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Asian central banks respond to US Fed hike; AXA names Thai ops CEO

* Central banks in Asia issued monetary policies following the U.S. Federal Reserve's decision to raise its benchmark interest rate. Both China and Hong Kong opted to increase rates, while authorities in Taiwan, Indonesia and the Philippines decided to keep rates on hold.

GREATER CHINA

* Meanwhile, China's central bank also raised interest rates on its standing lending facility short-term loans by five basis points to 3.40%, Reuters reported, citing "three sources with direct knowledge of the matter." The move follows the central bank's decision to increase its key rate to 2.55% from 2.50%.

* The China Banking Regulatory Commission has so far issued 809 million yuan in total fines in 2018, the Securities Times reported. Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd., Postal Savings Bank of China Co. Ltd. and Agricultural Bank of China Ltd. received the most penalty tickets. In addition, 10 banking professionals were barred from working in the banking sector for life.

* Beijing-headquartered China Life Insurance Co. Ltd. said its net profit for full-year 2017 surged to 32.25 billion yuan, or 1.13 yuan per share, from 19.13 billion yuan, or 66 fen per share, in 2016. The bank raised its final dividend to 40 fen per share from 24 fen per share in the prior-year period.

* Taiwan's Cathay Financial Holding Co. Ltd. plans to increase its exposure to the U.S. debt market by 2 percentage points to take advantage of the U.S. Fed's interest rate hike, the Taipei Times reported. Cathay United Bank Co. Ltd. will also adjust its loan book to increase foreign-currency denominated lending as part of the plan.

* Taiwan's Financial Supervisory Commission received inquiries from Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten Inc. and mobile messaging platform operator LINE Corporation about the possibility of establishing internet-only banks in the island, the Taipei Times reported, citing Wellington Koo, chairman of the regulator. Taiwan is currently drafting rules on opening internet-only banks, which will have the same standards as banks with physical branches.

JAPAN AND KOREA

* Japan's Financial Services Agency plans to file criminal charges against Binance, a Hong Kong-based cryptocurrency exchange operator which has been running a business in Japan without a license, Tokyo's The Nikkei reported. The regulator will file charges if the exchange does not halt operations. It earlier raised concerns about Binance's failure to verify the identity of Japanese investors when they opened their accounts and suspects that the exchange does not have an effective anti-money laundering policy in place.

* Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. will combine four wholly owned units handling back-office operations into SMBC Delivery Service Co. Ltd., as part of its cost efficiency improvement efforts, The Nikkei reported. The merger will take effect April 1.

* South Korea's Financial Services Commission signed a memorandum of understanding with the State Bank of Vietnam to enhance fintech cooperation between the two agencies, The Chosun Ilbo reported.

* Seoul-based KIWOOM Securities Co. Ltd. appointed Vice President Lee Hyun as its new CEO for a three-year term, effective March 22, Yonhap News Agency reported. Lee also serves as CEO of Kiwoom Savings Bank Co. Ltd.

ASEAN

* France-based AXA named Claude Seigne as CEO of AXA Thailand's operations, The Nation reported. Seigne will replace Martin Rueegg who moved to AXA Hong Kong.

* U.S.-based private equity firm Warburg Pincus LLC sees new investment opportunities in Vietnam's consumer, banking and logistics sectors, where it has pumped in more than US$1 billion in investments, Reuters reported, citing Jeffrey Perlman, Southeast Asia chief for Warburg. The company is the largest private equity investor in the country and recently announced plans to invest US$370 million in Vietnam Technological and Commercial Joint Stock Bank.

* Indonesia's Financial Services Authority said banks must reimburse customers that fall victim to skimming, Kompas reported. The notice follows the discovery of skimming cases at some branches of local lenders.

* PT Bank Rakyat Indonesia (Persero) Tbk appointed Osbal Saragi Rumahorbo, Achmad Solichin Lutfiyanto and Supari to its board of commissioners, Bisnis Indonesia reported.

* Jakarta-based PT Bank OCBC NISP Tbk is targeting credit growth of 10% to 15% in 2018, President Director Parwati Surjaudaja said, Bisnis Indonesia reported.

SOUTH ASIA

* ICICI Securities Ltd.'s IPO received an overall subscription of 29% on March 22, the first day of the share sale, Press Trust of India reported, citing data from the stock exchange. The share sale will close March 26.

* India's Shriram Transport Finance Co. Ltd. raised 18.3 billion rupees through an issuance of secured redeemable nonconvertible debentures.

* Depositors of Bangladesh-based Farmers Bank Ltd., including government agencies and businesses, lodged a complaint with the central bank over the lender's failure to repay them 8.52 billion taka of deposits due to a liquidity crunch, The Daily Star reported.

AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND

* The Federal Court of Australia has referred a civil penalty proceeding initiated by the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre, or AUSTRAC, against Commonwealth Bank of Australia to mediation, the Australian lender said in news release. The mediation is scheduled to occur by May 25. The court also ordered AUSTRAC to file and serve any reply to the bank's amended defense by April 6 should the mediation fail.

* Australia-based Pepper Group Ltd. priced its residential mortgage-backed securities to raise A$1 billion, The Australian Financial Review's Street Talk blog reported. The securities were issued in several tranches and the offer was oversubscribed.

* Australian wealth manager Perpetual Ltd. is considering bringing its investment and equities research in-house, The Australian Financial Review's Street Talk blog reported. The move could affect investment banks and other broking companies as Perpetual is one of their biggest clients in the market.

* New Zealand's Financial Markets Authority raised concerns that some financial advisers are insisting clients change their life insurance in exchange for incentives, BusinessDesk reported. However, the regulator said it could not confirm the incidents due to a lack of disclosure obligations in the sector. New Zealand is currently conducting a review of its insurance regulations.

IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD

Middle East & Africa: 2 Abu Dhabi funds merging; South Africa, Nigeria sit out African free trade pact

Europe: Deutsche Bank slides; UBS, New York reach settlement; SocGen sets CET1 target

Latin America: Peru's Kuczynski quits; Brazil lowers Selic rate

North America: North America: JPMorgan tops global i-bank rankings; Wamego Bancshares seeks to buy Kansas peer

North America Insurance: Iowa House OKs association health plans; Allstate cat bond grows to $500M

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

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