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Citi seeks Saudi return; Barclays Zimbabwe on the block

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

* Data from the Boston Consulting Group showed that revenue growth of lenders in the Gulf Cooperation Council reached 5.2% in 2016, down 2 percentage points from the previous year, Gulf News reports. GCC banks booked a 20.8% rise in provisions, leading to a 3.2% profit drop in 2016, the first decline since 2008.

* Citigroup Inc. filed an application with Saudi Arabia's Capital Market Authority to obtain a capital markets license and could also pursue a full bank branch license, insiders tell Reuters. The U.S. bank pulled out of Saudi Arabia in 2004 when it sold a 20% stake in Samba Financial Group.

* Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund will establish an investment fund targeting real estate, energy, tourism and infrastructure projects in Jordan, Bloomberg News and Reuters report. The fund, which will be 90% owned by the PIF with the remaining 10% shared by 15 Jordanian banks, will have an initial capital of $10 million, with the possibility of rising up to $3 billion in the long term.

* National Bank of Oman SAOG's directors elected Sayyidah Rawan Ahmed al-Said board chair.

* Capital Intelligence Ratings lowered to BBB+ from A- the long-term foreign-currency rating of Bank Muscat SAOG, in line with the recent downgrade of Oman's long-term rating.

* Qatar Investment Authority plans to sell up to 92 million units in Banco Santander (Brasil) SA in a global secondary offering. The sovereign wealth fund said that it currently has a 5.5% stake in the Banco Santander SA unit, and the offering represents about 40% of its holding.

* Israel Discount Bank Ltd. reported full-year 2016 net profit attributed to shareholders of 905 million Israeli shekels, up from 750 million shekels in the year-ago period.

* The Bank of Israel said it will change the structure of its interest rate decision notices, starting from its upcoming interest rate decision. The new structure will be shorter and will present the monetary committee's view of the country's economic situation during the discussions conducted to reach its decision. Globes has a report.

* The International Finance Corp. granted Arab African International Bank (Egyptian JSC) a $100 million loan to help scale up its lending operations to small and medium-sized enterprises and build a sustainable energy finance portfolio.

EAST AND WEST AFRICA

* Central Bank of Kenya Governor Patrick Njoroge said nine foreign banks have expressed interest in establishing representative offices in Kenya after the central bank earlier this month lifted the moratorium on the licensing of new lenders, Business Daily Africa writes.

* Company for Habitat and Housing in Africa, or Shelter Afrique, said in a profit warning that it expects a drop of more than 25% in its full-year 2016 earnings due to an increase in provisions for bad loans, Business Daily Africa writes.

* The IFC is willing to invest up to $60 million more in Britam Holdings Ltd. over the next 12 months, Business Daily Africa reports. The investment is in addition to the 3.55 billion Kenyan shillings already invested by the IFC in Britam for a 10.3% stake in the insurer.

* I&M Holdings Ltd. unit I&M Bank Ltd., including the Giro Commercial Bank Ltd. branches it recently acquired, will close its branches over the weekend to facilitate the systems integration of the two lenders, Business Daily Africa reports. Normal services will resume April 3.

* The National Bank of Rwanda indefinitely suspended the licensing of new foreign exchange operators, effective immediately, The New Times reports. The central bank also made changes to the regulatory framework for forex operators, including raising the minimum operating capital requirement to 50 million Rwandan francs from 20 million francs.

* Atlas Mara Ltd. postponed the publication of its full-year 2016 results until associate investment Union Bank of Nigeria Plc has released its own results on the Nigerian Stock Exchange. Atlas Mara originally intended to release its earnings today.

* Ghana's parliament is expected to pass a bill that will permit the government to place a 25% cap on its budgetary allocation to statutory funds, Citi Business News writes.

CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN AFRICA

* Malawi-based First Merchant Bank Ltd. is in exclusive discussions with Barclays Bank Plc to potentially acquire the Barclays Plc unit's stake in Barclays Bank of Zimbabwe Ltd. First Merchant Bank added that three of its principal shareholders intend to transfer their shares in the bank to Mauritius-based FMB Capital Holdings Plc, in a move that will lead to the delisting of First Merchant Bank and listing of FMB Capital on the Malawi Stock Exchange.

* South African President Jacob Zuma told senior officials from the South African Communist Party that he intends to fire Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, insiders tell Bloomberg News. Meanwhile, Independent Online reports that Zuma could announce a cabinet reshuffle by Sunday or Monday as plans to name new cabinet members were postponed following the death of anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Kathrada. BRian Molefe, former chief of South African utility Eskom, and former Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene were not in the running to succeed Gordhan, Reuters writes, citing news network ANN7.

* Capitec Bank Holdings Ltd. recommended a final gross dividend for the year ended Feb. 28 of 8 rand per ordinary share, bringing the total dividend for the fiscal year to 12.5 rand per share, up from 10.55 rand per share a year ago.

* Sanlam Ltd. made changes within its executive committee, including the appointment of Jurie Strydom as CEO of Sanlam Personal Finance, effective June 1. Strydom, currently Sanlam Personal Finance joint deputy CEO, replaces Hubert Brody, who will step down May 31.

* Masawara Insurance said Sanlam's Sanlam Emerging Markets will announce an additional investment to increase the 40% stake it already holds in the Zimbabwean insurer, Business Report Online writes.

* The Banco Nacional de Angola will choose a group of five or six commercial banks that will be provided with 80% of the foreign currency placed by the central bank on the primary market, Macauhub reports. The remaining 20% will be shared among the remaining 22 banks authorized to conduct foreign exchange business in Angola.

IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD

Asia-Pacific: Citi seeks Asian insurance partner; Kotak Mahindra may buy finance company

Europe: BoE outlines stress-test scenarios; OneSavings Bank stake sold; NN Group sued

Latin America: Brazil nears fiscal deficit plan; Grupo Aval earnings slide on impairments

North America: Big banks take on Project Scalpel; Scaramucci may get government job in 2 months

North America Insurance: Senate GOP open to bipartisan ACA overhaul; '16 global insured losses spike

Leo Magno, Sarah Raslan, Sophie Davies and Mariana Aldano contributed to this report.

The Daily Dose Middle East and Africa has an editorial deadline of 5 a.m. London time. Some external links may require a subscription.