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MENA news through March 29

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MENA news through March 29

* K.P. Sunil Rao, director of Middle East and North Africa financial institutions group at Barclays Plc, said the British bank intends to grow its share of the euro-clearing business in the region, Reuters wrote. Rao said: "We are in lower double digit. I think it could increase to 25% market share, hopefully in the next three years."

* Meanwhile, Deutsche Bank AG will discontinue clearing euro-denominated checks for some banks in the Middle East, starting in April, as global check usage declines amid digital payment alternatives, Reuters reported.

MIDDLE EAST

* Goldman Sachs Group Inc. is in preliminary discussions with Saudi regulators for a license that would allow it to buy and sell local equities, Bloomberg News reported. The U.S. group, which established a dedicated Saudi business in 2008, has yet to file a formal application for an equities license and may still decide not to proceed.

* Meanwhile, insiders told Reuters that Citigroup Inc. filed an application with the Saudi Capital Market Authority to obtain a capital markets license. The U.S. bank is reportedly "positive" that it would secure the license in 2017 and could also pursue a full bank branch license afterward.

* The Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs said authorities closed at least 226 bank accounts on suspicion of being used to finance terrorism, Sputnik News wrote.

* Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund will establish an investment fund targeting real estate, energy, tourism and infrastructure projects in Jordan, Bloomberg News and Reuters reported. The fund, which will be 90% owned by the PIF with the remaining 10% shared by 15 Jordanian banks, will have an initial capital of $10 million, with the possibility of rising up to $3 billion in the long term.

* First Gulf Bank PJSC's shares will be delisted from the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange at end of trading March 30, the same day that its merger with National Bank of Abu Dhabi PJSC will be declared effective. Shares in the new entity, which The National said retains the NBAD name, will begin trading April 2.

* NBAD issued $587 million in green bonds, the first of its type to come from the Gulf region. The notes will mature March 30, 2022, and carry a coupon of 3%.

* The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority lost an arbitration case against Citi relating to the sovereign fund's $7.5 billion investment in the U.S. group in 2007. The ADIA first filed a claim in 2009, accusing Citi of misrepresentation in the 2007 sale of equity units that had seen the fund hold a 4.9% stake in the American bank.

* Dubai-based investment bank Arqaam Capital Ltd. launched Arqaam Global Macro Fund, a global macro multiasset hedge fund focusing on liquid and transparent markets.

* Bahrain Islamic Bank BSC will sell its entire 22.75% stake in Takaful International Co. BSC at an initial minimum price of 95 Bahraini fils per share.

* India-based SBI Life Insurance Co. Ltd. is set to expand to Bahrain in fiscal 2017-2018. Managing Director and CEO Arijit Basu said the company has already received approval from the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India but is still waiting for approval from the Central Bank of Bahrain to open a branch in the Middle Eastern country.

* Kuwaiti Capital Markets Authority Vice Chairman Mishaal al-Usaimi said the regulator intends to implement a T+3 settlement cycle for stock trades by April-end, Bloomberg News reported. The settlement cycle for stock trades currently lasts two days for foreign investors and zero for local traders.

* National Bank of Oman SAOG named Sayyidah Rawan Ahmed al-Said chair of its board of directors.

* The Qatar Investment Authority plans to sell, through unit Qatar Holding LLC, up to 92 million units in Banco Santander (Brasil) SA in a global secondary offering. The Qatari wealth fund said the offering represents about 40% of its 5.5% stake in the Brazilian unit of Spain-based Banco Santander SA.

* Doha Bank QSC said trading in subscription rights for its 1-for-5 rights issue will run from April 4 to April 17. The rights issue comprises 51,674,450 new ordinary shares, to be offered at 25 Qatari riyals apiece, comprising a 10 riyal nominal value and a 15 riyal issue premium.

* U.S. prosecutors arrested Mehmet Hakan Atilla, a deputy general manager at Turkey-based Türkiye Halk Bankasi AS, on charges of conspiring to commit bank fraud and violating U.S. sanctions against Iran. Atilla is accused of colluding with Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab to carry out millions of dollars of alleged illicit transactions through U.S. banks on behalf of the Iranian government and Iran-based companies.

* Israel Discount Bank Ltd. reported net profit attributed to shareholders of 905 million Israeli shekels for 2016, up from 750 million shekels in the year-ago period.

NORTH AFRICA

* National Bank of Egypt (SAE) is in talks with the European Bank for Reconstruction & Development, the European Investment Bank, the European Union and the French Development Agency to obtain new funding under the new Green Economy Financing Facility for Egypt, Amwal Al Ghad reported.

* The Mauritanian government is considering revamping supervision of the local insurance market, either by linking the Directorate of Insurance Control to the Central Bank of Mauritania, or by creating a regulatory authority for the insurance market, Middle East Insurance Review wrote, citing Financial Africa.