloomberg News reports. Antares Managing Director Stephen Redmond said the move underlines the company's commitment to the Lloyd's of London insurance market and reflects its growth under Qatar Insurance Co.

* Samba Financial Group's online banking systems remained disrupted after breaking down in a "technical issue" on Thursday, Arabian Business reports. The bank said it restored its online banking services over the weekend, but customers complained on social media that systems still ran slowly. Following the incident, the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority said it is looking into the matter but denied speculations that the bank had been hacked.

* World Bank President Jim Yong Kim met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Washington, D.C., ahead of the latter's meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump. The Egyptian leader told Kim that the country’s national economic reform program brought on an increase in foreign exchange reserves and Egyptian exports, according to Daily News Egypt. Kim praised the results and expressed confidence in the reform program.

* Banque Marocaine du Commerce Exterieur SA posted a 2016 net profit of 2 billion Moroccan dirhams, up 4% year over year, ilBoursa reports. It was the first time the bank's net profit has surpassed the 2 billion dirham threshold. Net banking income rose by 10% to 13 billion dirhams thanks partly to the performace of the bank's bond portfolio and banking activity.

* Banque Atlantique Burkina Faso has launched two new products in the area of mutual funds and securities accounts, enabling clients to invest on the regional stock exchange BRVM, Financial Afrik writes.

EAST AND WEST AFRICA

* In its 2017/2018 budget statement, the Kenyan government outlined a package of initiatives that could pave the way for the development of the country's decade-old Islamic banking sector, Reuters reports. The proposed measures will enable the government to issue sukuk as an alternative funding source, and will see the creation of an Islamic pension scheme that will be based on the risk-sharing concept of takaful as the country seeks to achieve financial inclusion and diversification.

* Central Bank of Kenya Governor Patrick Njoroge has backed banks' decision to increase their provisions for mounting bad loans, saying the move will help protect bank depositors, The Standard reports. Njoroge stressed that lenders are now exercising tighter credit standards as part of the new norm in the sector, and said the central bank believes banks will do a better job in classifying loans.

* Co-operative Bank of Kenya Ltd. is no longer keen on its regional expansion plan following economic and political turbulence in regional markets, The East African reports. The bank has opted to protect itself against risk linked to cross-border operations and will instead focus on cutting costs in its local operations to keep itself afloat amid interest rate caps in the country.

* National Bank of Kenya Ltd. is close to securing a 4.4 billion shilling shareholder loan to help boost its capital, Daily Nation reports, citing CEO Wilfred Mutuku Musau.

* The Ghanaian government has raised $2.2 billion following the sale of long-dated domestic bonds last Friday, Reuters writes. The country's finance ministry said the transaction, which represents the largest amount sold by a sub-Saharan African country in a single day, will boost the central bank's reserves by a third.

* The IMF said the Ghanaian government has assured it of its commitment to implement the current program and maintain macroeconomic stability following the recent resignation of Abdul Nashiru Issahaku as governor of the Bank of Ghana, Citi Business News writes.

* The Central Bank of Nigeria yesterday began offering $150 million in currency forwards, to be settled within 60 days, Reuters writes, citing currency traders.

* United Bank for Africa Plc is planning to expand its presence in Africa from 19 countries to 25 countries by 2024, ThisDay reports. Abiola Rasaq, the bank's head of investor relations, said the firm's operating license in a number of African countries enables it to expand in neighboring states without having to raise fresh capital.

* S&P Global Ratings placed Cape Verde's B long-term foreign- and local-currency sovereign credit ratings on CreditWatch with negative implications, following the agency's decision to consider Cape Verde's request to appeal S&P's ratings outlook decision.

CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN AFRICA

* S&P Global Ratings downgraded South Africa to junk status after President Jacob Zuma forced out the country's finance minister and made other executive changes that the agency said have undermined the country's fiscal and growth outcomes. The agency lowered the country's long- and short-term foreign-currency sovereign credit ratings to BB+/B from BBB-/A-3, and its long- and short-term local-currency sovereign credit ratings to BBB-/A-3 from BBB/A-2, among other ratings.

* Meanwhile, Moody's placed South Africa's Baa2 long-term issuer and senior unsecured bond ratings on review for downgrade, following the abrupt change in leadership of key government institutions.

* Following the S&P downgrade, South Africa's Treasury stressed its commitment to a "predictable and consistent policy framework." Newly appointed Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba also said he will pursue "tough and unpopular choices" in order to achieve economic growth, Reuters reports.

* Old Mutual Plc named Peter Moyo CEO of Old Mutual Emerging Markets Ltd., effective June 1. Moyo has served as CEO of Alexander Forbes from 2005 to 2008 and deputy managing director of Old Mutual South Africa from 2000 to 2005.

* Bank of Zambia Governor Denny Kalyalya urged banks to provide their customers with affordable credit following the central bank's decision to reduce its monetary policy stance to 14% from 15%, ZNBC reports.

* Seven European and African banks, including Barclays Bank Mozambique SA, are interested in buying troubled lender Moza Banco SA and are preparing to submit binding bids before the May deadline set by Mozambique's central bank, Zitamar reports. Moza's shareholders failed to raise the funds needed to recapitalize the lender, which was put under central bank control last year due to weak solvency ratios, prompting the monetary authority to launch a sale operation. Atlas Mara Ltd. and Angola's Banco BIC SA had quit the race for Moza.

* Mozambique's government is not expected to return to international debt markets in 2017 following its recent default and should first negotiate a new aid program with the IMF, according to S&P Global Ratings, Macauhub and O País note. The IMF suspended lending to the country a year ago after revelations over hidden public debts, and has said aid will not be resumed before the publication of an audit being carried out by Kroll.

* Banco de Moçambique has introduced new regulations governing foreign exchange operations by banks and currency houses, Zitamar reports. The measures, which came into force yesterday, affect how the rate of exchange for meticals is set.

* Angolan central bank Governor Valter Filipe da Silva said the country is working hard to restore confidence in the country's financial system so correspondent banks will resume dollar-clearing services, Angop reports. He added that banks should be a motor for economic growth by financing productive industries and called for improvements in corporate governance at all banks, public and private.

Referring to the parallel foreign exchange market, where street vendors sell dollars far above the official exchange rate, da Silva called for a crackdown to end the practice. Meanwhile, Novo Jornal notes that the central bank had sold far fewer euros in its latest weekly exchange auction.

IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD

Asia-Pacific: Australians with Credit Suisse accounts at risk; Visa eyes Philippine expansion

Europe: Deutsche Bank fined again; Credit Suisse in client tax probe; Novo Banco sold

Latin America: Political unrest in Venezuela, Paraguay; Banco del Bajío revives IPO plan

North America: Lone Star wins Novo Banco bid; Apollo reportedly vying with HNA for HSH Nordbank

North America Insurance: Trump renews healthcare push; reinsurance rate cuts slow during renewals

S&P Global Ratings and S&P Global Market Intelligence are owned by S&P Global Inc.

Sheryl Obejera, Sarah Raslan, Sophie Davies and Helen Popper contributed to this report.

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