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MENA news through Oct. 23

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MENA news through Oct. 23

GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL

* The United Arab Emirates' banking association has proposed a cap on banks' real estate lending to protect them from overexposure to the sector. Local banks will review and provide feedback on the proposed limits.

* Emirates NBD Bank PJSC launched a rights issue offer to its shareholders in a bid to raise up to 6.45 billion United Arab Emirates dirhams as it seeks funding for its foreign expansion. The issuance will see the bank create up to 758.8 million new shares, which will take its total issued share capital increase to an amount not exceeding 6.31 billion dirhams from the existing 5.56 billion dirhams.

* U.S.-based payments giant Visa Inc. will open a new headquarters in Dubai. The new hub, which is expected to finish construction in June 2021, will house more than 500 employees working for Visa's Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa operations, Arabian Business noted.

* U.K.-based payments firm Transferwise Ltd. has secured a license from the Abu Dhabi Global Market's Financial Services Regulatory Authority to launch a money transfer platform in the UAE, co-founder and CEO Kristo Käärmann told Thomson Reuters' Zawya. The company expects to launch the platform in early 2020.

* Bahrain-based Ahli United Bank BSC reported third-quarter net profit attributable to owners of the bank of $180.9 million, up from $170.8 million in the same period in 2018. For the nine months ended Sept. 30, the lender's attributable net profit rose on a yearly basis to $558.4 million from $528.3 million.

* Kuwait Finance House KSCP's third-quarter net profit attributable to owners of the parent company rose year over year to 82.8 million dinars from 73.9 million dinars. The bank's net operating income increased 7.0% on a yearly basis and total operating income was up 4.3%.

* Qatar-based Commercial Bank PSQC reported third-quarter net profit of 1.50 billion Qatari riyals, up from 1.35 billion riyals a year ago. The bank still plans to sell its 40% stake in United Arab Bank PJSC, Reuters reported, citing Commercial Bank Group CEO Joseph Abraham.

* Saudi Arabia-based Alinma Bank reported third-quarter net profit of 713 million riyals, up from 637 million riyals a year earlier. For the nine months to Sept. 30, the bank's net profit increased year over year to 2.03 billion riyals from 1.81 billion riyals.

* Saudi Arabia-based Riyad Bank CEO Tariq al-Sadhan said the lender's proposed combination with Saudi peer National Commercial Bank is still under review and will likely take some time due to the size of both banks, Argaam reported, citing an interview with Al-Arabiya TV.

* Kuwait-based Boubyan Bank KSCP received initial approval from the Kuwaiti central bank to issue Islamic bonds, or sukuk, of $1 billion at most and for its first issuance of such bonds worth at most $500 million.

* S&P Global Ratings affirmed Oman's long- and short-term foreign- and local-currency sovereign credit ratings at BB/B. The outlook on the long-term ratings remains negative, reflecting the risk that the country's fiscal and external buffers will continue to deteriorate in the absence of a more favorable external environment or substantial fiscal measures aimed at reducing the government deficit.

REST OF MIDDLE EAST

* Lebanon's government could impose new taxes on banks and insurers as part of an economic reform package, as it takes steps to deal with an "economic emergency." Lenders could be asked to provide up to $3.3 billion in contributions to achieve a "near zero deficit" for the 2020 budget. Banks would also be required to provide funding to establish power and recycling plants.

* Lebanon's state prosecutor accused former Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Bank Audi SAL of making illicit profits through housing loans subsidized by the central bank, Reuters reported. Bank Audi denied that it was involved in any "illicit enrichment," while a communications adviser to Mikati said the loans met central bank regulations, adding that the charges were likely politically motivated.

NORTH AFRICA

* The Egyptian government has signed a deal to establish a cross-border link with Brussels-based Euroclear SA/NV, Reuters reported, citing Egypt's finance ministry. The move will make domestic Egyptian debt available to a wider foreign investor base.

* Morocco's Banque Centrale Populaire acquired a 71% stake in Madagascar-based Banque Malgache de l'Ocean Indien SA from French lender Groupe BPCE, Reuters reported. In September 2018, BCP and BPCE kicked off exclusive talks about the acquisition of some of the former's African units.

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.