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Deutsche, Commerz in tie-up talks; Rabobank sells unit; ING Italy in hot water

UK AND IRELAND

* U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May is holding last-minute talks with the Democratic Unionist party today as part efforts to push her Brexit deal through the House of Commons later this week, the Financial Times reported. Meanwhile, Britain's EU membership could terminate July 1 if the country seeks a Brexit extension beyond June 30 without participating in European Parliament elections in May, the FT noted in an earlier report, citing a document outlining conditions for a delay.

* HSBC Holdings PLC has cut the amount of money that new executive directors are entitled to in lieu of a pension contribution to 10% of their base salary from the previous 30%, following a dialogue with shareholders.

* The U.K. Financial Conduct Authority is seeking to block Metro Bank PLC's appointment of Ben Gunn as its new deputy chairman and is pushing for a wider overhaul of the lender's board, the Financial Times reported.

GERMANY, SWITZERLAND AND AUSTRIA

* Deutsche Bank AG and Commerzbank AG said they have agreed to launch talks on a potential merger. Deutsche Bank CEO Christian Sewing said in a letter to employees that there was no certainty a deal would arise from the discussions. A combination would result in a new European banking giant with roughly €1.81 trillion in assets, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence's 2018-end asset data.

* The potential merger of Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank could put at risk 30,000 jobs over the long term and 10,000 roles over the short term, Reuters reported, citing a statement by Jan Duscheck, a representative of German union Verdi and a member of Deutsche Bank's supervisory board.

* Germany's monopoly commission does not see any competition issues from a possible merger of Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank, Rheinische Post cited the commission's head, Achim Wambach, as saying. Wambach, however, said he was concerned that there might be stability issues due to the size of the new bank, saying, "The merger may create a new threat to the financial world, namely an increase in systemic risk."

* Meanwhile, Deutsche Bank could sell its asset management business, DWS Group GmbH & Co. KGaA, to German insurance giant Allianz Group, insiders told Bloomberg News. A tie-up with Allianz' existing active money management arm would reportedly result in a business with roughly €1.17 trillion in AUM.

* Deutsche Bank is establishing an asset reconstruction unit in India that will buy and reorganize bad loans as part of efforts to profit from an unprecedented cleanup of such debt in the country, insiders told Bloomberg.

* Credit Suisse Group AG is aiming to boost pretax profit at its international wealth management unit to CHF2 billion in 2019 from CHF1.8 billion in 2018, insiders told Bloomberg News.

* Singapore authorities have started an investigation into the Indian subsidiary of Wirecard AG for alleged criminal acts including money laundering and document forgery in connection with the acquisition of an Indian payment service provider in 2015, Handelsblatt reported. Meanwhile, former minority shareholders of the acquired Indian company filed a lawsuit in London last month against Wirecard, alleging they were cheated out of money in the deal, Bloomberg News wrote.

FRANCE AND BENELUX

* French financial regulator HCSF is expected to ask banks to increase their capital reserves by establishing a countercyclical buffer and to be more careful when granting loans for housing and to businesses, Les Echos reported.

* Dutch lender Rabobank has agreed to sell U.S. unit Rabobank NA to California-based Mechanics Bank for roughly $2.1 billion. The unit's agricultural activities will remain part of the cooperative Dutch bank, which will gain a 9.9% stake in Mechanics upon completion of the deal.

* Crédit Agricole SA unit Crédit Agricole Corporate & Investment Bank agreed to sell a 4.9% stake in Saudi Arabia-based Banque Saudi Fransi to a consortium led by U.S.-based investment holding company Ripplewood Advisors LLC for roughly €440 million, Les Echos reported.

* French insurer Groupama Group's 2018 net profit rose 54% to €450 million from €292 million in 2017, boosted in part by capital gains from a real estate sale.

* BNP Paribas Fortis SA said it will close 267 branches and shed 2,200 full-time employees by 2021 as a result of the growth of digital and distance banking, Les Echos reported. In an interview with De Tijd, BNP Paribas Fortis CEO Maxime Jadot said: "The industrialization of the services industry through automation and digitalization is only just getting started."

SPAIN AND PORTUGAL

* S&P Global Ratings raised Portugal's unsolicited foreign- and local-currency long- and short-term sovereign credit ratings to BBB/A-2 from BBB-/A-3, with a stable outlook, citing the country's declining debt and balanced growth.

* Portugal's government issued a norm clarifying the responsibility of the country's ASF insurance and pensions regulator to evaluate the suitability of António Tomás Correia, former CEO of Caixa Económica Montepio Geral SA, who was reelected president of the mutual association that controls the savings bank late last year, Jornal de Negócios reported. Tomás Correia was recently fined €1.25 million by the central bank over management failings during his leadership of the savings bank.

* Portugal's Novo Banco SA said its loan impairments were at an appropriate level, responding to questions by politicians who have suggested the bank was requesting too much money from the country's bank resolution fund, the official Lusa news agency reported.

* Venezuelan state-owned oil company PdVSA has lodged claims for more than two billion euros for losses incurred by the collapse of Banco Espírito Santo SA, according to the firm's legal representative Miguel Matias, Jornal Económico reported. It said the demand, which includes losses on commercial paper, bonds and bank deposits, was presented to the commission overseeing BES's liquidation.

ITALY AND GREECE

* Italy's central bank said it has instructed the local branch of Dutch lender ING Groep NV to refrain from conducting any business with new clients, citing shortcomings in its anti-money laundering processes. In response, ING said it will be in touch with the central bank regarding its findings and is taking necessary steps to improve its anti-money laundering processes and management of compliance risks.

* Italian payments firm Nexi SpA has filed an application to list its ordinary shares on the Italian Stock Exchange. The offering, which will comprise newly issued shares for an overall expected value of between €600 million and €700 million, is expected to be launched in April. Nexi is also finalizing a new loan agreement aimed at refinancing the company's outstanding debt following the listing.

* Adjusted nonperforming loans in Italy rose to €33.42 billion in January from €31.87 billion in December 2018, marking the first increase since 2016, Affari & Finanza reported, citing central bank data.

* Cassa depositi e prestiti SpA exercised its call option held by UniCredit and Intesa Sanpaolo SpA and buys a further 8% of digital payments company SIA SpA for €80 million, MF wrote. SIA, meanwhile, is in pole position to buy Austrian digital payments company Card Complete Service Bank AG with binding offers due by mid-April, Affari & Finanza wrote.

* BPER Banca SpA signed an agreement with Fabrick, a technology company focused on the credit sector, to launch a light bank within a year, the L'Economia weekly insert of Corriere della Sera reported.

NORDIC COUNTRIES

* Swedbank AB (publ) allegedly processed transactions for "suspicious" customers amounting to around 95 billion Swedish kronor between the Swedish lender and Danske Bank A/S, Reuters reported, citing Swedish state television SVT. Swedbank said it takes its responsibilities to prevent and detect money laundering "very seriously."

* Sweden's financial supervisory authority received a report from Swedbank regarding suspected money laundering, saying it will include the report in an ongoing probe into a Baltic money laundering scandal.

* The Danish government is planning a new bill aimed at tightening regulations for companies providing consumer loans, Finans reported.

* Danish authorities are looking into payment services providers in Denmark over concerns that criminals could hide suspicious transactions due to the complexity of the companies' processes, Bloomberg News reported.

EASTERN EUROPE

* Hungary-based OTP Bank Nyrt. offered €300 million for a 100% stake in Slovenian state-owned Abanka d.d., Reuters wrote, citing Dnevnik. OTP, which does not own a bank in Slovenia, is also reportedly interested in acquiring Société Générale SA's Slovenian unit, SKB Banka dd Ljubljana.

* JSCB Evrofinance-Mosnarbank Bank JSC, which was recently added to the U.S. sanctions list over dealings with Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA, will retain access to the Moscow Exchange's markets, but its foreign exchange operations will be subject to restrictions, Reuters reported. The newswire also said that AO Gazprombank, which holds a 25% stake in Evrofinance, plans to transfer the shares to the Russian Federal Agency for State Property Management, in a move similar to that recently agreed upon by VTB Bank 4187779.

* Polish debt collector KRUK Spólka Akcyjna signed a letter of intent to acquire a 100% stake in Wonga Worldwide Ltd.'s Polish unit, which provides consumer loans, news agency PAP reported. The transaction is subject to approval by the Polish competition regulator. Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.

IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD

Asia-Pacific: IOOF faces shareholder class action; Jammu & Kashmir Bank to sell stake

Middle East & Africa: Crédit Agricole unit sells stake in Banque Saudi Fransi; 2 Kenyan banks to merge

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Sheryl Obejera, Arno Maierbrugger, Danielle Rossingh, Esben Svendsen, Beata Fojcik, Yael Schrage, Brian McCulloch, Praxilla Trabattoni and Mariana Aldano contributed to this report.

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This S&P Global Market Intelligence news article may contain information about credit ratings issued by S&P Global Ratings. Descriptions in this news article were not prepared by S&P Global Ratings.