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MENA news through Feb. 1

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MENA news through Feb. 1

* Fitch Ratings said the outlook on the banking sectors of Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon is stable on expectations that banks' financial metrics will remain largely unchanged despite the challenging and vulnerable operating environments. The agency has a negative ratings outlook on Jordanian rated banks and stable outlooks for rated banks in Egypt and Lebanon.

MIDDLE EAST

* National Bank of Abu Dhabi PJSC booked a fourth-quarter 2016 net profit of 1.33 billion United Arab Emirates dirhams, up from 1.04 billion dirhams in the same period a year ago, owing to higher revenues and lower expenses and impairment charges. First Gulf Bank PJSC, which is merging with NBAD, meanwhile posted net income of 1.53 billion dirhams, down from 1.72 billion dirhams in the fourth quarter of 2015. The merger of the two banks is on schedule to be completed at the end of the first quarter, CPI Financial reported.

* Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank PJSC reported fourth-quarter 2016 net profit attributable to equity shareholders of 1.0 billion dirhams, down 16% from 1.19 billion dirhams, as impairments rose to 437 million dirhams from 110 million dirhams.

* Dubai Islamic Bank (PJSC) mandated banks including Bank ABC and Boubyan Bank to advise on a potential benchmark-sized U.S. dollar Islamic bond sale, insiders told Reuters. The sukuk will likely have a five-year maturity.

* National Bank of Abu Dhabi PJSC said it became the first bank in the Middle East to introduce real-time cross border payments using blockchain technology through a partnership with U.S. startup Ripple.

* Al Hilal Bank PJSC CEO Khaled al-Khoori is leaving the company, following the completion of his task to restructure the lender. The bank named CFO Craig Bell acting CEO, with a new CEO to be announced later.

* Central Insurance of Iran is poised to ban general insurance companies from accepting reinsurance risks from the next fiscal year starting March 21, Middle East Insurance Review reported. Mostafa Kiaei, CEO of Amin Re, said the measure would make the reinsurer's shares more attractive to general insurers in light of the impending sale of the government's 14% stake in the firm by March.

* Bank Tejarat filed a lawsuit at the European Court of Justice to seek compensation for losses it incurred as a result of several years of EU sanctions, Mehr News Agency reported. CEO Mohammad Ebrahim Moghadam said the sanctions, which were imposed in 2012 and lifted in 2014, had a negative impact on the bank's income as it froze its assets and resources overseas.

* The Iranian government will cease using the U.S. dollar in its official statements or financial reports in the wake of U.S. President Donald Trump's travel ban on Iran and six other countries, The Independent wrote. Central Bank of Iran Governor Valiollah Seif said the initiative will take effect at the start of the new fiscal year in March, adding that the government plans to either introduce a new currency or use a portfolio of various currencies, Sputnik News reported.

* Arab Bank Group reported full-year 2016 net profit after tax of $533 million, up from $442 million a year earlier. The bank's board of directors proposed the distribution of 30% in cash dividends for the financial year.

* Bank al Etihad's board approved a plan to increase the lender's capital to 160 million Jordanian dinars from 125 million dinars, according to Reuters.

* HSBC Bank Oman SAOG appointed Sherard Cowper-Coles a director and chairman of the bank. He was most recently a senior adviser to the chairman and CEO of ultimate parent HSBC Holdings Plc and replaces David Eldon, who resigned to take on other roles elsewhere in the HSBC Group.

* Dhofar Insurance Co. (S.A.O.G) COO Ewen McRobbie has resigned. He took up the role in September 2016.

* Burgan Bank K.P.S.C. named Raed al-Haqhaq deputy CEO. He previously served as the lender's chief banking officer.

NORTH AFRICA

* Egyptian Finance Minister Amr el-Garhy said the government is looking into possibly issuing international bonds in currencies other than the dollar, such as the Chinese yuan and the Japanese yen, after selling $4 billion in dollar-denominated eurobonds last week, Reuters reported. The Central Bank of Egypt raised $4 billion from its eurobond sale in the week of Jan. 23, the newswire wrote, citing Governor Tarek Amer.

* Banque du Caire SAE filed a formal request to list its shares on the Egyptian stock exchange in the first half, Reuters reported. Insiders tell the newswire that the state-owned lender will list on the stock market next week and launch an IPO by the first half.

* Commercial International Bank (Egypt) SAE proposed a cash dividend of 50 Egyptian piastres per share for 2016, down from 75 piastres in the previous year, as it booked a 325 million pound decline in the value of its assets and commitments in foreign exchange in the wake of the pound's flotation, Reuters wrote. The bank, which reported a year-over-year rise in 2016 net profit attributable to shareholders to 6.01 billion pounds from 4.73 billion pounds, also intends to issue a Tier 2 capital loan of up to $300 million.

* The African Union admitted Morocco as its newest member, more than three decades after the country withdrew from the continental bloc's predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity, according to The Wall Street Journal.

* Tunisian Finance Minister Lamia Zribi said the country will require about $2.85 billion in external funding this year and announced plans to issue a $500 million Islamic bond to help plug its budget deficit, Reuters reported. Zribi also confirmed that the government intends to sell a €1 billion eurobond.

* Sudan's Foreign Ministry said U.S. President Donald Trump's recent travel ban was an inopportune development for the North African nation, as it took place just weeks after the previous U.S. administration lifted sanctions against it, Bloomberg News reported. Former Minister of Finance Abda el-Mahdi said the benefits for Sudan of lifting the sanctions are "tremendous," the greatest of which in the short term is the international opening of bank transfers and the return of correspondent banking relationships.