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Street Talk Episode 65 - Deferral practices trap US bank portfolios in purgatory


Best of the Web

The "Best of theWeb" rounds up some of the more noteworthy recent coverage we haveencountered on issues affecting the Asia-Pacific financial sector. Please notethat some links may require a subscription.

Read somethinginteresting? Please let us know.

TheRise and Fall of Tim Leissner, Goldman's Big Man in Malaysia

Tim Leissner was one of Goldman Sachs Group Inc.'s star bankers, hobnobbing withthe rich and powerful in Asia until a scandal involving the Malaysian state fund cut hisstoried career short. Bloomberg News reported on Leissner's rise and fall andhighlighted the perils of the U.S. bank's strategy in mixing money and power inAsia. Goldman Sachs prizes relations with important people and Leissner tookthat commandment to heart. Leissner got a big break in Singapore when he becamethe firm's local head of investment banking. He also advocated for the firm'sexpansion in Malaysia, a stance that paid off when Goldman Sachs' applicationto start operations for fund management and corporate finance was approved in2009. Leissner was an adviser to state fund 1MDB from early on. Therelationship would come back to haunt him when controversy arose over whetherthe money 1MDB raised was misappropriated. Goldman Sachs eventually putLeissner on leave in January after an investigation into his work with a groupof investors trying to buy Newmont Mining Corp.'s Indonesian copper operations.Leissner has resigned from the bank.

LICrides to the rescue of public sector banks

Life InsuranceCorp. of India has risen to become a hero for Indian public sectorbanks, helping the government infuse much-needed capital into cash-strappedlenders. In fiscal 2016, the insurer infused 25.39 billion rupees into publicsector banks. The insurer had already infused a total of 18.50 billion rupeesin fiscal 2015 and 3.66 billion rupees in fiscal 2014. The insurer has notstopped there. The government only plans to invest 250 billion rupees in publicsector banks in fiscal 2017. But these amounts are not enough for thecapital-starved banks. To help, Life Insurance Corp. has raised its stake inseveral small and medium-sized public sector banks in the last 16 months.

BehindAnbang's Curious Starwood Courtship

AnbangInsurance Group Co. may have backed away from its bid to acquire but its approach was strikingly unorthodox, from shiftingoffers to its sudden disinterest. TheWall Street Journal charted the Chinese insurer's unusual pursuit ofStarwood from its first courtship in 2015 to suddenly dropping the bid despiteindications that it wanted to win. Anbang expressed interest in Starwood in May2015 but the U.S. hotel group was uneasy over its suitor. Starwood officialsdoubted that the Chinese company could secure funding and they found AnbangChairman Wu Xiaohui hard to read. Wu called for last-minute meetings and hefloated a variety of deal options, including taking a minority stake inStarwood. Anbang withdrew its interest in November 2015 when Starwood refusedto move forward without a written offer. Marriott International Inc. later emerged as thepreferred bidder for Starwood, but Anbang swooped in with an all-cash offer inMarch. While the offer was too rich to pass up, other obstacles stood in theway. The bidding war subjected Anbang to fresh scrutiny over its politicalconnections in China. In addition, Anbang's plans were not clear to theStarwood team. In another surprise move, Anbang agreed that a deal would stillclose with or without Chinese regulatory approval. A second round of biddingensued but in the end, it was Marriott that won the prize. Fred Hu, chairman ofPrimavera Capital Group, a partner in Anbang's bid, said the consortium walkedaway because the price became too steep.

ANZ Banking Group cracks down on dubious offshore mortgagefunding from Asia

Australia& New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. has cracked down onresidential property lending following a sharp increase in loan applicationsfrom Australian residents sourcing overseas income, The Australian Financial Review reported. The bank noticed anincrease in cases where foreign payments were being made by overseas companiesit had no record of. ANZ told mortgage brokers it will no longer accept mortgageapplications where 100% of the income funding the mortgage comes from overseas.An applicant must now include their passport with all stamped pages, employmentcontracts, three months of pay slips and salary credits verified from bankstatements. Other Australian banks say they monitor applications but do nothave specific bans on any group or category. Westpac Banking Corp. said it has tougher risk policiesfor foreign nationals, while Commonwealth Bank of Australia said it has specialrequirements for income earned in foreign currencies.

Endangered remittances

The money-laundering scandal involving the Philippines' has notjust cast a pall over the country's banking sector, but also over theremittances of millions of overseas Filipino workers. In an editorial, The Philippine Star said that how thegovernment handles the fallout from the scandal will help the country frombeing painted as a money-laundering haven. The international community will beexpecting reforms to rules that allow the Philippines to be used to launderdirty money. The scandal has highlighted faults in the country's strict banksecrecy laws and the weakness of its anti-money laundering laws, which do notcover casinos. However, standing in the way of successful reforms is aself-serving Congress. Lawmakers were the ones that kept casinos out of thereach of the money-laundering authority and they are also among the opponentsof proposals to ease bank secrecy laws.