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US funds vying for Abraaj unit; Ghana steps up bank consolidation efforts

* U.S. companies Cerberus Capital Management and Colony Capital have emerged as front-runners to acquire United Arab Emirates-based Abraaj Group Ltd.'s private equity business in a potential deal that could be worth $600 million, insiders told the Financial Times. Abraaj, which is in advanced discussions with the two companies, is said to be confident of closing a deal over the next few weeks.

* A U.K. court has dismissed the U.K. Serious Fraud Office's charges against Barclays PLC and unit Barclays Bank PLC regarding a controversial capital increase carried out by the British banking group in 2008 involving Qatar Holding LLC and a $3 billion loan facility made available to Qatar.

* U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Iran that it would face "the strongest sanctions in history" if it fails to change its behavior as he outlined Washington's 12 "basic requirements" that Iran must comply with in exchange for a new deal and sanctions relief. U.S. President Donald Trump recently decided to withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

* Moody's downgraded Qatar-based Commercial Bank PSQC's and Doha Bank QPSC's long-term deposit ratings to A3 from A2 and their short-term deposit ratings to Prime-2 from Prime-1, among other ratings actions. The outlooks on both lenders remain negative.

* The Saudi Stock Exchange said a new mechanism for calculating opening and closing price will be implemented to both the Main Market and Nomu-Parallel Market with effect from May 27.

* Nasdaq Dubai is set to launch equity futures on companies listed in Saudi Arabia, with trading expected to begin in the third quarter.

* Marius Nacht, co-founder and chairperson of Check Point Software Technologies Ltd., and Delek USA CEO Ezra Uzi Yemin are in talks with the Bank of Israel to establish a digital bank in Israel, according to Globes.

* Tel Aviv Stock Exchange Ltd. CEO Ittai Ben-Zeev said the sale of 19.9% of the exchange to Manikay Partners LLC is facing opposition in Israel, CTech wrote.

* Burgan Bank KPSC has received regulatory nod to increase paid capital to 250 million Kuwaiti dinars through a rights issue of up to 62 million dinars.

* Attijari Bank said it would allocate new shares to existing shareholders to increase its share capital to 203.7 million Tunisian dinars from 198.7 million dinars, Il Boursa reported.

EAST AND WEST AFRICA

* The Bank of Ghana cut its monetary policy rate by 100 basis points to 17% amid easing inflationary pressures.

* The Bank of Ghana, which last year raised the minimum capital requirement for local lenders to 400 million cedis from 120 million cedis, is facilitating discussions between banks and investors as part of efforts to encourage consolidation and strengthen the country's banking industry, insiders told Bloomberg News. Some lenders are said to be against the prerequisite to merge and are instead trying to find their own ways to bolster their capital and meet the new requirement by the December-end deadline.

* Pan-African private equity fund AfricInvest completed the acquisition of 360,888,281 million new shares, equivalent to a 14.3% stake, in Kenya-based financial services group Britam Holdings Plc. AfricInvest paid 5.7 billion Kenyan shillings for the shares at a subscription price of 15.85 shillings per share.

* In its latest annual report, Standard Chartered Bank Kenya Ltd. disclosed that it let go of 285 employees last year, bringing down its staff number to 1,587 as of Dec. 31, 2017, at a cost of 173.1 million Kenyan shillings, according to Business Daily Africa.

* Union Bank of Nigeria PLC officially launched a robotic process automation technology in its operations, Pulse reported, marking the first of its kind in Nigeria's banking industry.

* The Bank of Uganda said the method of pricing treasury bills and bonds in the primary auctions will change to a single price from the current multiple prices, effective July 2.

* Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire and Mali launched a common economic zone, spanning three neighboring cities and expanding on an earlier bilateral relationship between Burkina Faso and Côte d'Ivoire, Jeune Afrique said.

* Results of the May 17 referendum showed that Burundians have voted in favor of constitutional amendments that would extend presidential terms to seven years from five, allowing President Pierre Nkurunziza to extend his 13-year term until 2034, Reuters reported, citing the country's electoral commission. A president is currently limited to two terms, Independent Online noted.

CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN AFRICA

* The IMF reached a staff-level agreement with Cameroon on economic and financial policies that could be supported by a three-year extended credit facility arrangement The completion of the second review, which the fund's Executive Board could consider in June or July, would enable a third disbursement of approximately $78.8 million.

* Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa has applied for his country to rejoin the Commonwealth, which currently comprises 53 countries across Africa, Asia, the Americas, Europe and the Pacific. Zimbabwe withdrew from the organization in 2003.

* Angolan and foreign investors will pay lower taxes in a government effort to stimulate private investment in the country. The reduction is part of a new law approved recently by the National Assembly that prioritizes investments in the education, vocational training, higher education, scientific research and innovation sectors, Macauhub reported.

IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD

Asia-Pacific: Warburg Pincus front-runner for IndiaFirst stake; ANZ postpones UDC Finance IPO

Europe: Barclays to sell loans bought from Lloyds; Monte dei Paschi mandate concerns

Latin America: BancoEstado's Q1 profit rises 3.6% YOY; PagSeguro to launch digital bank

North America: Fifth Third to buy MB Financial for $4.7B; JPMorgan working on crypto strategy

North America Insurance: AmTrust doubles down; Travelers closes cat bond; MS Amlin P&C boss departs

Sheryl Obejera, Henni Abdelghani, Pádraig Belton and Mariana Aldano contributed to this report.

The Daily Dose Middle East and Africa has an editorial deadline of 5 a.m. London time. Some external links may require a subscription. Links are current as of publication time, and we are not responsible if those links are unavailable later.