* Syndicated lending in Europe, the Middle East and Africa in 2019 fell 6% year over year to $984.5 billion, owing to global risks weighing on loan market activity, according to Refinitiv LPC data.
* American Financial Group Inc. is placing Lloyd's of London insurer Neon Underwriting Ltd. into runoff. The exit from the business is planned for this year and will allow American Financial to reallocate capital to its other insurance businesses and opportunities.
UK AND IRELAND
* Britain's financial services sector paid taxes of £75.5 billion in the year ended March 31, 2019, accounting for about 10.5% of the government's total tax coffer, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers report commissioned by City of London Corp. The record amount could put pressure on the U.K. to take into account the importance of the sector when negotiating a Brexit deal, City A.M. noted.
* Roger Jenkins, Barclays PLC's former head in the Middle East, told a London court that Qatari investors demanded an additional 1.75% fee on top of the 1.5% commission fee paid to participants in the bank's rescue at the height of the 2008 financial crisis, the Financial Times wrote. Jenkins and two other former colleagues are standing trial for allegedly negotiating the secret deals.
* A trading outage in August 2019 was due to a technical software configuration, not a cyberattack, a spokesperson for London Stock Exchange Group PLC told City A.M. It followed reports that a British intelligence agency had asked LSE for more details about the outage.
* Aviva Will and David Perla will become co-COOs of British litigation finance company Burford Capital Ltd. which also said that it is now set to begin the formal process of a full listing in the U.S. instead of an American Depository Receipt structure after its lawyers completed preparatory and analytical work. The company also said a securities class action suit filed against it in the U.S. in August 2019 has been withdrawn and dismissed.
* Aston Lark Ltd. appointed Robert Kennedy and Mark Nolan CEO and CFO for Ireland, respectively. The appointments will take effect in March, subject to regulatory approval.
GERMANY, SWITZERLAND AND AUSTRIA
* German cooperative lender Volksbank Lübeck eG entered talks regarding a potential merger with larger sector player Hamburger Volksbank eG. The merger negotiations will focus on market and cost benefits for the banks as well as the changing customers' needs.
* Deutsche Bank AG and Commerzbank AG have taken over another 11.11% stake in the German banking sector's shared payments platform Paydirekt after 12 other banks have withdrawn from it, Handelsblatt reported. The two banks now hold stakes of 16.67% each in the payments platform.
* UBS Group AG is splitting its wealth management business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa into three regions as part of a broader restructuring under Iqbal Khan and Tom Naratil, co-heads of the global business, Bloomberg News reported, citing an internal memo. The restructuring could lead to job cuts in the division of up to 500.
* Switzerland's banking sector committed to tighter minimum standards for origination and amortization of investment property loans beginning Jan. 1 as it seeks to avoid new regulatory requirements in the run-up to the implementation of the final Basel III rules in 2022.
FRANCE AND BENELUX
* Société Générale SA relaunched speculation about a banking takeover when CEO Frédéric Oudéa told the FT that he could see the bank being a player in the sector's consolidation, Les Echos reported. The French newspaper added though that there were a limited number of targets, with UniCredit SpA and Commerzbank being the only foreign banks suitable for SocGen, and regulatory factors having a braking effect. A takeover by BNP Paribas SA of SocGen was also possible, according to Les Echos.
* France black listed 13 countries for allegedly not cooperating in tax fraud investigations, Les Echos reported. Black-listed states face 75% retention rates on financial transactions from France, exclusion from subsidiary company law, and increased compulsory declarations for transactions.
* Crédit Mutuel Alliance Fédérale completed the procedures for two new federations — Crédit Mutuel Antilles-Guyane and Crédit Mutuel Massif Central — to join the alliance, La Tribune reported.
* Directors at Lieges-based insurer Integrale, a subsidiary of Nethys, are due to receive bonuses totaling €5.7 million as a "loyalty premium," including a €4.5 million payment for its CEO, Diego Aquilina, De Tijd reported. Five other directors are in line for payments ranging between €75,000 and €478,000. The bonuses are higher than a ceiling imposed by the Walloon government in May 2018.
SPAIN AND PORTUGAL
* Joaquim Saldanha e Souza resigned as CEO of Caixa - Banco de Investimento SA, a role he has held since 2013, Expresso reported. State-run Caixa Geral de Depósitos SA is now looking for a candidate to replace Saldanha e Souza at the investment banking arm.
ITALY AND GREECE
* FinecoBank SpA CEO Alessandro Foti told Il Sole 24 Ore that the bank has not received any formal takeover approaches and does not believe it needs to defend itself from eventual takeovers.
* Banca Popolare di Sondrio SCpA is putting the finishing touches on the securitization of up to €1.5 billion in nonperforming loans, MF said. The deal is expected to close in the first quarter.
* Sweden-based Hoist Finance AB (publ) carried out a €5 billion nonperforming loan securitization deal in Italy in recent days, Il Sole 24 Ore said. It is the first in the country involving unsecured loans that also enjoy an investment grade status and in which a traditional buyer of NPLs is on the sell side.
* Danske Bank A/S will hold group pre-earnings calls with analysts instead of one-on-one conversations with individuals, Bloomberg reported. It comes after different interpretations of the bank's guidance in June 2019 left investors confused, causing an abrupt sell-off of its shares.
* Danish banks expect further consolidation in the banking sector in the coming years, Børsen reported. In a survey of executives from 27 banks, almost all of them said they expect to see fewer banks in Denmark in the future.
* Danish pension fund PKA had its highest investment result ever in 2019, with returns totaling 32.5 billion kroner, corresponding to 13.6% of its investment portfolio, Finans reported. Over the last 10 years, PKA has on average generated a return of 8% annually.
* Skjern Bank A/S upgraded its expectations for 2019 for the third time, and now expects profits before tax of between 160 million Danish kroner and 170 million kroner, Børsen reported. At the start of 2019, Skjern Bank expected pretax profits of between 115 million kroner and 130 million kroner.
* Norwegian investor Øystein Stray Spetalen increased his holdings in niche bank Pareto Bank ASA, Dagens Næringsliv reported. Spetalen now holds shares for 100 million Norwegian kroner, or 3.72 % of the share capital, and is one of the bank's largest shareholders.
* Russia's VTB Bank PJSC lodged a lawsuit in the U.K.'s High Court against the Mozambican government and a government-owned company in relation to loans that form part of a $2 billion debt scandal, Reuters reported. The case reportedly relates to general commercial contracts and arrangements.
* Poland's 10 largest banks listed on the Warsaw Stock Exchange are expected to post an aggregated net profit of 15.95 billion zlotys in 2020, up by 15% from 2019, Rzeczpospolita wrote. The newspaper, however, noted that some Polish analysts are skeptical regarding the projection due to risks stemming from the economic slowdown and potential Swiss franc mortgage portfolio write-offs.
* Slovenian reinsurer Pozavarovalnica Sava d.d. eyes a net profit of at least €45 million in 2020, up from a €43 million profit estimated for 2019, with return on equity to reach at least 11%, SEENews reported. The group's gross written premiums are expected to increase to around €620 million in 2020 from approximately €555 million projected for 2019.
IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD
Asia-Pacific: AMTD eyes Singapore digital bank license; India revises urban coop bank rules
Middle East & Africa: Absa Group names CEO; Plus500 expects lower FY'19 revenue
Latin America: Caixa Seguridade's IPO, new elections in Bolivia
North America: Lawyer-less suit vs. Schwab/TD Ameritrade merger nixed; Dallas de novo rising
Global Insurance: Australia bushfire insurance losses; Molina deal; Coverys startup
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Sheryl Obejera, Danielle Rossingh, Esben Svendsen, Beata Fojcik, Heather O'Brian, Brian McCulloch, Sophie Davies and Mariana Aldano contributed to this report.
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