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3 Qatari banks mull merger; Nigeria buckles up for sukuk drive

MIDDLEEAST AND NORTH AFRICA

* , Barwa Bank Q.S.C. and International Bank of Qatar (Q.S.C.) are ininitial talks for a three-way merger. In an emailed statement to BloombergNews, Masraf Al Rayan said thepotential merger will pave the way for "the creation of the largestShariah-compliant bank in the state of Qatar."

*Meanwhile, Masraf Al Rayan'sBritish subsidiary, , named Venkat Chandrasekar COO.

* Kuwait Finance House K.S.C.P.  dismissed a report that DevelopmentBank is seeking to acquire a controlling stake in Ibdar Bank B.S.C.(c), Reuters writes.

*Qatari lender completed its put option for theacquisition of the remaining 25% stake Turkey-based  from AnadoluEndüstri Holding A.S.

* DohaBank Q.S.C.  CEO Raghavan Seetharaman said the bank is seekingapproval from the Qatar Central Bank to apply for a local subsidiary in India,the Economic Times writes.The bank, which currently has three branches in India, is seeking to build anetwork in both Tier I and Tier II cities in the country.

* Bangladeshi lender soughtpermission from the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority to open a branch in thecountry, The Financial Express writes.

* Areview by cyber security firm Kaspersky Labfound that the UAE was one of the prime targets of at least three massivecyberattacks this year, one of which was directed at ATMs, Gulf News writes.

*Data from the Central Bank of Oman shows that the total outstandingcredit extended by the country's conventional and Islamic banks increased10.2% year over year to 21.92 billion riyals at the end of October, the Times of Oman reports. Credit to the privatesector rose by 11.9% to 19.7 billion rial.

*Loans provided by local Jordanian banks during the first 10 months reached 1.40billion Jordanian dinars, a 6.6% increase compared to the same period in 2015, Al Ghad writes.

*Kuwait is planning to oblige all visitors to the country to buy healthinsurance policies issued at the airport for between 30 dinars to 50 dinars, Al Rai writes.

* Ajman Bank PJSC signed a new joint cooperationagreement with Takaful Emarat Insuranceto facilitate the development of projects and activities in banking andinsurance.

*The extraordinary general assembly meeting of Saudi Indian Company forCooperative Insurance, which operates under the brand name Wafa Insurance, abstainedfrom ratifying all work conducted by the board between July 11 and Dec. 18. Inthe same meeting, the assembly elected a new board of directors for athree-year term ending Dec. 17, 2019.

* Adelegation from the Tokyo Stock Exchange plans to visit Saudi Arabia to discussthe possible listing of Saudi Aramco shares on the exchange after the oil IPO,Argaam writes,citing Japan's national public broadcasting organization NHK.

*The Federation of Indian Export Organizations has asked the Reserve Bank ofIndia to expedite the granting of approvals to Iranian banks looking to openbranches in the country, the Press Trust of India writes. FIEO DirectorGeneral Ajay Sahai said five Iranian lenders, including Bank Mellat (Public JS) and , have already filedapplications to set up branches in the country.

*Alireza Lakzaei, deputy head of BankMellat, said Iranian banks have initiated talks with Tehran StockExchange to resume the trading of their stocks in the equity market, the Financial Tribune writes. The upgrade of accounting proceduresmandated by the Central Bank of Iran is believed to be the main reason behindthe multiple-month trading suspension.

*Hussein Meisami, an official at the Central Bank of Iran's Monetary and BankingInstitute, said banks cannot be forced to lower the interest rate on theirinvestment funds as the sector is unprepared to cope with such measures, the Financial Tribune reports, citing ILNA.

* South African insurer Sanlam Ltd. is raising its stake in Morocco-based SahamFinances to 46.6% from 30% in an attempt to build a pan-African financialservices group operating in the French-, English- and Portuguese-speakingmarkets, Financial Afrik reports.The transaction is expected to complete in the second quarter of 2017.

* Netinvest and Banque Attijari de Tunisie SA have launched a mutualinvestment fund called Netinvest Potentiel, which will list in the alternativesmarket of the Tunis Stock Exchange, or BVMT, Il Boursa reports.

* Tunisia may pursue a bond issue in the Chinese financialmarket, Agence Ecofin reports,citing Central Bank of Tunisia Governor Chedly Ayari.

EAST ANDWEST AFRICA

*Nigeria's Debt Management Office said the country is looking for financial andlegal advisers and trustee firms to help manage the issuance of its firstsovereign sukuk, Reuters writes. The size of the potentialdeal is yet to be determined. Bids for the roles are due Jan. 9, 2017.

*Nigerian Budget and Planning Minister Udoma Udo called for more action totackle the country's foreign exchange shortage and lessen the economy's oildependency, This Day reports.

*Some 111 audit firms are investigating 22 Nigerian banks over potential nonremittanceof taxes, levies and duties to revenue-collecting agencies, Business News reports. The inquiry will cover theperiod between July 2012 and December 2015.The audit firms have six months tosubmit their findings.

* Alhaji Umaru Ibrahim, managing director of the NigeriaDeposit Insurance Corporation, urged banks to boost their capital to mitigatethe effects of the current economic challenges confronting the banking sector, This Day reports.

*Central Bank of Nigeria Governor GodwinEmefiele was elected chairman ofthe International Islamic Liquidity Management Corporation, a globalinstitution tasked with creating and issuing short-term Shariah-compliantfinancial instruments to help facilitate effective cross-border Islamicliquidity management.

*Kenya's High Court barred the Capital Markets Authority from prosecutingdirectors of  overthe lender's ill-fated 2 billion shilling bond issued prior to its failure, Business Daily Africa writes. Judge Louis Onguto ruled thatthe involvement of a number of CMA officers in allowing the bank to proceedwith the bond issue may make it hard for the regulator to remain impartial inthe proceedings.

* Barclays Bank Tanzania Ltd. opened a new branchin Dar es Salaam and reaffirmed its commitment to remain in the country, citingdevelopments in Tanzania's growth and economy, The Citizen writes.

* Société Générale de Banques en Guinée launched a Money POPservice to provide banking services outside of traditional branches in shops,fuel stations and supermarkets, Financial Afrik says.

* The Bank of Ghana will launch on Friday a 24-hourcontact center as part of measures to help build policy credibility, Ghana NewsAgency writes.

CENTRALAND SOUTHERN AFRICA

*Data from Washington, D.C.-based research and advisory organization Global FinancialIntegrity indicates that member states of the Southern African DevelopmentCommunity have lost $314 billion from illicit financial flows from 2004 to2013, Ghana Business News reports. South Africa lost $209billion, while the Seychelles saw the lowest losses at $458 million.

* Valter Filipe,governor of Angola's central bank, defended tight controlson foreign exchange operations and noted the progress in improving anti-moneylaundering controls in the local financial system. Angop citesFilipe as saying that the country should be able to re-establish ties withcorrespondent banks in 2017. Deutsche Bank AG, the only lender that was stillproviding dollar clearing in Angola, halted the service in November.

* Monetary policy tightening by the Banco deMoçambique has started to bolster the metical and cool inflation, according tocentral bank Governor Rogério Zandamela, BloombergNews and OPaís report. Zandamela saidinflation was expected to peak at about 27% by year-end, before declining in2017. Mozambique has been battered by a foreign debt scandalthat prompted the IMF to suspend lending in April.

*Malawian lender  will cutnearly 300 jobs as bad debts continue to weigh on the company's books, insiderstell Nyasa Times. The reduction,which will take place until March next year, will likely affect senior andmiddle managers.

IN OTHERPARTS OF THE WORLD

Asia-Pacific: DohaBank eyes Indian branch network; Google delays NAB proceedings

Europe: Deutsche Banksettles US 'dark pool' probe; Generali denies French ops sale

Latin America: BancoInvex to buy Mexican card portfolio; BM&FBOVESPA sets 2017 budgets

North America: Goldman Sachs to pay $56.5M to settle rate rigging suit

North America Insurance: WellCare expects to grow earnings in 2017; Fairfax to buy AlliedWorld

Xana Kakoty,Henni Abdelghani, Pádraig Belton and Helen Popper contributed to this report.

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