* Al Rajhi Banking & Investment Corp. has started merger talks for its Malaysian unit Al Rajhi Banking & Investment Corp. (Malaysia) Bhd. and Malaysian Industrial Development Finance Bhd. after obtaining preliminary clearance from the central banks in Saudi Arabia and Malaysia. The potential deal is not expected to have a material effect on the Saudi lender's financial statements, it noted.
* A former Standard Chartered PLC employee is set to plead guilty to criminal charges in the U.S. for breaching sanctions on Iran-linked companies, insiders told the Financial Times. U.S. prosecutors are seeking to determine whether the U.K.-based lender continued its dealings with Iran-controlled entities even after it paid $667 million in fines in 2012 to settle alleged sanctions breaches.
* French banking group Natixis appointed Stéphane About CEO of its corporate and investment banking division for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. He has served as head of Natixis' Americas CIB.
* The African Development Bank mobilized $1 million to finance preparatory research to connect six African stock exchanges to assist cross-border training and settlement, Financial Afrik reported. The project includes stock exchanges in Johannesburg, Lagos, Casablanca, Nairobi, Mauritius and the West African Economic and Monetary Union.
GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL
* The UAE's Securities and Commodities Authority is working on transforming brokerage firms into integrated financial services companies this year, Emarat Al Youm reported.
* Qatar Investment Authority plans to increase its U.S. investments to $45 billion over the next two years and shift focus away from Europe, the sovereign wealth fund's CEO Mansour Ibrahim al-Mahmoud said.
REST OF MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA
* Egypt's central bank has completed the final draft of the country's new banking law, which would give the regulator more power to monitor money exchange and money transfer firms, credit risk guarantee institutions, credit granting entities and payments systems, Amwal Al Ghad reported, citing central bank Deputy Governor Lobna Helal.
* Tunisian market intermediary firm Tunisie Valeurs SA obtained regulatory approval to become an investment bank, according to Il Boursa.
EAST AND WEST AFRICA
* Stanbic Bank Kenya Ltd. was granted permission by the court to authorize the International Criminal Police Organization, or Interpol, and the local police to seize 32 vehicle that were used to secure a 300 million shilling loan from the bank, Business Daily Africa wrote. The vehicles were allegedly sneaked out of Kenya to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania and Zambia.
* Kenya's Commercial Bank of Africa Ltd. made a cash offer of 1.4 billion shillings to acquire Jamii Bora Bank Ltd., Financial Afrik and Daily Nation reported. CBA is currently in merger talks with NIC Group Plc, and a tie-up of the three banks will have combined total assets of approximately 457 billion shillings.
* Access Bank PLC may change its corporate identity upon the completion of its merger with Diamond Bank PLC in June, according to Business Post. Diamond Bank CEO Uzoma Dozie said the lender will lose its name after the merger while Access Bank will retain its name, but that the new corporate identity of the combined group will reflect the individual identities of the merging banks.
* Nedbank Ltd. COO Mfundo Nkuhlu said Togo-based Ecobank Transnational Inc. is not under investigation in Nigeria, Reuters wrote. His comment comes after reports that Nigeria's accountancy regulator was probing Ecobank, in which Nedbank owns 21%.
* First Bank of Nigeria Ltd. injected $72.5 million in fresh capital into First Bank Ghana Ltd., Business Post wrote.
* Benin secured a €127 million loan with an unnamed international commercial bank, with the World Bank guaranteeing 40% of the principal, Financial Afrik wrote. The loan, which has a 3.5% interest and a maturity of 12 years, will be used to find micro-credit, training, and health insurance.
CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN AFRICA
* South Africa's ruling party, the African National Congress, said the country's central bank should expand its focus to include job creation and economic growth, Reuters reported. Enoch Godongwana, the ANC's head of economic transformation, denied that the party was seeking to change the South African Reserve Bank's mandate, saying its independence is "sacrosanct" and that the ANC's intention was for further coordination between monetary and fiscal authorities.
* Zitulele Luke was appointed independent chairman of the boards of PSG Group Ltd. and PSG Financial Services Ltd., effective immediately.
* The South African Reserve Bank is expected to leave interest rates unchanged at 6.75% on Thursday, according to an economists' poll conducted by Reuters. However, rising inflation in the country will likely increase the rate to 7.00% in May, the newswire noted.
* The Southern African Development Community, a regional body of African states, has called for a recount of the results of the recent presidential elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, The Guardian reported. Félix Tshisekedi, leader of the country's main opposition party, was declared the winner of the polls, but opponent Martin Fayulu said he will challenge the result, claiming he won the vote by a landslide.
* Customers of Banco Mais and Banco Postal will be able to withdraw or transfer funds from their accounts beginning today until Thursday, Jornal de Angola reported. Angola's central bank withdrew the lenders' operating licenses after they missed a 2018-end deadline to comply with new capital requirements.
IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD
Asia-Pacific: India fines Citi's domestic unit; NAB suffers 5-hour outage
Deza Mones, Henni Abdelghani, Pádraig Belton and Mariana Aldano contributed to this report.
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