GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL
* Gulf Union Co-operative Insurance Co. CEO Munir al-Burno told Argaam that the company's planned merger with Al Ahlia Insurance Co. for Cooperative Insurance will likely be finalized in May.
* The board of Al Rajhi Banking & Investment Corp. proposed a 53.8% capital hike to 25 billion Saudi Arabian riyals through the issuance of bonus shares. The board also recommended a 22.5% cash dividend distribution for the second half of 2018 at 2.25 riyals per share, amounting to roughly 3.66 billion riyals.
* Dubai-based private equity firm Abraaj Group Ltd. is said to be nearing a deal with the government of Pakistan that will allow Abraaj to sell its 66% stake in Pakistani power utility K-Electric to China-based Shanghai Electric Power, according to the Financial Times.
* Kuwait's General Organization for Social Insurance said its former Director General Fahad al-Rajaan approved a $731.8 million loan to Abraaj Holdings without conducting due diligence, Al-Qabas reported. The organization recovered $346.1 million of the amount.
* Sovereign wealth fund Kuwait Investment Authority reportedly said it does not see any conflict of interest in a possible merger between Kuwait Finance House KSCP and Bahraini lender Ahli United Bank BSC, Bloomberg News reported, citing Kuwaiti daily Al-Qabas. Kuwaiti Finance Minister Nayef al-Hajraf is the chairman of both the country's Public Institution for Social Security and the Kuwait Investment Authority, which hold a 18.7% stake in Ahli United Bank and a 24.1% stake in KFH, respectively.
* Kuwait has formally requested that Dubai unfreeze and return the $496 million of investor funds belonging to private equity fund Port Fund that have been held in Noor Bank PJSC.
* Bahrain Islamic Bank BSC appointed Ameer Abdul Ghani Dairi CFO, Trade Arabia reported.
* Former Barclays CEO John Varley, along with three former colleagues at the British bank, is set to appear in court today over charges of conspiracy to commit fraud in connection with the lender's controversial capital increase in 2008 involving Qatari investors, news outlets including Reuters reported.
* Doha Bank QPSC inked a memorandum of understanding with Stock Holding Corp. of India Ltd. to offer investment solutions in India. Under the tie-up, Doha Bank will offer all banking-related services, while StockHolding will offer compliance, clearing, settlement and reporting services for all investment activities of customers.
REST OF MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA
* Central Bank of Iran Governor Abdolnaser Hemmati said the regulator presented a bill to the government proposing to remove four zeros from the Iranian rial in a bid to strengthen the currency, Reuters reported, citing IRNA. The proposal has been floated since 2008 but gained traction after the rial lost more than 60% of its value last year following the reimposition of U.S. sanctions.
* Iran's Expediency Council, a body that resolves disputes between parliament and the Guardian Council, approved the changes to an anti-money laundering bill as part of the country's efforts to comply with standards set by the Financial Action Task Force, an intergovernmental organization combating money laundering and terrorist financing, according to the Financial Tribune.
* Jordan Insurance Federation President Majed Smeirat said he expects five to seven insurance companies to exit the local market if the government implements the solvency margin requirement, Al Ghad reported.
* Egypt's Financial Regulatory Authority filed a criminal case against Beltone Financial Holding SAE officials accused of wrongdoing in the IPO of Sarwa Capital Holding for Financial Investments SAE in October 2018, Bloomberg wrote, citing media reports. Beltone managed the IPO of Sarwa Capital, whose share price fell by as much as 19% soon after it started trading.
* The board of Société Arabe Internationale de Banque SAE approved a new strategy that aims to boost the lender's credit portfolio by 20%, according to Al-Masry Al-Youm.
EAST AND WEST AFRICA
* Bank of Ghana Governor Ernest Addison said the country now has 23 "well-capitalized" lenders, down from 34 previously, after the central bank raised the minimum capital requirement to 400 million cedis in a bid to clean up the banking sector, Bloomberg reported.
* GN Bank Ltd. obtained a savings and loans company license from the Bank of Ghana, after failing to meet the regulator's new minimum capital requirement for universal banks by the 2018-end deadline. The central bank also revoked the banking licenses of Heritage Bank Ltd. and Premium Bank Ltd., with state-owned Consolidated Bank Ghana Ltd. taking over the assets and liabilities of the two failed lenders.
* Ghana's finance ministry said the government has established the Ghana Amalgamated Trust, a special purpose vehicle to support "solvent and strong" indigenous banks to meet the central bank's new minimum capital requirement, stressing that it is not a bailout program for banks that have been resolved by the Bank of Ghana. The program's beneficiaries are Agricultural Development Bank Ltd., National Investment Bank Ltd., OmniBank Ghana Ltd./Bank Sahel Sahara Ghana (OmniBank/BSIC), Universal Merchant Bank Ltd. and Prudential Bank Ltd. Graphic Online covered.
* Consolidated Bank of Kenya Ltd. CEO Thomas Kiyai told Business Daily Africa that an unnamed investor is likely to inject 3.5 billion shillings into the lender by the end of the first quarter, which will help the bank comply with the central bank's ratios and grow its loan portfolio. The investor is expected to eventually own a majority stake in the bank, paving the way for its privatization.
CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN AFRICA
* Banco Nacional de Angola withdrew the licenses of Banco Postal and Banco Mais after missing a 2018-end deadline to comply with new capital requirements, Reuters reported. The central bank said that the two small lenders should be declared bankrupt.
* Angola's state-run Banco de Poupança e Crédito SA, which has been plagued by high levels of bad loans in recent years, has failed to open three branches that were installed in Zaire province several years ago, Jornal de Angola reported.
IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD
Asia-Pacific: China to cut banks' reserve requirement ratio; India merges 3 banks
Deza Mones, Henni Abdelghani, Sophie Davies and Helen Popper contributed to this report.
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