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South Africa cuts key rate; Al Hilal Bank to sell Islamic insurance ops


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South Africa cuts key rate; Al Hilal Bank to sell Islamic insurance ops

* Qatari-backed European private bank Quintet is looking to hire 100 relationship managers and expand in the Middle East, eastern and southern Africa, Asia and Latin America, Jakob Stott, CEO of wealth management, told the Financial Times. Previously known as KBL European Private Bankers, the Luxembourg-based bank rebranded as Quintet to reflect its partnership approach to wealth management.


* Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank PJSC unit Al Hilal Bank PJSC has agreed to sell its Islamic insurance business and operations, Al Hilal Takaful PSC, to Siraj Holding LLC. The transaction is expected to complete in the first quarter.

* The United Arab Emirates plans to invest $22.8 billion in Indonesia through a sovereign wealth fund, joining SoftBank Group Corp. and the U.S. International Development Finance Corp. as investors. The two countries also agreed on 16 cooperation pacts, including 11 business agreements, following a bilateral meeting, according to Minister of Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi.

* Qatar National Bank QPSC issued $600 million 40-year Formosa bonds, Reuters reported, citing a bank spokesman and other sources.

* Qatar-based Ahli Bank QPSC's board of directors recommended the distribution of 15% of cash profits for 2019 and 5% of gratuitous shares from the lender's capital shares on Dec. 31, 2019, subject to central bank and shareholder approval.

* Boursa Kuwait Securities Co. KPSC has reclassified the segment of Bahrain-based GFH Financial Group (BSC)'s shares listed on the bourse to the main market from the premier market, in line with the exchange's recent market segmentation plans. GFH said the change is not related to its performance.

* National Bank of Bahrain BSC's offer to acquire up to 100% of Bahrain Islamic Bank BSC's issued and paid-up ordinary shares has become unconditional and has been accepted after remaining conditions were met, marking the offer's close.

* Oman-based Alizz Islamic Bank SAOG's board of directors has approved and recommended the lender's potential merger with Oman Arab Bank SAOC to shareholders for approval.


* Lebanese caretaker Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil said the country is close to establishing a new government, Reuters reported. Economist Ghazi Wazni is expected to be appointed as Khalil's successor in the new cabinet, insiders told the news agency.

* Outgoing Lebanese Economy Minister Mansour Bteish said the country must slash interest rates by a significant amount as soon as possible to save its economy and that central bank Governor Riad Salamé and the Association of Banks in Lebanon have been asked to carry out the move, Reuters wrote. Bteish noted that the reduction must be agreed voluntarily by banks.

* The Lebanese central bank has ordered local lenders to review international transfers of funds by government employees and politicians carried out between Oct. 17, 2019, and Dec. 31, 2019, when banks blocked such transfers with informal capital controls, according to a circular seen by Reuters. Meanwhile, Lebanon's banking control commission asked banks on Jan. 14 to provide dates and sizes of transfers to Switzerland since Oct. 17, saying lenders must provide the information within a week.

* Analysts at JPMorgan Chase & Co. said Lebanon's plan to ask local banks to swap into longer-maturity Eurobonds could be facing resistance after lenders began selling their holdings of the country's $1.2 billion bond, Bloomberg News wrote.

* The Central Bank of Egypt maintained its key policy rates after an uptick in headline inflation during the last two months of 2019, winding down an easing cycle that has seen 350 basis points in rate cuts since August.

* Morocco and Turkey agreed to renegotiate the terms of their 2006 free trade agreement, Il Boursa reported.


* Nigeria, Ghana, Gambia, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea faulted the decision of eight West African nations to change their currency's name to eco from CFA franc by 2020, The Punch wrote.

* Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has nominated Kingsley Isitua Obiora, an alternative executive director at the IMF, to succeed Joseph Nnanna as deputy governor of the central bank, Premium Times reported.

* Nigeria's Securities and Exchange Commission has partnered with the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission to address fraud in the country's capital market, The Punch reported.

* South African Deputy President David Mabuza said South Sudan's government and opposition agreed to establish a unified administration by Feb. 22, Bloomberg wrote.


* The South African Reserve Bank unexpectedly lowered its repurchase rate by 25 basis points to 6.25%, the first rate cut since July 2019, as it downgraded its inflation forecasts and warned of a "fragile" economic outlook. The central bank hinted at further policy action this year, saying that the expectations for two rate cuts of 25 basis points each in the first and fourth quarters, as suggested by quarterly economic projections, remain "a broad policy guide."

* Following its acquisition of Mercantile Bank Holdings Ltd. last year, South Africa-based Capitec Bank Holdings Ltd. decided to move the publication date of its consolidated financial results for the financial year ending Feb. 29 to April 14. Capitec previously published its results at or before the end of March.

* South African insurer Discovery Ltd. named David Macready an independent nonexecutive director of its board, replacing Les Owen, who will retire after a 12-year tenure.

* South African insurance firm Santam Ltd. appointed Monwabisi Fandeso to its board as an independent nonexecutive director, effective Jan. 15.

* Angolan billionaire and former first daughter Isabel dos Santos said she could run for president in 2022, despite being subjected to an asset freeze after allegations that she, along with her husband Sindika Dokolo and Banco de Fomento Angola SA Chairman Mário da Silva, diverted more than $1 billion of state funds to companies where they held stakes, Reuters reported, citing dos Santos' interview with Portuguese TV channel RTP.

* Portuguese bank Eurobic, which counts Angolan billionaire and former first daughter Isabel dos Santos as its main shareholder, is being investigated by Portugal's central bank over its anti-money laundering procedures, Reuters reported, citing the lender. Dos Santos currently owns a 42.5% stake in Eurobic, formerly Banco BIC Português SA.

* Angolan banks are prioritizing international credit cards over cash, for the payment of the $120,000 authorized to be sold by commercial banks to customers in private operations, such as trips and family support abroad, Jornal de Angola reported.

* Botswana-based microfinance firm Letshego Holdings Ltd.'s board appointed former Standard Chartered Bank executive Andrew Okai as the company's new group CEO. Okai will replace interim Group CEO Dumisani Ndebele after his appointment receives regulatory approval.

* Mauritius-based investment firm EPE Capital Partners Ltd. has received all necessary approvals to carry out a renounceable rights offer of 100 million A ordinary shares at a price of 7.50 rand per share, through which it aims to raise up to 750 million rand that it will invest in the proposed equity capital raise of Maltese investment firm Brait SE.

* Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane said he will step down after facing mounting calls for his resignation over the shooting of his second wife in June 2017, which police have linked to the woman he married a month after the killing, Bloomberg wrote.

* The African Development Bank agreed to provide €6.18 million in budgetary support for São Tomé and Príncipe.


Asia-Pacific: Ant Financial said to revive IPO; Indian bank plans regulatory action exit

Europe: TSB enlists IBM for IT revamp; Latvia OKs sale of Danske's ops to Citadele

Latin America: Argentina's 2019 inflation highest since 1991; Banco C6's corporate banking ops

North America: Morgan Stanley Q4'19 EPS up 63%; bank deals in Massachusetts, Florida

Global Insurance: 'Significant' reinsurance rate hikes to come; Hannover Re cat bond; 2019 heat

Erin Tanchico, Henni Abdelghani, Pádraig Belton and Mariana Aldano contributed to this report.

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This S&P Global Market Intelligence news article may contain information about credit ratings issued by S&P Global Ratings. Descriptions in this news article were not prepared by S&P Global Ratings.