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2 Abu Dhabi funds merging; South Africa, Nigeria sit out African free trade pact

* The leaders of 44 African countries agreed to create a $3 trillion continental free-trade zone, but without South Africa, Nigeria and eight other nations, Reuters and BBC News wrote. African Union Trade Commissioner Albert Muchanga reportedly said both South Africa and Nigeria would join the bloc soon once their ongoing national-level consultations are over.

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

* The Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates raised by 25 basis points to 2% the repo rate applicable to borrowing short-term liquidity from the bank against certificates of deposit, effective March 22, following a similar rate hike by the U.S. Federal Reserve. The Central Bank of Kuwait lifted its discount rate to 3% from 2.75%, while the Central Bank of Bahrain also raised policy interest rates by 25 basis points.

* Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, president of the United Arab Emirates, issued a law that will integrate the Abu Dhabi Investment Council into Mubadala Investment Co., according to WAM. The combination will create a wealth fund with approximately $250 billion in assets, Bloomberg News noted.

* The Saudi Investment Bank completed a private issuance of a 1 billion riyal subordinated Tier I sukuk in Saudi Arabia.

* Qatar International Islamic Bank QPSC appointed Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Abdullah bin Faisal al-Thani as head of corporate banking and Sheikh Mohammed bin Ali al-Thani as head of treasury and investments, The Peninsula reported.

* Capital Intelligence Ratings affirmed Qatar National Bank QPSC's AA- financial strength rating and AA-/A1+ long- and short-term foreign-currency ratings.

* Oman Insurance Co. PSC will distribute cash dividends for 2017 at the rate of 10% of its shares' nominal value.

* CI Ratings affirmed Capital Bank of Jordan's BB-/B long- and short-term foreign-currency ratings.

EAST AND WEST AFRICA

* Togo-based pan-African lender Ecobank Transnational Inc. reported full-year 2017 group profit attributable to owners of the parent of $178.6 million, compared to a loss of $249.9 million a year ago.

* Access Bank Plc reported group profit attributable to owners of 61.98 billion Nigerian naira for full year 2017, compared to 71.12 billion naira a year earlier.

* Nigeria's Senate is today set to consider President Muhammadu Buhari's nominees for the Central Bank of Nigeria's monetary policy committee, Reuters reported. A disagreement between the Senate and the president over nominees for the committee prompted the central bank to cancel an interest rate-setting meeting in January due to a lack of quorum.

* Unity Bank Plc is in discussions with some potential investors regarding a capital injection but has not finalized any deal, noting that it had not received an investment commitment from U.S. private equity firm Milost Global Inc. Bloomberg News previously reported that Milost Global plans to invest up to $1 billion in the Nigerian bank.

* The final preparations are complete for the launch of business mogul Pépite d'Apollinaire Campaoré's Wendkuni Bank International in Burkina Faso, according to Financial Afrik.

* Central Bank of Kenya Governor Patrick Njoroge said the regulator expects to complete its ongoing policy reviews, including that on a law capping commercial banks' interest rates, sometime in June, The Star reported. Separately, Sheila M'Mbijjewe will remain as deputy governor at the Central Bank of Kenya despite reaching the mandatory retirement age of 60 earlier this month, Business Daily Africa wrote.

* National Bank of Kenya Ltd. CEO Wilfred Musau denied allegations of sexual assault and harassment filed against him in the Employment and Labour Relations Court by a female employee, Business Daily Africa wrote. Musau accused the employee of blackmailing him and the bank after she was passed over for a promotion.

* A Kenyan court stopped KCB Group Plc from paying annual management bonuses, set to be paid at March-end, following a dispute regarding appraisals with unionizable employees, according to Business Daily Africa.

CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN AFRICA

* AfrAsia Bank Ltd.'s board approved a rights issue of up to 6,944,444 new ordinary shares to raise nearly 500.0 million Mauritian rupees in additional capital.

IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD

Asia-Pacific: China names head of new financial regulator; Japan insurers to merge pension ops

Europe: Lloyd's of London, Alpha Bank post losses; Axa ups stake in German insurer

Latin America: Chile, Colombia maintain rates; Moody's ups BTG Pactual

North America: National Commerce to buy Florida bank; FOMC likely to raise rates

North America Insurance: Insurers eyeing cover for driverless cars; insurance M&A to accelerate globally

Leo Magno, Henni Abdelghani, Sophie Davies and Helen Popper contributed to this report.

The Daily Dose Middle East and Africa has an editorial deadline of 4 a.m. London time. Some external links may require a subscription.