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MENA news through Jan. 1


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MENA news through Jan. 1


* Saudi Arabia's GDP shrank 0.46% in annual terms in the third quarter of 2019, amid a fall in oil output, data from the General Authority for Statistics showed.

* The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority said Rowad Insurance Co. of the Cooperative Insurance Agency and Forsan Insurance Agency Ltd. are not in compliance with regulatory requirements.

* Saudi Arabia's Capital Market Authority approved Walaa Cooperative Insurance Co.'s request to increase its capital to 646.4 million riyals from 528 million riyals by issuing 11,839,706 ordinary shares to merge MetLife AIG ANB Cooperative Insurance Co. into the company.

* Saudi British Bank's board recommended the distribution of 1.23 billion riyals in cash dividends for the second half of 2019 to shareholders, Mubasher reported. Separately, the lender appointed Lubna Sulaiman Olayan and Saad Abdulmohsen al-Fadly chairwoman and vice chairman of its board, respectively.

* Banque Saudi Fransi's board recommended the distribution of 1.20 billion riyals in dividends to shareholders for the second half of 2019, Mubasher reported.

* Riyad Bank's board of directors recommended a 5.5% cash dividend for the second half of 2019 amounting to 1.65 billion Saudi Arabian riyals, or 55 halalas per share, according to Mubasher.

* Mohamed al-Khawajah resigned as a member of United Arab Emirates-based Orient UNB Takaful P.JSC's board of directors, effective Dec. 30, 2019.

* Kuwait Finance & Investment Co. - KSC (Public) divested from real estate investments and made 503,000 dinars in profit.

* Oman International Development & Investment Co. SAOG unit Oman Arab Bank SAOC proposed to merge with Alizz Islamic Bank SAOG. The proposal is to carry out the merger through a share swap at a ratio of 81% to 19% for shareholders of Oman Arab Bank and Alizz Islamic Bank, respectively, based on the audited year-end 2019 net book values of both banks.

* Shareholders of Gulf Investment Services Holding Co. SAOG unit Gulf Baader Capital Markets SAOC approved a proposal to reduce the company's paid-up capital to 2 million Omani rials from 7 million rials.

* The Qatar Central Bank adopted new implementing regulations to further strengthen a law against money laundering and terrorism financing, as part of the country's efforts to fight illicit finance.

* Bahrain-based Ithmaar Bank BSC (closed) promoted Saqib Mustafa to CFO and assistant general manager.

* National Bank of Bahrain BSC's offer to acquire up to 100% of Bahrain Islamic Bank BSC became unconditional after valid acceptances for the bid exceeded the conditional threshold of 40.94% of Bahrain Islamic Bank's issued share capital.

* Shareholders of GFH Financial Group (BSC) approved the recommendation of the company's board to take required steps to issue Islamic bonds, or sukuk, of up to $500 million in one or more issuances, subject to regulatory approvals. The board also received shareholder approval to use 3.8% of the Bahrain-based group's shares for a strategic share acquisition in financial institutions, subject to central bank approval.


* Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won a Dec. 26, 2019, party leadership challenge, retaining the helm at the conservative Likud party ahead of the country's next general election in March 2020. Netanyahu secured 72% of the votes as opposed to his rival Gideon Saar, who polled 28%.

* Israel Discount Bank Ltd. appointed Assaf Eldar a member of its management board as executive vice president and head of its newly created operations and assets division, effective Jan. 1. The lender also appointed Orit Caspi to the board as executive vice president and head of human resources, replacing Yafit Gheriani, who was named head of the bank's retail division.

* Israeli nonbanking credit firm M.L.R.N Projects and Trade Ltd. will expand its bond issue to 120 million shekels from an original plan of 80 million shekels after receiving excess demand, Globes reported.


* Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune appointed former educator and diplomat Abdelaziz Djerad as the country's prime minister.

* National Bank of Egypt (SAE)'s investment unit Al Ahly Capital Holding Co. signed a contract to acquire Pharos Securities. National Bank of Egypt Chairperson Hisham Okasha said the deal is part of its plan to set up an integrated investment bank and is in line with its strategy to expand nonbank financial services, according to Daily News Egypt.

* Tunisia's central bank kept its key interest rate unchanged at 7.75%, Reuters reported, citing the country's state news agency.

Abdelghani Henni contributed to this report.

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