GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL
* Analysts expect bank consolidation in the United Arab Emirates to accelerate as smaller lenders face regulatory pressure to merge amid a slowing economy, a drop in house prices, robust accounting standards and tougher competition, Reuters wrote.
* Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum approved the latest phase of Dubai International Financial Centre's expansion plan, which will see the financial district increase its size by threefold, The National reported.
* Kuwait Finance & Investment Co. - KSC (Public) appointed Abdullah Nabil Alsinan head of compliance and anti-money laundering.
* Revenues of the 11 Kuwaiti financial brokers licensed by the Capital Markets Authority declined 21% year over year to 6.2 million dinars in 2018, Al Rai reported.
* Saudi Arabia-based company Ahmad Hamad Algosaibi and Brothers had a debt settlement hearing in a local court, the first hearing on the dispute under the country's new bankruptcy law, Reuters reported, citing the Maaal financial news website.
REST OF MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA
* Goldman Sachs Group Inc. still views Lebanon's imminent debt restructuring as unlikely due to the continued lack of significant improvement in the country's political, economic and financial outlooks, Bloomberg News wrote. An economist at the U.S. lender said any debt overhaul will prioritize local banks, which are among the biggest holders of the nation's sovereign debt.
* Central Bank of Iran Governor Abdolnaser Hemmati said the recently announced initiative to remove four zeros from the Iranian rial to bolster the currency will take up two years, as the legal and technical infrastructure must first be in place, the Financial Tribune wrote. Hemmati noted that banking reforms will be addressed first, followed by the redenomination of the currency.
* Central Bank of Egypt data showed that the country's foreign currency reserves fell to $42.55 billion in December 2018 from $44.51 billion in November 2018, the first drop since the country devalued its currency in 2016, according to Reuters.
EAST AND WEST AFRICA
* Kenya-based Standard Investment Bank appointed Nahashon Mungai to lead its online foreign exchange trading business, Business Daily Africa reported. Mungai was previously head of treasury at Bank of Africa.
* The Central Bank of Nigeria is preparing rules that will allow wireless carriers to obtain licenses to transfer cash, as part of efforts to increase its financial inclusion rate to 80% by 2020, Bloomberg wrote. The regulator previously blocked such firms from doing so without using a bank.
* Nigerian insurer Linkage Assurance PLC secured regulatory approval for the appointment of Daniel Braie as its managing director.
CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN AFRICA
* Mozambique's attorney general's office said it has indicted 18 individuals, including former Finance Minister Manuel Chang, for their involvement in a $2 billion fraud scheme involving loans to government-owned firms, Reuters reported. Chang had already been arrested in South Africa previously in relation to the case.
* Angola's central bank will conduct stress tests on the country's commercial banks this year, following its decision to withdraw the licenses of small lenders Banco Mais and Banco Postal due to insufficient capital levels, Dinheiro Vivo and O País reported. The asset-quality checks will be carried out in line with an agreement signed with the IMF, which approved a $3.7 billion credit line to Angola last month. Macauhub also covered.
* Meanwhile, Banco Postal's shareholders denied that the Angolan lender is bankrupt, noting that its financial situation does not pose any risk to its clients or the country's banking system, state news agency Angop reported.
IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD
Asia-Pacific: Bank of Communications gets OK on wealth unit; 2 Philippines banks to merge
Europe: Rothesay mulls £3.5B buy of Swiss Re unit; UBS eyes former BofA exec as next CEO
Latin America: Brazil scraps financial tax hike; FID Peru completes La Positiva stake purchase
North America: Malaysian court denies bail for ex-Goldman banker; 2 Wisconsin banks merging
Global Insurance: Gallagher buying UK broker; insurers sue PG&E; Rothesay eyes Swiss Re's Reassure
Deza Mones, Henni Abdelghani, Sophie Davies and Helen Popper contributed to this report.
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