UK AND IRELAND
* After concluding that U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal will be rejected by the British Parliament, the EU is now preparing to delay Brexit until at least after July, according to The Guardian. The bloc is ready to hold a special leaders' summit once the U.K. makes such a request. U.K. lawmakers are due to vote on the deal tomorrow. May is expected to say in a speech that her country will more likely stay in the EU than leave the bloc without an agreement, Sky News noted.
* British lawmaker Rachel Reeves accused Lloyds Banking Group PLC of "gaming" overdraft charges by making them more costly and complex for most of its customers, the Financial Times reported. Beginning today, the lender will start shifting customers to a new tariff that will increase fees for those seeking to borrow less than about £4,100, and is also set to introduce a tiered charging system.
* A former Standard Chartered PLC employee is poised to plead guilty to criminal charges in the U.S. over allegations that the British lender continued to violate sanctions by processing transactions for Iran-controlled companies, insiders told the Financial Times. Such a move could negatively affect StanChart's talks with regulators, who are seeking to fine the bank up to $1.5 billion.
* British financial investment management firm AFH Financial Group PLC added more than £100 million to its funds under management following the completion of its acquisition of U.K.-based Hayburn Rock Group Ltd.
GERMANY, SWITZERLAND AND AUSTRIA
* A merger between Deutsche Bank AG and Commerzbank AG is looking increasingly likely, Handelsblatt reported. Christian Sewing and Martin Zielke, the banks' respective CEOs, meet regularly, but while a merger is a regular topic, there are no current negotiations. Deutsche Bank's top executives held 23 meetings with Germany's finance ministry in 2018 to discuss strategic options, among other things, Reuters reported. Deutsche Bank CFO James von Moltke, meanwhile, said the bank met its savings target while keeping costs under control last year, Handelsblatt wrote.
* Julius Bär Gruppe AG's board will propose Romeo Lacher to be elected as its new nonexecutive chairman at the Swiss banking group's April annual general meeting. Lacher, who has been chairman of SIX Group AG since 2016, will replace Daniel Sauter, who will not seek reelection.
FRANCE AND BENELUX
* BNP Paribas SA is closing its €2.5 billion Opera proprietary trading arm after the unit struggled to make a profit in 2018 amid market volatility, insiders told Bloomberg News. Executives of the French bank reportedly want to close the unit to reallocate resources to client-focused businesses. The Financial Times and Reuters also covered.
* Dutch stock exchange operator Euronext NV set out a tender offer to acquire all shares of Oslo Børs VPS Holding ASA for 6.24 billion Norwegian kroner, or roughly €625 million, in cash. The Norwegian company said it was not sure if the offer would be the best and called on shareholders to wait for its board's recommendation by February-end, Reuters noted. Oslo Børs' board earlier said there are other parties interested in acquiring the company besides Euronext.
* French payments provider Ingenico Group SA closed the acquisition of New Zealand's Paymark Ltd. after obtaining regulatory approvals.
* Creditors claim more than €30 million from Jeroen Piqueur, former founder and CEO of the collapsed Optima Bank, after a Belgian court declared him bankrupt, De Tijd reported. Piqueur is appealing the court's decision.
SPAIN AND PORTUGAL
* CaixaBank SA – Sucursal em Portugal has been given formal authorization by the Portuguese banking supervision to start operating in the country after the full acquisition of the activities of Banco BPI SA, Jornal de Negócios reported.
* Portugal's central bank has contested legislation proposed by the country's parliament to allow the disclosure of large debtors of rescued banks, Jornal de Negócios wrote.
ITALY AND GREECE
* Italian Economy Minister Giovanni Tria told Corriere della Sera that he does not see a recession on the horizon, although there could be a period of stagnation. Tria reiterated that the Italian government is committed to reducing public debt while the deficit will be monitored and kept under control.
* Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena SpA will sound out potential investors for covered bonds as soon next week, an insider told Bloomberg. The move comes after the Italian lender said it failed to issue the second tranche of Tier 2 bonds at 2018-end, with the ECB warning that the bank's capital position is weaker after it abandoned the sale. The ECB also flagged significant funding challenges Monte dei Paschi is facing with regard to its restructuring plan.
* Separately, Monte dei Paschi said it plans to carry out a merger by incorporation of Italian real estate firm Perimetro Gestione Proprietà Immobiliari SCpA.
* Moody's placed struggling lender Banca Carige SpA's Caa3 long-term issuer rating and Caa1 long-term deposit ratings under review with direction uncertain, saying the move reflects that possible scenarios including a sale, nationalization or regulatory intervention could be positive or negative for creditors and affect the bank's ratings. However, nationalizing Banca Carige would not be possible under current European rules, Alberto Bagnai, the head of the senate finance committee with the League party, told Milano Finanza.
* Banco BPM SpA CEO Giuseppe Castagna said the lender will not pursue further M&A activity for the time being given uncertain market conditions, Reuters reported.
* Italian lender Banca Popolare di Bari SCpA said it will look into strategic options concerning its shareholders under a business plan that its board is set to discuss by the end of January, Reuters reported. The bank was said to be looking to raise €300 million in a new share issue.
* BPER Banca SpA is set to acquire the 49% it doesn't already own in Banco di Sardegna SpA, Unione Sarda wrote, noting that the official announcement will come in February along with the presentation of Banca di Sardegna's new business plan.
* Danske Bank A/S warned that it could be placed under investigation again and lose its assisted witness status in an ongoing probe by a French court over potential violations of money laundering laws from 2007 to 2014. The bank also relaunched a dual-tranche U.S. dollar senior non-preferred bond it earlier delayed after Bill Browder, co-founder of Hermitage Capital Management, said he would present new charges against the bank, an insider told Thomson Reuters' IFR.
* Djursland Bank has downgraded its expectations for 2018, due to extraordinary IT expenses, Finanswatch reported. The bank said that it now expects a result before taxes of between 83 million Danish kroner and 87 million kroner, down from previous expectations of 90 million to 105 million kroner.
* Otkritie Financial Corp. Bank increased its stake in VTB Bank PJSC from 7.94% to 14.83%, news agency Prime reported, noting that the stake increase is a result of the transfer of VTB Bank shares from B&N Bank, which recently merged with Otkritie.
* VTB Bank has cut 100 of its staff in London over the last 18 months amid U.S.-led sanctions on Russian companies and the U.K.'s imminent departure from the EU, Financial News reported, citing Alex Metherell, VTB's co-head of global banking.
* Two companies that manage the assets of Russian non-state pension funds NPF Safmar and NPF Doverie launched court proceedings to retrieve 16.7 billion Russian rubles from Otkritie Financial Corp. Bank following the failure by B&N Bank, which recently merged with Otkritie, to repurchase Otkritie Holding JSC bonds from the companies, news agency Prime said.
* The Russian central bank issued a warning to the management of JPMorgan Chase & Co. unit Commercial Bank J.P. Morgan Bank International (LLC) over violations of the country's money laundering legislation, Vedomosti wrote.
IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD
Asia-Pacific: India fines Citi's domestic unit; NAB suffers 5-hour outage
Middle East & Africa: Saudi's Al Rajhi in merger talks for Malaysian unit; QIA to boost US investments
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Sheryl Obejera, Ed Meza, Meike Wijers, Esben Svendsen, Beata Fojcik, Heather O'Brian, Stephanie Salti, Praxilla Trabattoni, and Mariana Aldano contributed to this report.
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