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MENA news through March 13

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MENA news through March 13

* The European Union updated its list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions, adding the United Arab Emirates, Oman and several others that now face restrictions on EU funding. Tunisia, Bahrain and Qatar were removed from the EU's blacklist of possible tax havens, while Morocco remained on the list, Il Boursa reported.

* Representatives of the Association of Central African Banks met to discuss convergence issues necessary for the eventual formation of a common currency and a continent-wide central bank, Financial Afrik said.


* Mashreqbank PSC CEO Abdul Aziz al-Ghurair said the Dubai-based lender will close half of its U.A.E. branches in 2019 as part of digitization efforts, under which the bank will spend at least 500 million dirhams over the next five years, The National reported.

* Saudi Arabia's tax authority said it is not currently considering a hike the country's Islamic tax, or zakat, for the private sector, following a report that said the country was considering increasing Islamic tax on local lenders to 20% of profit from 10%.

* The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority has cleared the planned merger of Alawwal Bank and Saudi British Bank.

* Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank PJSC has named a new board, which according to The National will lead the entity resulting from the bank's merger with Union National Bank - PJSC and Al Hilal Bank PJSC.

* Dubai-based Oman Insurance Co. PSC said that after 11 years in Qatar, the country's central bank declined its application for a branch license, leaving it unable to sell or issue insurance policies in Qatar.

* Doha Bank QPSC is starting a restructuring plan aimed at improving efficiency and cutting costs and expenses, The Peninsula reported.

* Al Baraka Banking Group BSC CEO Adnan Yousef said the Bahrain-based bank aims to expand in China and Indonesia, Al Watan reported.

* National Bank of Kuwait SAKP's general assembly named Nasser Messad Abdullah al-Sayar chairman of the board and Ghassan Ahmed Saoud al-Khalid vice chairman.

* Burgan Bank KPSC appointed Masoud Hayat deputy chairman of its board of directors.

* Al Ahlia Insurance Co. for Cooperative Insurance's board has recommended reducing the insurer's capital to 123 million Saudi riyals from 160 million riyals, Argaam reported.

* Al Omaniya Financial Services' proposal to distribute a total dividend of 16.28% of its paid up capital for 2018 has received approval from Oman's central bank.

* Qatar General Insurance & Reinsurance Co. QPSC's board of directors appointed Hassan Ahmed Hassan al-Efrangi group CEO, replacing Ghazi Abu Nahl, who resigned from the position.

* Medgulf Cooperative Insurance and Reinsurance Co. named Tarek al-Naeem CEO, Argaam reported.

* Bahrain Islamic Bank BSC has launched its first fully fledged digital branch in the country.


* Bank Leumi le-Israel BM reported fourth-quarter 2018 net income attributable to shareholders of 688 million Israeli shekels, down from 854 million shekels in the same period in 2017.

* Israel Discount Bank Ltd. reported fourth-quarter 2018 consolidated net profit attributable to shareholders of 324 million Israeli shekels, compared to 371 million shekels in the same period a year earlier.

* First International Bank of Israel Ltd. reported full year 2018 consolidated net profit attributed to shareholders of the bank of 733 million shekels, up from 678 million shekels a year ago.

* Mizrahi Tefahot Bank Ltd. agreed to settle a tax evasion case with the U.S. Department of Justice for $195 million after it admitted that it conspired with U.S. taxpayers to help them avoid taxes.

* Bank Hapoalim BM's board resolved to carry out a public offer of credit card unit Isracard Ltd.'s shares and list them on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. The offer would be for roughly 50% of Isracard's shares, Reuters noted, citing a prospectus. Isracard is reportedly valued at 3 billion shekels, but could fetch higher.

* Meanwhile, Hapoalim will recognize an additional provision of approximately $246 million in its 2018 results in relation to a U.S. probe into its alleged involvement in tax evasion by clients, taking the bank's total provisions to about $611 million as of 2018-end.

* The Israel Securities Authority submitted a final report on regulating cryptocurrency offerings, recommending, among other things, that disclosure requirements be imposed on crypto-assets that constitute a security, Globes reported.

* Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas appointed Mohammad Shtayyeh prime minister, replacing Rami Hamdallah, Bloomberg News reported.


* Banque du Caire SAE is planning to float nearly 30% of its capital on the Egyptian exchange by the third quarter of 2019, after the bank completes its restructuring plan, insiders told Daily News Egypt.

* Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir fired Mohamed al-Zubair as central bank governor, replacing him with his deputy, Hussein Yehia Janqool, Reuters reported.

* Shareholders in Banque Nationale Agricole have approved a capital increase to 320 million dinars from 176 million dinars, Il Boursa reported.

* Banque Zitouna SA appointed a new board of directors following sale of 69.15% of its shares to a subsidiary of Qatar's Majda group, Il Boursa reported.

* Amen Bank appointed Rached Fourati chairman of its supervisory board, Il Boursa said.

* South Africa's Absa Group Ltd. is considering expansion into growth markets such as Egypt, Reuters reported.

* Noureddine Bedoui was appointed new prime minister of Algeria, Jeune Afrique reported. He replaced Ahmed Ouyahia, who resigned. Meanwhile, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika said he would not be seeking a fifth term in office.

Henni Abdelghani and Pádraig Belton contributed to this report.

This S&P Global Market Intelligence news article may contain information about credit ratings issued by S&P Global Ratings, a separately managed division of S&P Global. Descriptions in this news article were not prepared by S&P Global Ratings.