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MENA news through Dec. 27

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MENA news through Dec. 27

MIDDLE EAST

* The Bank of Israel is considering issuing its own digital currency in a bid to create a faster payments system and reduce cash in the economy, Reuters wrote. Meanwhile, the Israel Securities Authority will propose to bar the listing of companies based on bitcoin and other digital currencies on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.

* Israel Discount Bank Ltd.'s board of directors approved a new dividend policy that would allow the lender to distribute quarterly dividend payments of up to 15% of its net profit, with effect from the first quarter of 2018.

* Jacob Orbach, senior deputy managing director and head of corporate banking at Bank Hapoalim BM, intends to retire from the Israeli lender March 31, 2018.

* United Cooperative Assurance Co. named CFO Faker Rais as acting CEO for 60 days, effective Dec. 26.

* Riyad Bank named Gamal AbdulKareem al-Ramah vice chairman of the board, effective Dec. 25.

* Alawwal Bank's board recommended a cash dividend of 25 Saudi Arabian halalas per share for 2017. Separately, Saudi British Bank's board recommended an interim cash dividend of 71 halalas per share for the second half of 2017, while Arab National Bank's board recommended distributing dividends of 65 halalas per share for the same period.

* Commercial Bank (PSQC) agreed to extend, by 30 days to Jan. 24, 2018, the exclusivity period granted to Tabarak Investment in respect of its potential purchase of the Qatari lender's stake in United Arab Emirates-based United Arab Bank PJSC.

* Bahrain-based Ithmaar Holding BSC secured approval from the UAE Securities and Commodities Authority to list on the Dubai Financial Market.

* Gulf International Bank BSC named Abdullah bin Hassan Alabdulgader chairman, effective Jan. 1, 2018.

* The offering period for Bahrain Middle East Bank BSC's $60.5 million rights issue closed with 157,996,674 subscribed shares, representing about 65.3% of the 242,003,326 new shares it offered at an issue price of 25 U.S. cents apiece.

* Oman Arab Bank SAOC's board endorsed CEO Amin al-Husseini's recommendation to appoint his deputy, Rashad al-Musafir, as acting CEO, effective Feb. 1, 2018.

* Bank Sohar SAOG's board appointed Mohammed Mahfoudh Saad al-Ardhi and Abdullah Salim al-Harthy chairman and deputy chairman, respectively.

* Dhofar Insurance Co. (SAOG)'s major shareholders plan to inject the necessary funds to restructure the company's capital and resolve its solvency margin deficit, after the Omani Capital Market Authority told the insurer to suspend some activities, effective from January 2018, unless its solvency margin deficit is resolved.

* Dawood Tawfiq, executive committee director at the Kuwait Insurance Federation, said the Kuwaiti insurance sector needs more regulations and should be under the regulatory umbrella of the Central Bank of Kuwait, according to Al Jarida.

* The Iranian government approved the sale of its remaining shares in Asia Insurance Co., Alborz Insurance Co. and Dana Insurance Co., the Financial Tribune wrote.

* Bank Sepah, Export Development Bank of Iran, Parsian Bank and Bank Pasargad Plc signed an "unlimited" finance deal with the State Specialized Russian Export-Import Bank (JSC), the Financial Tribune reported, citing the Central Bank of Iran.

NORTH AFRICA

* EFG-Hermes Holding SAE CEO Karim Awad said the bank expects to start offering factoring services in the first quarter of 2018 as part of efforts to provide nonbanking services, Reuters reported.

* ACT Financial cut its stake in Egypt-based Beltone Financial Holding SAE to 9.56% from 14% through the sale of 7.5 million shares at 13.26 Egyptian pounds apiece, Reuters wrote. Separately, the Egyptian company's majority shareholders sold an 11.2% stake to a group of financial institutions and investors from the U.S., Gulf Cooperation Council countries and Egypt.

* BMCE Bank of Africa and Al Baraka Banking Group BSC launched their new Islamic finance institution, Bank al-Tamweel wa al-Inma, or BTI Bank. The Casablanca-headquartered Islamic bank will seek to establish a network of 37 branches in Morocco by 2022.

* Labid Zaafrane has been named CEO of Banque de Financement des Petites et Moyennes Entreprises, according to L'Economiste Maghrébin.

* Sudanese Finance Minister Mohamed Othman Rukabi said his country plans to devalue its currency to 18 Sudanese pounds per U.S. dollar in January 2018, from the current exchange rate of 6.7 pounds, Reuters wrote.

Sophies Davies and Henni Abdelghani contributed to this report.