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Commercial Bank agrees to sell UAB stake; dividend rule hits Nigeria bank stocks

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

* Qatar has injected roughly $43 billion into its financial system in 2017 after its dispute with neighboring Arab states prompted deposit outflows of $22 billion between June and December of that year, Bloomberg News reported, citing Mohamed Damak, S&P Global Ratings' senior director for financial services. Damak also said that the average loan growth at banks in the Gulf Cooperation Council is expected to increase to between 3% and 4% in 2018 from 2.6% in 2017, while net interest margins are seen to decline "slightly" this year from 2.8% in 2017 due to higher U.S. interest rates.

* Qatar's Commercial Bank (PSQC) is said to have agreed in principle to sell its 40% stake in United Arab Emirates-based United Arab Bank PJSC to private equity firm Tabarak Investment, insiders told Reuters. Based on United Arab Bank's current market capitalization, the Qatari lender's 40% stake is worth 1.3 billion United Arab Emirates dirhams, the report noted.

* Saudi British Bank reported fourth-quarter 2017 net profit of 706 million Saudi Arabian riyals, up from the year-ago 607 million riyals. For full year 2017, net profit came in at 3.96 billion riyals, up 1.54% from 3.90 billion riyals in 2016.

* The Central Insurance of Iran unveiled rules for regulation of online marketers that link companies offering insurance products to applicants, the Financial Tribune wrote.

* Oman United Insurance Co.'s board proposed a 2017 cash dividend of 30 Omani baisa per share, equivalent to 30% of its paid-up capital.

* Central Bank of Bahrain Governor Rasheed Mohammed al-Maraj said the pace of the country's economic growth could pick up due to the recovery of oil prices since mid-2017, but stressed that the government should exercise caution regarding its budget deficit, Reuters wrote. He added that it is only a matter of time before Bahrain also imposes a value-added tax to help boost state revenues.

* Ahli United Bank BSC reported full-year 2017 net profit attributable to owners of the bank of $618.7 million, up from $570.6 million in 2016, as total provisions fell year over year to $89.0 million from $158.8 million.

* Al Baraka Banking Group BSC posted net income attributable to equity holders of the parent of $129 million for 2017, down from $152 million earned in 2016. For the fourth quarter of 2017, attributable net income fell 8% year over year to $32 million.

* S&P Global Ratings lowered Mediterranean & Gulf Cooperative Insurance and Reinsurance Co.'s credit and insurer financial strength ratings to B from BB-, and revised the implications of the ratings' CreditWatch placement to developing from negative, citing concerns that the firm's discussions with potential capital providers in recent months have not yet reached a satisfactory conclusion.

* S&P Global Ratings affirmed Wataniya Cooperative Insurance Co.'s BBB long-term issuer credit and insurer financial strength ratings. The outlook is stable.

* Morocco's Banque Centrale Populaire is to acquire Bank Mascarene in Mauritius and Banque des Mascareignes in Madagascar from France's Groupe BPCE and strategic partner Sipromad Group, Financial Afrik reported. BCP said it would become the first banking group in North or West Africa to enter the Mauritian market.

* Société Générale SA has named Abdelhaq Bensari director of its Moroccan subsidiary, La Nouvelle Tribune wrote.

EAST AND WEST AFRICA

* Shares of mid-sized Nigerian lenders, including Unity Bank Plc and Sterling Bank Plc, declined for a second day yesterday, reflecting investor concerns over the central bank's decision to restrict dividends for lenders that breach its nonperforming loan ratio requirement, Reuters noted. The country's regulatory NPL ratio minimum requirement is 5%, and commercial banks with NPL ratios of more than 10% are not allowed to pay dividends under the policy. Meanwhile, a report by investment and research firm Afrinvest West Africa showed that only six banks — Access Bank Plc, Zenith Bank Plc, Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, First City Monument Bank Ltd., Wema Bank Plc and United Bank for Africa Plc — will meet the central bank's requirement and will thus be excluded from the dividend restriction, Daily Post Nigeria wrote.

* Uganda's central bank rejected reports that it has taken over Bank of India's local unit, or that Bank of India Uganda Ltd. will be closed, saying the unit is "operating normally," the Daily Monitor wrote.

* The IMF has ended Kenya's access to a $1.5 billion standby credit facility in June 2017, but the country's central bank continued to report that the funds are still available, Bloomberg News and the Financial Times reported. Jan Mikkelsen, the IMF representative in Nairobi, said access was lost following the Kenyan government's failure to meet budget-deficit targets attached to the loan agreement, and that scheduled reviews of the program were not completed while follow-up discussions were postponed due to the country's prolonged election period.

* Kenya-based Commercial Bank of Africa Ltd. has concluded its acquisition of Crane Bank Rwanda Ltd. from Uganda-based dfcu Ltd. after receiving regulatory approvals from the central banks of Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda, The East African wrote.

* KCB Group Plc said nonexecutive director Nancy Asiko Onyango has stepped down to take up a new role at the IMF, Business Daily Africa wrote. Onyango, whose appointment as director of the IMF's office of internal audit and inspection was announced in December last year, will be replaced at the bank by Josephine Tata Djirackor.

CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN AFRICA

* Malusi Gigaba's position as South Africa's finance minister is among those that could be affected by new President Cyril Ramaphosa's expected cabinet shakeup next week, insiders told Bloomberg News. Gigaba replaced Pravin Gordhan after the latter was dismissed in March last year by former President Jacob Zuma in a wide-reaching cabinet reshuffle, a move that prompted a downgrade of the sovereign rating and a sell-off of the country's currency and bonds. Gordhan, meanwhile, is among those expected to be part of Ramaphosa's cabinet.

* South African insurer Discovery Ltd. plans to integrate its credit card business, which currently operates through a joint venture with FirstRand Ltd. unit First National Bank, into banking unit Discovery Bank Ltd., Moneyweb wrote.

* S&P Global Ratings affirmed Liberty Group Ltd.'s long-term "zaAA+" and short-term "zaA-1+" South Africa national scale ratings.

* The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe is requiring lenders to give exporters access to all the foreign currency they obtain from selling goods within 14 days of the money being deposited, as part of efforts to encourage money flows and exports, Bloomberg News reported.

* Daniel Essoo has been appointed head of the Mauritius Bankers Association, replacing Aisha Timol, l'express.mu reported. Essoo will assume the role April 1.

* The gap between the value of Angola's kwanza on the formal and informal foreign exchange markets has narrowed considerably since the country's central bank abandoned a peg to the U.S. dollar and allowed the local currency to depreciate, state news agency Angop reported. The difference in the kwanza's value has fallen from 150 percentage points to 90 percentage points, and should keep falling in the black market, an insider told the news agency.

IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD

Asia-Pacific: Thailand to issue ICO, cryptocurrency rules in March; ANZ faces lawsuit

Europe: Spain's De Guindos set for key ECB post; HSBC FY'17 profit up on Asia growth

Latin America: Supervielle, Banco Macro Q4'17 profits jump; ex-Caixa VP acquitted

North America: JPMorgan considering M&A to grow ETF biz; 2 Oklahoma banks merging

North America Insurance: Cat losses unlikely to dampen ILS growth; Aspen closes Bermuda unit

S&P Global Ratings and S&P Global Market Intelligence are owned by S&P Global Inc.

Sheryl Obejera, Henni Abdelghani, Sophie Davies and Helen Popper contributed to this report.

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