EconSource: Qatar National Bank to Buy Turkey’s Finansbank for $2.95 Billion

The Gulf Arab region’s largest bank Qatar National Bank (QNB) has agreed to buy Turkey’s Finansbank from National Bank of Greece (NBG) for 2.7 billion euros ($2.95 billion).

QNB, which is half-owned by Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund, has previously set out to become the largest bank in the Middle East and Africa by 2017. It said it was interested in buying Finansbank in October. “This transaction is a significant milestone in QNB’s vision to becoming a MEA [Middle East, Africa] icon by 2017 and a leading global bank by 2030,” QNB Chief Executive Ali Ahmed al-Kuwari said. In addition to the $2.95 billion payment, NBG said QNB will repay $910 million of debt that the Greek lender had provided to Finansbank. QNB said it will finance the purchase of the 99.81 percent stake through its own funds and will remain strongly capitalized after the acquisition. The closing of the transaction, which is subject to regulatory approval, is expected to be complete in the first half of 2016. [Reuters, WSJ, Bloomberg, 12/22/2015]

Turkish Central Bank keeps rates on hold, shocking market
Turkey’s Central Bank (CBRT) left interest rates unchanged on Tuesday in a surprise move that reignited concern about threats to the bank’s independence and put fresh pressure on the lira. Analysts and investors have repeatedly called for a rate hike to rein in inflation and put a floor under the lira. However, CBRT held rates for the tenth straight month. CBRT also said it would start to “simplify” policy after its next meeting in January if market conditions are stable enough, indicating a nod to investors who have urged the bank to return to a single interest rate system rather than the current complex system of multiple rates. “Monetary policy simplification could begin with the next meeting, if the decline in volatility seen since the start of global policy normalization is lasting,” CBRT said in a statement. The bank’s Monetary Policy Committee is set to meet next on January 19. [Reuters, WSJ, Bloomberg, Hurriyet, 12/22/2015]

Egypt’s Central Bank tightens import controls to boost local production
The Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) will tighten import regulations starting in January in a bid to support local manufacturing and better preserve dwindling foreign currency reserves. The decision excludes imports of medicine, foods, and other essential goods like wheat. In a statement on Tuesday, the CBE said it aimed to “strengthen the national economy and promote local products, enhancing their competitiveness against foreign products.” Egyptian manufacturers have been pushing for stricter regulations to prevent importers from putting artificially low values on customs bills to avoid duties. The statement said that banks should obtain documents for imports directly from foreign banks instead of clients in order to stop any manipulation of receipts by importers. Importers will also have to provide 100 percent of the cash deposit on letters of credit for imports instead of the current 50 percent. Meanwhile on Tuesday, an unnamed official said the CBE has sold $7.6 billion in recent weeks to make it easier for importers pay for goods. [Reuters, 12/22/2015]

Libya’s Tripoli NOC says will take legal action on unapproved oil sales
Libya’s Tripoli-based National Oil Corporation (NOC) said it would take legal action to stop any export of the country’s oil outside of its own channels. A spokesman for the company said the Tripoli NOC sent a letter to the Egyptian petroleum authorities protesting a reported sale by its eastern rival in Tobruk of a 2 million barrel crude oil cargo directly to Egypt. “Any operations that are conducted outside the legal validity represented in the NOC whose headquarters are located in…Tripoli are considered an explicit breach of the law,” the Tripoli-based spokesman said. The NOC said it reserves “all rights to hold any party responsible for the entire legal liabilities and consequences arising thereof.” Meanwhile, chairman of the Tripoli NOC Mustafa Sanallah met with CEO of Italy’s Eni Claudio Descalzi in Rome to discuss Libya’s energy sector. “I am very pleased that the collaboration with such an important partner as Eni continues without interruption,” Sanallah said. [Reuters, Bloomberg, Libya Monitor (subscription), 12/21/2015]

EU provides EUR 70 million to support socioeconomic reforms, tourism in Tunisia
The European Union (EU) adopted the second part of its 2015 assistance package for Tunisia on Monday. It will provide Tunisia with EUR 70 million though the European Neighborhood Instrument to support socioeconomic reforms and tourism. The EU said the program aims to support Tunisia’s maintenance of short- and medium-term economic stability by enhancing the quality of public spending. The funds will also promote capacity building in the country’s institutions involved in public finance management, namely the Audit Authority and Finance Ministry. The assistance package will also help with the implementation of emergency measures for the country’s tourism industry in the wake of major terror attacks this year. The first part of the 2015 assistance package for Tunisia, totaling EUR 116.8 million, was released in July. [TAP, EU, 12/21/2015]

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