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MENA news through Dec. 19

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MENA news through Dec. 19

GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL

* Dominique Leimer will join Credit Suisse in March 2019 as head of the Swiss lender's private wealth unit in Saudi Arabia, sources told Bloomberg News.

* The Saudi government has been spending billions of dollars to buy shares of companies in the Saudi Stock Exchange to counter sell-offs amid recent political crises, including the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to The Wall Street Journal. The purchases were reportedly made through asset managers at Saudi financial institutions who manage funds that are not required to reveal their clients.

* The Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates raised interest rates on certificates of deposit in line with the increase in U.S. dollar rates, after the U.S. Federal Reserve Board's decision to hike rates by 25 basis points. The central bank also increased by 25 basis points the repo rate for borrowing short-term liquidity.

* The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority also raised its repo rate, to 300 basis points from 275 basis points and its reverse repo rate to 250 basis points from 225 basis points. The Central Bank of Bahrain hiked its key rates by 25 basis points, but kept its one-month deposit rate unchanged at 3.25%, Reuters reported. Meanwhile, the Central Bank of Kuwait maintained its discount rate at 3.0%.

* SAMA issued rules for the licensing and supervision of branches of foreign insurance and reinsurance companies operating in the country.

* The UAE central bank and SAMA denied reports that they have started using digital currencies for cross-border settlements, according to The National.

* Mubarak Rashed Khamis al-Mansoori was reappointed governor of the Central Bank of the UAE for the next four years, amid a restructuring of the regulator's board of directors, according to state news agency WAM. Hareb Masoud Hamad al-Darmaki and Abdulrahman Saleh al-Saleh were named chairman and vice chairman, respectively.

* The UAE central bank is prepared to support struggling lender Invest Bank PSC with "all the available liquidity facilities" if necessary, according to Reuters. The newswire previously reported that Invest Bank, which struggles to deal with a pile of bad debt, will receive a capital injection from the emirate of Sharjah.

* The Central Bank of Bahrain said it issued for consultation draft rules for the licensing and supervision of operators of crypto-assets, Reuters reported.

* Moody's raised the outlook on Bahrain to stable from negative, citing reduced government and external liquidity risks, and affirmed the country's issuer ratings at B2.

* Capital Intelligence Ratings affirmed Saudi Arabia's A+/A1 long- and short-term foreign- and local-currency issuer ratings and revised the outlook on the long-term ratings to stable from negative.

* Fitch Ratings downgraded Oman's long-term foreign- and local-currency issuer default ratings to BB+ from BBB-, among other ratings, saying the outlook for oil production, prices and the pass-through of oil revenues to the government's budget is "highly uncertain." Moody's remains the only major rating agency to rate Oman's credit rating as investment grade, Reuters noted.

* The Central Bank of Oman approved a draft framework for the rescue and replacement of banks, Oman Daily reported.

* The Qatar Financial Centre said CEO Yousuf Mohamed al-Jaida's recent comments regarding Qatar's plans to invest in Germany is its "overall commitment to the German market" and "does not reference any specific German entity," Reuters reported. The statement comes after a report by Handelsblatt claiming that Qatar, which currently has a 6.1% stake in Deutsche Bank AG, is looking at raising its stake.

* Nasdaq Dubai will launch futures trading on the MSCI UAE equity index on January 15, 2019.

* Kuwait Finance House KSCP dismissed as "groundless" a report by newspaper Al Rai that it reached an agreement with Bahrain's Ahli United Bank BSC for the exchange ratio of their planned merger. The banks reportedly agreed on an exchange ratio of 2.4 Ahli United Bank shares for every KFH share.

* Kuwait-based Noor Financial Investment Co. is in talks with foreign institutional investors to sell part of its 39.53% stake in Pakistani lender Meezan Bank Ltd.

* Shuaa Capital PSC said its post-acquisition integration and consolidation efforts with Kuwait-based Amwal International Investment Co. KSCP has commenced following the recent completion of the public tender acquisition process. Amwal also unveiled a new board of directors comprising Bader Al Reizhan, Fawad Tariq Khan, Khaleefa al-Mheiri, Oliver Lee, Ali Tariq, Adil Mustafa and Abdullah Galadari.

* Banque Saudi Fransi appointed Mazin al-Romeih and Talal al-Maiman board chairman and vice chairman, respectively.

REST OF MIDDLE EAST

* Lebanese politicians said a new national unity government is expected to be formed within the next few days, Reuters reported. Since the national election in May, efforts to form the new government have been hampered by conflicting demands for cabinet posts.

* Moody's revised the outlook on Lebanon's issuer ratings to negative from stable, saying domestic and geopolitical risks threaten the country's financial stability and government liquidity position. Lebanon's issuer ratings were affirmed at B3.

* Fitch affirmed Lebanon's long- and short-term foreign- and local-currency issuer default ratings at B-/B and revised the outlook on the long-term ratings to negative from stable.

* The Tehran Stock Exchange has officially launched equity future contracts, the Financial Tribune reported.

* Trade Bank of Iraq Chairman Faisal al-Haimus said the state-owned lender is considering acquiring an unspecified bank in Turkey, The National reported, noting that talks with the Turkish bank have started earlier this month.

NORTH AFRICA

* Morocco's central bank kept its key rate unchanged at 2.25%.

* The Central Bank of Egypt is reviewing the possibility of reopening license applications for foreign banks seeking to operate in the country, according to Al-Masry Al-Youm.

* Commercial International Bank (Egypt) SAE has established corporate venture capital firm CVentures, which would primarily focus on investing in financial technology startups and financial services platforms.

* Banque Misr SAE appointed Khalil el-Bawab co-CEO and managing director of Misr Finance Investment as part of the unit's restructuring, according to Daily News Egypt.

* Adnane Berrah has been named director general of Macir Vie, the personal insurance subsidiary of Algeria's Compagnie Internationale d'Assurance et de Réassurance, replacing Mohamed Hakim Soufi, Financial Afrik reported.

Henni Abdelghani and Pádraig Belton contributed to this report.