* China named Guo Shuqing, head of the country's new regulator for the banking and insurance sectors, as Communist Party secretary of the People's Bank of China, The New York Times reported, citing "five people familiar with the decision." The publication said Guo would outrank newly appointed Governor Yi Gang, as China's system gives the final strategic decision to the party secretary, while the governor is responsible for running the central bank. Both officials will report to Liu He, a longtime economic adviser to President Xi Jinping.
* China Merchants Bank Co. Ltd.'s net profit attributable to shareholders for the year ended Dec. 31, 2017, increased 13% year over year to 70.15 billion yuan, or 2.78 yuan per share, from 62.08 billion yuan, or 2.46 yuan per share.
* People's Insurance Co. (Group) of China Ltd. posted a full-year 2017 net profit attributable to equity holders of 16.10 billion yuan, or 38 fen per share, up 13% from 14.25 billion yuan, or 34 fen per share, in 2016. Meanwhile, unit PICC Property & Casualty Co. Ltd.'s net profit rose 9.9% year over year to 19.81 billion yuan, or 1.336 yuan per share, from 18.02 billion yuan, or 1.215 yuan per share.
* China Life Insurance Co. Ltd. is looking to expand its business through the use of big data, artificial intelligence and the internet, the South China Morning Post reported, citing the insurer's senior executives. Vice President Xu Hengping said the company will invest more in its internet platform to reach consumers in remote areas, as well as using AI and big data to understand families' insurance needs.
* Bank of Mongolia cut its policy interest rate to 10% from 11%, making it the central bank's second rate reduction in three months, Reuters reported. The central bank also cut the reserve requirement ratio for commercial lenders to 10.5% of tugrik deposits from 12%. B. Bayardavaa, director of the central bank's monetary policy department, noted that reducing interest rates will lower costs in the banking sector and support the economy.
JAPAN AND KOREA
* Daishi Bank Ltd. and Hokuetsu Bank Ltd., both based in Niigata Prefecture in Japan, reached a final agreement to merge their operations under a new holding company to be established in October, Tokyo's The Nikkei reported.
* Internet company Yahoo Japan Corp. will acquire 40% of Tokyo-based cryptocurrency operator BAXT Inc., which operates bitARG Exchange Tokyo, The Nikkei reported. BitARG Exchange Tokyo is registered with Japan's Financial Services Agency.
* Tokyo-based Tokai Tokyo Financial Holdings Inc. and Gifu, Japan-based Juroku Bank Ltd. will launch a securities joint venture in 2019 as part of their new business partnership, The Mainichi Shimbun reported. The two companies are also considering an equity tie-up.
* Japanese convenience store giant Lawson Inc. will request a preliminary banking license review by the country's Financial Services Agency to launch Lawson Bank in 2018, The Nikkei reported. Lawson Bank will become the first new Japanese bank since Daiwa Next Bank Ltd. entered the banking sector in 2011.
* Japan's Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc. will unify its acronym brand name to SMBC for the parent group and all of its units, effective April 1, The Mainichi Shimbun reported. SMBC is the acronym for the group's core banking operations, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp.
* South Korea-based Hana Financial Investment Co. Ltd. will raise 700 billion won from a right issuance, The Chosun Ilbo reported. The company will issue 13,461,539 new shares at 52,000 won per share. Meanwhile, Hana Financial Group Inc. CEO Kim Jung-tai was appointed for a third three-year term at the group's shareholder meeting, The Dong-a Ilbo separately reported.
* South Korea's MERITZ Financial Group Inc. said in a regulatory filing that it will cancel 2,661,504 common shares worth 40.1 billion won, Yonhap News Agency reported.
* KASIKORN Research, a unit of Kasikornbank PCL, expects the Bank of Thailand's monetary policy committee to keep the policy interest rate unchanged at 1.5% to maintain the country's economic growth, Krungthep Turakij reported. The research arm of CIMB Thai Bank PCL also made a similar projection, Daily News reported. The panel is scheduled to meet March 28.
* Bank Negara Malaysia will roll out a revised operational framework for the Islamic insurance industry, which would clarify the use of a number of Shariah standards in the models and structures in the industry, Bernama reported, citing Governor Muhammad bin Ibrahim. The revised framework will be published for consultation before mid-2018, the governor noted.
* Indonesia-based PT Bank Tabungan Negara (Persero) Tbk appointed Quraish Shihab as chairman of its Shariah supervisory board, Bisnis Indonesia reported.
* Indonesian lender PT Bank Bukopin Tbk is targeting 7 trillion rupiah worth of credit card transactions in 2018, Bisnis Indonesia reported.
* The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India pushed back the deadline to link national identity card numbers, called Aadhaar numbers, with insurance policies until the country's Supreme Court decides on the matter, Press Trust of India reported, citing a circular to insurers. The regulator's move to indefinitely extend the March 31 deadline comes in light of an order from the court.
* India-based ICICI Securities Ltd.'s IPO was subscribed 36% on the second day of the bidding process, data from the National Stock Exchange of India showed. The offering received bids for 15,957,060 shares, against the total issue size of 44,225,343 shares as of 5 p.m. local time on March 23. Earlier in March, the company set a price range of 519 to 520 rupees per share for its IPO of up to 77,249,508 equity shares.
* India's Max Financial Services Ltd. acquired an additional 0.74% stake, or 14,170,817 equity shares, in Max Life Insurance Co. Ltd. from Axis Bank Ltd. for a consideration of about 1.53 billion rupees. Max Financial's stake in the insurer now stands at 70.75%.
* India-based Tata Motors Finance Ltd. is seeking to sell securitized loans worth 5 billion rupees to free up cash to lend more in fiscal 2018-19, The Economic Times reported. The nonbanking finance company will sell the securities in private transactions with lenders.
AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND
* Insurance Australia Group Ltd., Germany's Allianz SE and Ping An Insurance (Group) Co. of China Ltd. are said to have held preliminary talks and canvassed options with Commonwealth Bank of Australia around its general insurance business, The Australian Financial Review's Street Talk blog reported. The publication previously said CBA was open to divesting or outsourcing the business. Sources said the division, which houses in-force premiums of A$783 million, could fetch about A$1 billion.
* Westpac Banking Corp. was found to have failed to meet the Australian Securities and Investments Commission's direction for sending out credit card offers, The Australian Financial Review reported, citing a judicial inquiry into the country's financial industry. The corporate regulator told banks in 2012 to ask customers about their employment status and income when offering credit card limit increases. Westpac, however, decided not to ask the questions for two years, resulting in a payment of A$11.3 million in remediation to about 3,400 credit card customers.
* Commonwealth Bank of Australia said Kelly Bayer Rosmarin, who serves as group executive for institutional banking and markets, will depart the lender in the coming months. Also leaving the bank are David Whiteing, group executive for enterprise services and chief information officer, and Melanie Laing, group executive for human resources.
* Australian financial services company AMP Ltd. said Craig Meller will retire as its CEO around the end of 2018. AMP's board will begin a search for Meller's replacement, to be headed by Chairman Catherine Brenner, and will consider internal and external candidates from both the local and international markets.
Janna Estares, Sally Wang, Jonathan Cheah, Jaekwon Lim and Santibhap Ussavasodhi contributed to this report.
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