* One of 119 eurozone banks surveyed by the ECB's Single Supervisory Mechanism had capital levels below the level at which distribution restrictions can be introduced, while a second bank's capital buffer was barely above the so-called maximum distributable amount threshold as of June-end. The specific banks were not identified. The SSM added that the overall nonperforming loan ratios declined in the past year, but that the number of "high-NPL banks" in the eurozone remains "substantial."
* The European Council said it agreed to renew the mandate of Elke König as chair of the Single Resolution Board for another five years. Separately, König told Bloomberg News that streamlining banks' corporate structure and ensuring an orderly wind-down of banks in a crisis without taxpayers' help will be the SRB's priorities in the coming years.
* The European Securities and Markets Authority said investment firms and trading platforms across the EU can continue operating in the bloc even if their home states are yet to fully transpose the revised Markets in Financial Instruments Directive, or MiFID II, into national laws ahead of the directive's forthcoming implementation beginning Jan. 3, 2018, Reuters noted.
* Michel Barnier, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, has ruled out a bespoke trade deal for London in Brexit talks, saying a single trade agreement that is open to financial services "doesn't exist," The Guardian reported. He added that the U.K. must abide by new laws passed by the EU after the country has left the bloc.
* Former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis and German parliamentarian Fabio De Masi are suing the ECB to gain access to a legal opinion underpinning the regulator's decision to restrict vital funding to Greek banks in 2015, Reuters reported. The ECB's decision has prompted the Greek government to shut down banks and introduce capital controls, weakening the country's negotiating position during bailout negotiations with international creditors.
UK AND IRELAND
* Old Mutual Plc unit Old Mutual Wealth agreed to sell its single strategy asset management division, Old Mutual Global Investors (UK) Ltd., to the business' management team and funds managed by private equity firm TA Associates for a total consideration of approximately £600 million.
* Barclays Plc is in discussions with the U.K. Serious Fraud Office over a potential deal in a bid to prevent Barclays Bank Plc from being charged in relation to the bank's controversial £12 billion fundraising with Qatar in 2008, an insider told Bloomberg News. The regulator is expected to make a decision on whether or not to charge the operating unit by the end of January 2018. Barclays' holding company and four former executives are already charged with fraud and unlawful financial assistance, with a trial set for 2019.
* Activist investor Chris Hohn will skip today's shareholder meeting to vote on the immediate removal of London Stock Exchange Group Plc Chairman Donald Brydon, which he himself requested, an insider told Reuters. Hohn's firm, TCI Fund Management Ltd., is expected to lose its bid to oust Brydon after a series of heavyweight investors expressed their support for the executive.
* Generali agreed to sell the nonlife run-off portfolio of its U.K. branch, consisting of roughly €300 million of liabilities, to Compre Group. As part of the deal, Generali will reinsure the nonlife run-off portfolio of its U.S. branch with the same counterparty.
* Gocompare.com Group Plc agreed to acquire The Global Voucher Group Ltd., which trades as MyVoucherCodes, and its subsidiaries from Monitise Ltd. for £36.5 million in cash, on a cash-free, debt-free basis.
* U.K.-based asset management firm B.P. Marsh & Partners Plc acquired a 20% stake in independent specialist Lloyd's of London broker Ec3 Brokers Ltd for a total cash consideration of £5 million.
* Smith & Williamson Holdings Ltd. is delaying a plan to list before the second half of 2019, citing a major overhaul of its technology platform, City A.M. wrote.
GERMANY, SWITZERLAND AND AUSTRIA
* Vienna Insurance Group AG agreed to fully acquire OP Financial Group's Estonia-based Seesam Insurance AS unit. The acquisition will allow the Austrian insurer to consolidate its market leadership in the Baltics, with the main aim of improving its position in Estonia.
* UNIQA Insurance Group AG unit Uniqa Osterreich Versicherungen AG appointed former chief financial and Risk Officer Kurt Svoboda its new CEO, replacing Hartwig Löger, who left to join the Austrian government as the new finance minister.
* Doris Russi Schurter, deputy president of Helvetia Holding AG's board of directors, is taking over the interim chair position until the April 20, 2018, annual general meeting, when a successor to Pierin Vincenz is officially elected. Tages-Anzeiger named Ivo Furrer, an experienced insurance manager and member of Helvetia's board of directors since April 2017, and former Helvetia CEO Stefan Loacker as possible candidates.
* Bernard Buchs, global head of wealth planning at UBS Group AG, will step down next spring and will be replaced by Holger Engelhardt, currently head of private clients Zurich at UBS Switzerland AG, Finews wrote. Citywire also had a report.
* Bank Hapoalim (Schweiz) AG is cutting 100 of 120 jobs after it has been acquired by J. Safra Sarasin Holding AG, Finews noted. The Swiss Association of Banking Employees criticized "minimal" termination payments, which are additionally tied to ongoing cooperation of the fired employees with U.S. authorities in a tax dispute the bank was involved in.
* More cryptocurrency startups, including Swiss Crypto Exchange AG, Smart Valor AG, Melonport AG, Lykke AG, SwissBorg Invest SA and Crypto Finance AG, are looking to expand their businesses in Switzerland either by applying for a banking license or by partnering with existing banks, inspired by the success of Bitcoin Suisse AG and Bity SA, Swissinfo wrote.
* Banque Profil de Gestion SA is planning to complete the acquisition of a Swiss wealth management firm with AUM of CHF2 billion, without giving more details.
* Liechtensteinische Landesbank AG said it aims at increasing its transaction volume to CHF70 billion by 2020 from CHF60 billion at June-end by implementing a strategy of organic growth and by entering the Swiss funds service market through the acquisition of an investment company. The bank is also looking for takeover opportunities in Liechtenstein, Austria and Switzerland.
* Vienna's higher regional court ruled that mandatory changes to bank accounts with different, mostly more expensive fee packages for BAWAG PSK clients in October last year were an "illegitimate business practice" as it provided poorer conditions for clients, Der Standard reported. The bank can still appeal the ruling at the Supreme Court.
FRANCE AND BENELUX
* French investigators have started a preliminary inquiry into allegations that La Banque Postale SA was negligent in its handling of cash mandates and so supported terrorism, Les Echos reported. The bank is to shut its cash mandate service down in January 2018.
* Banque Degroof Petercam SA appointed Ludwig Criel chairman of its board, the first time in the bank's 100-year history that someone outside the founding families will head it, Les Echos reported. Another change saw Frenchman François Wohrer appointed to head the investment bank division from Jan. 1, 2018, making him the first non-Belgian to sit on the executive committee.
* An agreement with unions and a method of ending a legal battle over the demise of the Arco cooperative have cleared the way for the Belgian state to launch an IPO for a third of Belfius SA, L'Echo reported.
* A new agreement between Ageas SA/NV and representatives of Fortis SA shareholders, where Ageas agreed to raise the indemnity pot to €1.4 billion from €1.3 billion has been signed and submitted to the Amsterdam appeal court, L'Echo reported.
SPAIN AND PORTUGAL
* Bankia SA is planning to lay off 2,500 employees as a result of its acquisition of smaller lender Banco Mare Nostrum SA, Cinco Días reported. The cuts account for 14% of the merged bank's workforce.
* At September-end, Banco Santander SA exceeded the capital requirements established by the European Central Bank for 2018 and will therefore not be subject to any limitations when it comes to dividend distribution or in terms of variable retributions and coupon payments to holders of Additional Tier 1 instruments, Europa Press wrote.
* Portugal has paid €1.8 billion in interest rates on loans it had to support the country's financial system between 2008 and 2016. The total amount spent to help the institutions was about €14.6 billion, as revealed today by Portugal's Court of Auditors, O Jornal Econômico said.
ITALY AND GREECE
* Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena SpA appointed Stefania Bariatti as chairwoman, replacing Chairman Alessandro Falciai, who decided to leave the lender citing personal reasons. Shareholders also approved a plan to reduce the bank's share capital due to losses, in the amount of roughly €5.36 billion.
* Banca Carige SpA said the 128,881,133 rights from its capital raising that have been left unexercised by its shareholders were sold by the second trading day. Separately, the bank said it reached an agreement with trade unions under which the lender will tap the banking sector's solidarity allowance mechanism to help manage the costs for 490 voluntary redundancies.
* Italian Economy Minister Pier Carlo Padoan criticized the Bank of Italy, saying the regulator could have done a better job in supervising the country's banking sector following a crisis that led to bank collapses and investor losses, Reuters reported. Padoan said the government had reappointed Bank of Italy Governor Ignazio Visco for a second term despite the central bank's oversight failings in order to provide market stability.
* German fund Mainstream Capital is considering making an investment of €15 million to €20 million in Credito Valtellinese SpA, equivalent to about a 2.5% stake, by participating in the bank's planned €700 million capital increase, Il Messaggero said. The bank's shareholders are expected to authorize the capital increase today.
* Icelandic Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir told Reuters that the country's monetary policy framework will likely be focused more on stabilizing the krona to prevent damaging fluctuations. Under the current framework, the Central Bank of Iceland aims to keep the 12-month inflation rate close to 2.5%.
* Lars Rohde, governor of Denmark's central bank, urged investors to steer clear of the "deadly" bitcoin, echoing warnings from other market participants and central bankers of the dangers of digital currencies, Reuters reported.
* Nordea Bank AB (publ) has no plans to make large-scale job cuts within its banking operations in Norway, with CEO Casper von Koskull saying the number of personnel reductions in the country will be minimal, Dagens Industri reported. Nordea has announced plans to lay off 6,000 personnel across the group.
* Jyske Bank A/S continues to explore viable options to divest its shareholding in Nordjyske Bank A/S, Børsen reported. It is unlikely that Jyske Bank will find a buyer for its shares, worth 800 million kroner, by year-end despite increased efforts by CEO Anders Dam to offload the shares by then.
* AP Pension Livsforsikringsaktieselskab has acquired a 5.64% shareholding in Danske Andelskassers Bank A/S, FinansWatch wrote. The pension fund paid 30 million kroner for 6.43 million ordinary and voting stock in DAB.
* Danmarks Skibskredit A/S has appointed Michael Frisch vice president and head of customer relations, Berlingske Tidende reported. Frisch, who will formally join the lender in June 2018, joins from Nordea, where he was head of the Business Banking Denmark unit.
* The Czech central bank increased the countercyclical capital buffer rate to 1.25%, effective from Jan. 1, 2019, saying the country's banking sector is sufficiently resilient to potential adverse shocks. The Ceská národní banka said the sector's resilience is based mainly on its capital ratio, which stood at 18.4% as Sept. 30, and on its current profitability.
* For the first time in the financial history of Russia, a group of hackers managed to steal funds from a Russian bank using the SWIFT system, Kommersant reported. The attack was reportedly carried out by a hacking group called Cobalt. The name of the affected bank was not disclosed.
* PJSC Sovcombank sold a 24% stake in JSC Commercial Bank Modulbank to Russian businessman Artem Avetisyan, Vedomosti said. Proceeds from the deal, the price of which was not disclosed, will be used by Sovcombank to bolster its capital.
* Russian investment company Region acquired a 9.9% stake in non-state pension fund NPF Soglasie OPS, Kommersant reported.
* Serbia-based AIK Banka a.d. Beograd published a takeover intent for Gorenjska banka d.d. Kranj, after it reached an unofficial agreement on purchasing a 37.6% stake in the Slovenian lender from conglomerate Sava, SEENews reported. AIK Banka already owns a 21% stake in Gorenjska.
* The suspension of cooperation with the IMF, sluggish economic reforms, the low efficiency and high market share of state-owned banks, and the weak legal system are the key systemic risks to Ukraine's financial stability, the Ukrainian central bank said in its latest Financial Stability Report.
* The Polish Financial Supervision Authority asked Bank Pekao SA to keep an additional capital buffer of 0.01 percentage point at a group level on the foreign-currency mortgage exposure of unit Pekao Bank Hipoteczny SA. The regulator also asked Pekao to hold a 1.27% individual add-on for possible adverse macroeconomic conditions following stress tests, the lender said.
* Meanwhile, Getin Noble Bank SA was asked to keep a 1.71-percentage-point capital buffer on its forex mortgage exposure, as well as a 1.24-percentage-point individual add-on for possible adverse macroeconomic conditions, news agency PAP reported.
IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD
Asia-Pacific: HK fines StanChart unit; AMP Capital to buy stake in US investment manager
Middle East & Africa: South Africa's ANC picks new leader; National Bank of Kuwait plots expansion
Latin America: Chile, Honduras decide presidents; prosecutors look to replace Caixa VPs
North America: Nigeria sues JPMorgan; OCC closes Washington Federal Bank for Savings
North America Insurance: Humana in talks to buy health company Kindred; suit over ACA subsidies settled
NOW FEATURED ON S&P GLOBAL MARKET INTELLIGENCE
Insurers press on with new accounting rules despite calls for delay: IFRS 17, a new global insurance accounting standard, will be costly for insurers, but accounting firms argue that it is needed for consistency and comparability.
Sheryl Obejera, Arno Maierbrugger, Meike Wijers, Gerard O'Dwyer, Beata Fojcik, Heather O'Brian, Brian McCulloch, Praxilla Trabattoni and Mariana Aldano contributed to this report.
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