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German online lender enters NZ market; Japan raises growth outlook

* Spotcap, a Germany-based online lender catering to small and medium-sized enterprises, has entered the New Zealand market to offer unsecured credit lines and business loans, according to a company press release. At the same time, the German lender has partnered with New Zealand's Heartland Bank Ltd., with the bank providing Spotcap's Australian operations with €14 million of funding.

* New Zealand-based online payments company Latitude Technologies, which operates under the brand name LatiPay, secured a total of US$3 million in Series A funding from Singaporean venture capital fund Jubilee Capital Management, New Zealand's Tuhua Fund, Zino Fund and an angel investor, reported. With the fund, LatiPay will be able to expand to the U.S. and Singapore by May.

* France-based Ingenico Group S.A. will acquire 100% of India-based TechProcess Payment Services Ltd., an online payment service provider. The deal is expected to be closed by the end of the first quarter.

* U.S.-based Evercore Partners Inc. has appointed Masuo Fukuda to its investment banking business as a senior managing director to establish its office in Tokyo.


* The China Banking Regulatory Commission is urging lenders to fully consider risks contained in Chinese enterprises' overseas mergers, Caixin reported. PricewaterhouseCoopers said in a report that investments made by Chinese enterprises in overseas mergers surged to US$221 billion in 2016 from US$63.9 billion in 2015. The regulator asked lenders to prudently appraise enterprises' risk tolerance when engaged in cross-border financing business.

* China International Capital Corporation Limited said the nonperforming loan ratio of the Chinese banking industry declined two basis points to 1.74% as of the end of 2016 from the previous quarter, the first time NPL ratio declined in five years, Reuters reported. New nonperforming loans stood at 18.4 billion yuan in the fourth quarter of 2016, accounting for 7.7% of all nonperforming loans made in 2016.

* S&P Global Ratings affirmed China's long-term and short-term sovereign credit ratings at AA-/A-1+, while the outlook remains negative, Reuters reported. The rating agency also predicted that China would maintain an economic growth rate of above 5.5% by 2020, but said that financial risks to the Chinese government's creditworthiness would gradually increase.

* BMI Research said Hong Kong lenders were well capitalized, with total capital ratios and Tier 1 capital ratios rising among banks, despite a poor outlook on their profitability, Asian Banking & Finance reported. The total capital ratios and Tier 1 capital ratios respectively stood at 19.4% and 16.6% in September 2016.


* The Bank of Japan increased its economic growth forecasts, citing a better global outlook and a weaker yen, but the country's finance minister warned of "uncertainty" arising from the arrival of U.S. President Donald Trump in the White House, Agence France-Presse reported.

* Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Holdings Inc. will establish a new asset management company with ¥60 trillion of assets under management by combining the asset management operations of Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank Ltd. with the rest of the group, Tokyo's The Nikkei reported.

* Hiroshima Bank Ltd. will receive a US$50 million line of credit from Japan Bank for International Cooperation to boost its dollar lending capacity, the Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun reported.

* Korea Development Bank will sell 79 nonfinancial units to UAMCO Co. Ltd. in a package deal worth up to 40 billion won, The Chosun Ilbo reported.

* South Korea's Financial Services Commission said that the sale of a 29.7% government-held stake in Woori Bank was concluded Jan. 31 with the receipt of payment from the last of its seven buyers, the Maeil Business Newspaper reported.


* Thailand's Ministry of Finance expects the Thai economy to grow by 3.2% in 2016 and by 3.6% in 2017, Manager Daily reported. Positive factors include investments by the public sector while risk factors include changes in U.S. economic policies.

* PT Bank Central Asia Tbk is planning to add about 40 new branches in Indonesia during 2017, the country's Infobank reported.

* The possibility of Bank Indonesia lowering its benchmark rate has lessened due to increasing inflationary pressure, Reuters reported, citing Juda Agung, executive director of economic and monetary policy. Agung said the central bank will continue to make sure lenders have enough liquidity to avoid higher rates, including for lending.

* Six employees of ACLEDA Bank Plc's Battambang City branch in Cambodia were charged with forgery and breach of special trust by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court for their alleged roles in forging loan repayment documents amounting to more than US$1 million, The Cambodia Daily reported, citing a court official.


* Life Insurance Corp. of India reduced its holdings in Tata group companies, as it fears that a possibly long legal battle between Tata Sons Ltd. and ousted chairman Cyrus Mistry will affect its investments, Mint reported. The insurer cut its stake the most in Tata Chemicals Ltd., where it decreased its holding by 73 basis points to 2.59%.

* SBI Life Insurance Co. Ltd. could sell a 10% stake through its proposed IPO, Press Trust of India reported, citing the insurer's managing director, Arijit Basu. Basu said the timing for the IPO was still undecided but reiterated that it could happen in the 2017-2018 fiscal year that starts April 1.

* Centrum Capital Ltd. will establish a new multi-strategy alternate asset management business and named Shujaat Khan as managing director and head of the unit.

* Nonresident Bangladeshis will now be allowed to open foreign-currency accounts with local commercial banks following their retirement, The Financial Express reported, citing a clarification issued by Bangladesh Bank.


* Australian banks' dividend payouts have become increasingly unsustainable as profits are slowing down and capital requirements are increasing, Asian Banking & Finance reported, citing analysts at BMI Research. Analysts said banks could preserve cash by cutting dividends.

* The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority's cap on property investor credit growth could be back on the agenda unless conditions soften as lending to landlords has surged, The Sydney Morning Herald reported, citing economists.

* QBE Insurance Group Ltd. denied media speculation that it was in discussions with Allianz Group about a possible takeover. QBE was responding to media reports that Allianz made an informal approach to QBE to gauge its interest in a takeover deal. No acquisition price was proposed to QBE, Reuters reported, citing "a source familiar with the situation."


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Sally Wang, Jonathan Cheah, Jaekwon Lim and Santibhap Ussavasodhi contributed to this report.

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