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NBK launches French unit; Moody's affirms UAE; African Bank eyes digital push

GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL

* GCC banks' adoption of IFRS 9 accounting standards has provided a clearer view of their asset quality trends, according to S&P Global Ratings. The agency said it expects banks' asset quality to stabilize in the next 12 to 24 months, barring an unexpected drop in oil prices and an increase in geopolitical risk.

* UBS Group AG and JPMorgan Chase & Co have been hired by United Arab Emirates-based SHUAA Capital PSC and Abu Dhabi Financial Group to advise on the two investment firms' potential merger, Reuters reported, citing a spokesman for ADFG. The deal will likely be completed in June, an insider told the news agency.

* UAE-based National Bank of Ras Al Khaimah PSC has hired Bank ABC, Citi, Emirates NBD Capital, First Abu Dhabi Bank, ICBC and Standard Chartered Bank to set up investor meetings ahead of an issue of U.S. dollar-denominated bonds.

* The board of Eshraq Investments approved the cross-listing of the Abu Dhabi-based investment and real estate company's shares on Tadawul.

* Shareholders of Dubai-based investment firm Amanat Holdings PJSC approved a proposal to allow the company to buy back up to 10% of its shares.

* Al Waha Capital PJSC appointed Waleed al-Muhairi and Nader al-Hammadi as members of the company's board of directors.

* Shareholders of Al Wathba National Insurance Co. PJSC approved a proposed issuance of senior unsecured nonconvertible bonds through private placement of up to $150 million.

* Moody's affirmed the UAE's long-term issuer rating at Aa2, with a stable outlook.

* Gulf Investment House KSCP CEO Bashar Naser Altuwaijri is stepping down, effective May 30.

* National Bank of Kuwait SAKP has launched NBK France SA after it completed the conversion of NBK (International) PLC in Paris into a full subsidiary.

*Qatar International Islamic Bank QPSC shareholders approved the board's proposal to raise the foreign investor ownership limit to no more than 49% of the bank's capital from 25% previously.

* Bahrain Kuwait Insurance Co. BSC CEO Ebrahim Alrayes said the company will increase investments in the digital transformation of insurance services and operations in 2019.

* Shareholders of Oman-based Taageer Finance Co. SAOG elected Ahmed al-Subhi an independent director of the company's board.

REST OF MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

* Fitch Ratings affirmed Israel's long-term foreign- and local-currency issuer default ratings at A+, with a stable outlook. The agency also affirmed Israel's F1+ short-term foreign- and local-currency issuer default ratings and AA country ceiling.

* Israeli multiasset investment platform eToro has acquired Denmark-based blockhain firm Firmo for an undisclosed sum, Globes wrote.

* Israeli financial technology startup Rewire Ltd. raised $12 million in a funding round that included French bank BNP Paribas SA and Standard Bank of South Africa Ltd., Globes reported.

* Qatari investor Majda Group acquired the shares of three minority shareholders in Banque Zitouna SA, giving it an additional 9.94% stake in the Tunisian lender, Agence Ecofin reported. The acquisition takes its total holding in the Islamic bank to 79.09%.

* Egyptian lender Banque Misr (SAE) plans to open two to three new representative offices in Africa by 2020, Daily News Egypt reported, citing Vice Chairman Hossam Eldin Abdelwahab.

EAST AND WEST AFRICA

* Former World Bank economist Peter Biar Ajak was among seven men charged in South Sudan yesterday with insurgency and sabotage, Reuters reported. He has been in detention since July last year.

* Co-operative Bank of Kenya Ltd. CEO Gideon Muriuki sold 6.45 million shares in the bank currently worth 99 million shillings, Business Daily Africa wrote.

* Pontrilas Investment Ltd, a client of collapsed Kenyan lender Imperial Bank Ltd., has sued Kenya's central bank over the loss of its cash deposits, accusing the regulator of failing to carry out its oversight duty on Imperial Bank despite being aware of widespread mismanagement at the lender, Business Daily Africa reported.

* The Kenyan government has set up a task force aimed at creating a new policy on ways to combat money laundering and illicit financing, The Kenyan Wall Street reported.

* United Bank for Africa PLC assured investors that the Nigerian lender's focus on improving asset quality and adopting cost-efficient measures will help it achieve its targets for 2019 and beyond, Premium Times reported.

* Access Bank PLC named Chizoma Okoli executive director of its business banking division, following approval from the Central Bank of Nigeria.

CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN AFRICA

* South Africa-based African Bank Holdings Ltd., in partnership with electronic-banking and payment processing services provider Direct Transact Pty Ltd. and Portuguese financial technology firm ebankIT, is launching a transactional-banking offering to customers as part of its digital push, Bloomberg News reported. CEO Basani Maluleke said the lender, whose parent African Bank Investments Ltd. went into administration in 2014, is repositioning itself so it can give its shareholders a way out, whether by an IPO or a takeover, "when the time is right."

* Adrian Gore, CEO of South African insurer Discovery Ltd., said the company's new banking unit Discovery Bank will offer three bank accounts, based on how much account holders earn, City Press reported.

* French investment bank Rothschild & Co. SCA said the CEO of its South African unit, Martin Kingston, will take over as executive chairman effective April 1. Rothschild also named Paul Bondi and Giles Douglas co-heads of the unit, while former South African Finance Minister and current Old Mutual Ltd Chairman Trevor Manuel will return to his role as the unit's nonexecutive deputy chairman.

* South African asset manager Ecsponent Ltd. said it expects headline EPS for the six months ended Dec. 31, 2018 to be between 0.17 cents and 0.51 cents, down from 1.698 cents for the interim period ended Sept. 30, 2017.

* South African Finance Minister Tito Mboweni has called on the government to examine if it should retain control of loss-making state companies given the poor state of the country's finances, Bloomberg reported. Mboweni also said a new commissioner for the South African Revenue Service will be named next week, while a new board for state investment firm Public Investment Corp will be formed within two weeks.

* Equity Bank Congo Sarl has received $2.8 million in financial support from the Financial Sector Deepening Africa development program, which is funded by the U.K. government, Agence Ecofin wrote. The unit of Kenya's Equity Group Holdings PLC aims to strengthen its cash express services by providing 4,000 new banking agents in underserved areas by 2021.

IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD

Asia-Pacific: FWD completes insurer acquisition; Suncorp to sell general insurance business

Europe: Deutsche CEO 'skeptical' of Commerz deal; Deutsche exec pay; Brexit turmoil

Latin America: Mexican banks to scrap digital account fees; US levies sanctions against Bandes

North America: Turkish regulators probe JPMorgan; Citi fires 8 bankers in Hong Kong

Global Insurance: US annuity sales up; FEMA data breach; regulators target Lindberg loophole

Deza Mones, Henni Abdelghani, Sophie Davies and Mariana Aldano contributed to this report.

The Daily Dose Middle East and Africa has an editorial deadline of 4 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.