* Malaysian state-backed lender Malaysian Industrial Development Finance Bhd. is exploring a potential merger with the local unit of Saudi Arabia-based Al Rajhi Banking & Investment Corp., insiders told Arabian Business. A deal could reportedly create an entity with combined net assets of about 1.5 billion ringgit to 2.5 billion ringgit.
* London-based private investment firm Actis LLP is looking to open or expand nine offices across Asia and Africa as part of its bid to acquire more than $2 billion of assets from Dubai-based private equity firm Abraaj Group Ltd., The Wall Street Journal reported.
* The EU's planned special purpose vehicle aimed at facilitating non-dollar trade with Iran and circumventing U.S. sanctions could be in place by the end of 2018, Reuters reported.
* Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi said the country will send a delegation to the U.S. to seek an exemption from sanctions against Iran to allow Iraq to continue importing Iranian gas, Reuters reported.
GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL
* S&P Global Ratings revised the outlook on Qatar to stable from negative, citing the country's effective mitigation of the macroeconomic impacts of a diplomatic crisis with several neighboring Arab states. The rating agency subsequently carried out the same action on Qatar National Bank (QPSC), Doha Bank QPSC, Qatar Islamic Bank QPSC and Commercial Bank (PSQC), among other ratings actions.
* Doha Bank QPSC CEO Raghavan Seetharaman said the lender will reduce its exposure to construction firms to 10% from 17% of its lending activities, Reuters reported. Seetharaman added that the bank will maintain its presence in the United Arab Emirates despite efforts by some Qatari companies to trim exposure to the country.
* Goldilocks Investment Co. Ltd. raised its stake in Islamic Arab Insurance Co. (Salama) PJSC to 14.05% from 9.92% via a share finance facility, financial terms of which were not disclosed.
* Barwa Bank QSC and International Bank of Qatar QSC are set to complete their planned merger by the second half of 2019, Al Watan reported.
* Shezan Amiji, co-founder of Dubai-based mobile payments platform Beam, told CNBC that the company plans to expand in seven markets — including Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg — in the next six months.
* UAE-based Commercial Bank International PSC's board elected Ali Rashid al-Mohannadi as its vice chairman.
* Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange CEO Rashed al-Baloushi stepped down from his post, Reuters reported. Khalifa al-Mansouri, undersecretary at the Department of Economic Development in Abu Dhabi, will serve as the exchange's acting CEO.
* Burgan Bank KPSC has secured regulatory approval to appoint Raed Abdullah al-Haqhaq CEO.
* Saudi Arabia's Capital Market Authority fined Al Alamiya for Cooperative Insurance Co. 20,000 riyals for disclosing incorrect information on the Saudi Stock Exchange related to the insurer's second-quarter results.
* Kuwait's Capital Markets Authority fined Bayan Investment Co. KSCP over various irregularities related to disclosure.
* Amana Cooperative Insurance Co. set the share price of its rights issue at 10 Saudi Arabian riyals per share, Argaam reported.
* Commercial Bank (PSQC) CEO Joseph Abraham said the Qatari lender could raise up to $1 billion in funds in 2019 via several debt instruments, Reuters reported.
* Banks in Saudi Arabia are close to reaching a compromise with Islamic tax officials over additional payments of tax called zakat, insiders told Reuters.
* The Central Bank of Kuwait has ordered foreign exchange firms to raise their capital requirements to 1.7 million dinars from 1.5 million dinars, Reuters reported.
* Kuwait's central bank has obliged local banks to use security system developed by the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, or SWIFT, to increase security against cyberattacks, Al-Qabas reported.
* S&P Dow Jones has promoted Kuwait to its global benchmark indexes with an emerging market classification, effective prior to the Sept. 23, 2019, market open, Kuwait's Capital Markets Authority said.
* The UAE is set to launch a new integrated payment system, which is due to be implemented in 2020, Arabian Business reported, citing the country's finance ministry.
* Warba Bank KSCP's capital increase has been completed and subscribed in full. The bank said in September that it would issue 500 million shares at a nominal value of 100 Kuwaiti fils per share.
* Kamal Abdalla Abdulrahman resigned as internal auditor and compliance officer of Oman-based The Financial Corp. Company SAOG, effective Dec. 31.
* National Bank of Oman SAOG named Wessam al-Asfoor head of its privilege and private banking arm, Sadara Wealth Management, the Times of Oman reported.
* Saleem Khokhar, head of equities at First Abu Dhabi Bank PJSC's asset management group, has left the lender for personal reasons, insiders told Reuters.
REST OF MIDDLE EAST
* Israel has joined the Financial Action Task Force, an international anti-money laundering and terror financing group, Globes reported.
* Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered the country's central bank to strengthen the rial's value following a long-running drop in the currency due to a weakening economy and newly reimposed U.S. sanctions, Reuters reported, citing central bank Governor Abdolnaser Hemmati.
* Tunisia's central bank kept its key interest rate unchanged at 6.75%.
* The board of Tunisia's AMI Assurances has approved a recovery plan including the issuance by the end of December of equity securities of 35 million dinars repayable within seven years, Ilboursa wrote.
* The Tunisian government's legislative body has adopted Article 24 of the draft of the 2019 Finance Law on the creation of a regional bank in 2019, Financial Afrik reported. The new entity will have a starting capital of 400 million dinars and will be based in Tunis.
* Banque Centrale Populaire has been authorized by the Moroccan markets authority to release 2 billion dirhams of subordinated debt between Dec. 13 and 17, Financial Afrik wrote.
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