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UAE, Oman remain on EU tax haven blacklist; Saudi central bank fines 16 firms

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UAE, Oman remain on EU tax haven blacklist; Saudi central bank fines 16 firms

* Twelve jurisdictions, including Oman and the United Arab Emirates, remain on the European Union's list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions, after the bloc removed Aruba, Barbados and Bermuda from the list.

* A committee representing London market marine underwriters has expanded its list of high-risk areas in the Middle East following attacks on ships at the port of the emirate of Fujairah on May 12. Oman, the Persian Gulf and adjacent waters and the UAE were added to the list.

* Saudi Arabia deposited $250 million into Sudan's central bank aimed at strengthening the African nation's financial position, alleviating pressure on the country's currency and boosting stability in the exchange rate, Reuters reported, citing the Saudi finance ministry. Saudi Arabia and the UAE previously pledged to send the North African country $3 billion worth of aid.

GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL

* The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority fined 16 financial institutions, including Al Rajhi Banking & Investment Corp., Samba Financial Group, National Commercial Bank, Emirates NBD Bank PJSC, Banque Saudi Fransi, Riyad Bank, Bank AlJazira and Alinma Bank, for violating responsible finance principles for individuals. The central bank did not say how much it fined the firms.

* Shareholders of Saudi British Bank and Alawwal Bank have approved the two banks' proposed merger. Saudi British Bank shareholders also approved increasing the bank's capital to 20.55 billion riyals from 15.00 billion riyals.

* Dubai's Jebel Ali Free Zone is set to roll out a workforce protection program in September that will return cash and bank guarantees to clients and infuse 1.3 billion UAE dirhams back into the city's economy, Emirates News Agency reported.

* The UAE's Securities and Commodities Authority said it is not tasked to oversee the key business of the listed companies as it is the job of the general assembly and the board of directors, adding that the authority mainly focuses on financial institutions, brokers and other financial services companies, Emarat Alyoum reported.

* Ebrahim al-Zaabi, director general of the UAE's Insurance Authority, said the investment of insurance companies is set to grow by 10% in 2019 to reach 66 billion dirhams, Al-Ittihad reported. He also said that the reinsurance program will be issued in July, adding that the new law will benefit local companies.

* Fitch Ratings assigned United Arab Bank PJSC long- and short-term issuer default ratings of BBB+/F2, a viability rating of "b+", a support rating of 2 and a support rating floor of BBB+, with a stable outlook on the long-term issuer default rating.

* Kuwait International Bank KSCP's request to issue up to $300 million worth of perpetual additional Tier 1 capital securities has received approval from Kuwait's Capital Markets Authority, Mubasher reported.

* Investment companies in Kuwait are addressing the Capital Markets Authority to issue them a license of financial brokerage under the umbrella of their existing investment firms instead of creating an independent company, Al-Jarida reported.

* Bahrain-based Khaleeji Commercial Bank BSC said it is ready to provide open banking services, including accepting requests to share account information and process payment procedures with other financial institutions.

* Bahrain-based private equity firm Investcorp Bank BSC's Strategic Capital Group has partnered with U.S.-based advisory and merchant banking firm Dock Square Capital LLC.

* Investcorp Bank has hired Citigroup and JPMorgan to arrange the refinancing of a $400 million revolving credit facility due in 2020, insiders told Reuters.

* The Central Bank of Bahrain said Arab Insurance Group BSC's board of directors decided to cease the group's underwriting activities. The central bank is currently reviewing the decision and would investigate the actions taken by the board in light of the instructions and directions issued by the central bank to the group in April, including appointing a permanent CEO for the company.

* Oman-based Al Madina Investment Co. SAOG said its board decided to close the company's brokerage, adding that cancellation of the license is ongoing.

REST OF MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

* A Bank of Israel stress test of the country's banks showed that the stability and resilience of the banking system will not be threatened in the event of a local macroeconomic shock, Reuters reported. The central bank, however, noted that the banking system would still be significantly affected.

* The monetary policy committee of Israel's central bank is widely expected to keep interest rates unchanged at 0.25% at its meeting today, according to a Bloomberg News survey.

* The Bank of Israel fined Bank Hapoalim BM roughly 1.6 million shekels over the breakdown of the lender's ATMs in December 2018, and ordered the bank to compensate customers who were affected by the incident and take measures to ensure that another breakdown will not occur. The central bank also opened a probe into how the country's entire banking system handles ATM breakdowns.

* Lebanon could face difficulties in refinancing key foreign-currency debts coming due this year amid a stalemate in agreeing a credible fiscal reform plan and deteriorating global market conditions, Reuters wrote.

* Lebanese Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil said the government is looking to cut roughly 1 trillion Lebanese pounds from debt servicing costs in the draft budget for 2019 through the issuance of treasury bonds at an interest rate of 1%, Reuters reported.

* Capital Intelligence Ratings affirmed Lebanon's long- and short-term foreign- and local-currency ratings at B/B, with a negative outlook.

* The IMF said it reached a staff-level agreement with Egyptian authorities to disburse the final tranche of roughly $2 billion of a $12 billion loan to the country.

* Fitch Ratings affirmed Tunisia-based lender Caisse De Prets Et De Soutien Des Collectivites Locales' national long- and short-term ratings at AA-(tun)/F1+(tun) and revised the outlook on the company to positive from stable.

EAST AND WEST AFRICA

* Moody's downgraded Togo-based ECOWAS Banque d'investissement et de développement de la CEDEAO's long-term issuer rating to B2 from B1, with a negative outlook.

* Togo-based Oragroup SA named Ferdinand Ngon Kemoum CEO, Financial Afrik reported. He was previously Central Africa director of private equity fund ECP. He succeeds Binta Touré Ndoye.

* The South Sudan Civil Society Alliance, a group of more than 300 civil society organizations, has sued parties to the country's peace agreement over the "illegal" six-month delay in forming a transitional administration, Bloomberg reported.

CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN AFRICA

* South African President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed veteran lawyer Hermione Cronje to head the newly formed Investigating Directorate anti-graft unit, Reuters reported.

* Mozambican authorities' restructuring discussions with Russian lender VTB Bank PJSC over a loan to state-owned Mozambique Asset Management "are almost finalized," the IMF said in its latest country report.

* Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor John Mangudya said the central bank took out a $500 million loan from several international banks to support interbank currency trading beginning today and address a shortage of U.S. dollars, Reuters wrote.

IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD

Asia-Pacific: China probes ex-financial regulator; Nippon Life eyes stake in asset manager

Erin Tanchico, Henni Abdelghani, 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. Links are current as of publication time, and we are not responsible if those links are unavailable later.

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.