* ECB President Mario Draghi urged lawmakers to adopt key pieces of legislation designed to seize greater control over central clearing of euro-denominated financial transactions, as several of the largest euro clearers will be operating outside the EU regulation framework when the U.K. leaves the bloc. Draghi specifically mentioned that the European Commission's European Market Infrastructure Regulation II proposal is a "welcome and necessary initiative." Bloomberg News and Financial Times covered.
* Meanwhile, Draghi also called for the overhaul of rules regarding emergency liquidity assistance provided by central banks to troubled lenders, saying he personally has argued toward "a centralization of ELA," Bloomberg News reported. However, Draghi noted that such a decision would require unanimity among all 19 countries using the euro.
* European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said the EU is ready to regulate cryptocurrencies if there is no clear international response to risks that could emerge from the sector, Reuters wrote.
* The EU is set to publish tomorrow a 100-page draft Brexit treaty on how it expects the U.K. to depart the bloc in 2019 and the terms of the transition period that will follow, an insider told Bloomberg News. The draft is likely to exclude British Prime Minister Theresa May's proposals on how the transitional phase should work, including an important compromise that May is seeking in relation to the country's future land border with Ireland.
* Credit Suisse Group AG is planning to begin the first phase of its Brexit preparations with the transfer of nearly 250 London-based investment banking employees, insiders told Bloomberg News. Some of the staff will most likely begin relocating to either Frankfurt or Madrid, with Paris no longer a potential destination, according to the sources.
UK AND IRELAND
* Standard Chartered Plc reported full-year 2017 profit attributable to parent company shareholders of $1.22 billion, compared to a loss of $247 million in the year-ago period. The U.K. lender declared a dividend of 11 cents per ordinary share for 2017, having paid none for the previous year.
* Direct Line Insurance Group Plc reported full-year 2017 consolidated profit attributable to owners of the company of £434.0 million, up from £278.8 million earned in 2016. The U.K. insurer proposed to increase the final dividend for 2017 by 40.2% year over year to 13.6 pence per share and declared a special dividend of 15.0 pence per share as an interim dividend, bringing the total dividend amount to 35.4 pence per share for the year.
* British subprime lender Provident Financial Plc unveiled plans to carry out a rights issue of approximately £331 million and said that subsidiary Vanquis Bank Ltd. agreed to pay a £2 million fine to settle the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority's investigation into the sale of the unit's repayment option plan. Provident Financial reported an adjusted pretax profit of £109.1 million for 2017, down 67.3% from £334.1 million in 2016.
* Meanwhile, Phillip McLelland, the finance head of Provident Financial's consumer credit division, left the company, with Ele Thornhill, head of online financial strategy at the firm's Satsuma Loans business, replacing him with immediate effect, according to The Times.
* The U.K. Treasury is close to naming Godfrey Cromwell, a former Barclays Plc executive, as the chair of a new independent body that will oversee an £800 million handout of funds by Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc to challenger banks, sources told Sky News.
* Permanent TSB Group Holdings Plc is seeking court approval for a share capital reduction aimed at enhancing its regulatory position.
* The Irish central bank said it has asked the High Court to appoint Kieran Wallace of KPMG as provisional administrator of CBL Insurance Europe DAC, a unit of New Zealand-based CBL Corp. Ltd., to avoid a "disorderly failure" of the company.
GERMANY, SWITZERLAND AND AUSTRIA
* German Chancellor Angela Merkel moved a step closer to securing a fourth term after her conservative party backed a deal struck with the Social Democrats on forming a coalition government.
* In an interview with Handelsblatt, Nicolas Moreau, CEO of Deutsche Bank AG's DWS business, said acquisitions outside Germany, particularly in Asia or the rest of Europe, were conceivable for the asset management unit after its planned IPO. He ruled out a merger with rival Allianz Global Investors, however, adding that DWS would seek organic growth in areas like alternative investments.
* U.S. private equity firms Cerberus Capital Management LP and J.C. Flowers & Co. LLC plan to buy HSH Nordbank AG's core operations and nonperforming assets through separate vehicles, insiders told Reuters. The firms are set to disclose the acquisition tomorrow.
* Swiss Life Holding AG reported unaudited net profit attributable to equity holders of the company of CHF1.01 billion for full year 2017, up from CHF922 million in 2016. The company's board of directors will propose at the April 24 annual general meeting to increase the dividend to CHF13.50 per share from CHF11.00 per share paid in 2016.
* Landesbank Baden-Württemberg CEO Rainer Neske has called for a new way for German banks to cooperate in specific areas without necessarily having to merge, saying banks could increase cooperation in areas such as IT or foreign payment transactions, Handelsblatt reported.
* In March, lawmakers in Switzerland will look into returning to Malaysia some of the €95 million seized by the government in connection with the investigation into corruption involving Malaysia's state fund 1MDB, Finews.com reported. The investigation led to a fine against Falcon Private Bank AG and scandal and convictions for the former BSI SA and some of its employees.
FRANCE AND BENELUX
* Rothschild & Co. Chairman David de Rothschild will step down from his post at the Franco-British investment bank in June, with Executive Deputy Chairman Alexandre de Rothschild set to replace him, according to the Financial Times.
* Groupe BPCE-owned Crédit Coopératif SA plans to combine Ecofi Investissements and Esfin Gestion, two of its four asset management units, L'Agefi reported. BTP Capital Investissement and Impulse Europe, the two other subsidiaries, are not affected by the move.
SPAIN AND PORTUGAL
* Mapfre SA converted its €1 billion syndicated credit line maturing in December 2021 into a so-called sustainable loan.
* Bankia SA expects to distribute €2.5 billion of excess capital to its shareholders over the next three years, as part of its strategic plan for 2018 to 2020, Reuters reported. The Spanish lender also aims to record a profit of €1.3 billion at the end of the plan and increase its dividend pay-out ratio to between 45% and 50%, leading to a dividend of 43 cents per share in 2020, compared to 26 cents in 2017.
* Nuno Amado will continue as executive president of Millennium BCP. The official announcement will be made during the May 15 general assembly of the company's shareholders, Economia Online said.
ITALY AND GREECE
* Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena SpA could merge with a rival as early as this year after taking major steps to clean up its balance sheet and introducing new management practices, Fabrizio Pagani, the chief of staff of Italy's Ministry of Economy and Finance told Bloomberg News. Pagani noted that no deal discussions have taken place so far.
* Italian bad loan management group Cerved is in the process of taking over the management of roughly €20 billion in NPLs, Reuters reported.
* Credito Valtellinese SpA is set to with unions to begin negotiations over 400 redundancies, Il Sole 24 Ore said. The bank will shut down 61 branches, in addition to 27 branch closures in 2017.
* Intesa Sanpaolo SpA insurance division head Nicola Maria Fioravanti told Il Sole 24 Ore that the group intends to become Italy's fourth largest property and casualty insurer, with premiums of €2.5 billion in the P&C business in 2021.
* Unione di Banche Italiane SpA must present to the ECB an updated version of its nonperforming loan strategy in March, with the lender seen targeting a gross NPL ratio below 10% by 2020, compared to 13% at present, MF reported.
* Meanwhile, UBI said that the merger of Banca Teatina SpA into the group was successfully completed, marking the conclusion of the Italian lender's reorganization process, which began in November 2016.
* Italian businessman Raffaele Mincione, who now owns about 5.4% of Banca Carige SpA, has asked to have a representative on the bank's board, MF said.
* Meanwhile, Greek government officials and inspectors from the EU and the IMF have resumed talks over a final set of reforms that the country needs to implement before its bailout program expires, Reuters reported.
* Bank of Cyprus Holdings Plc reported preliminary unaudited consolidated statutory loss attributable to owners of the company of €551.9 million for full year 2017, compared to a profit of €63.7 million in the prior-year period.
* Denmark's leading banks are losing customers to smaller players at an increasing rate, Dagens Industri reported. The country's eight-biggest banks lost a total of 15,700 customers to smaller rivals in 2016 and 44,700 in 2017, according to a survey conducted by Voxmeter.
* Shareholders in Nordea Bank AB (publ) plan to use the bank's March 15 annual general meeting to protest the group's decision to relocate its corporate headquarters from Stockholm to Helsinki, which the bank's management hopes to complete in the fourth quarter, Ilta Sanomat reported. Nordea will require a two-thirds majority vote from shareholders before the proposed move can be formally sanctioned. Aktiespararna, Sweden's shareholders association, will be voting against the relocation, and only Finland-based financial group Sampo Oyj, which holds 21% of the voting shares in Nordea, is solidly behind the move to Helsinki, Göteborgs Posten reported.
* The elections committee of Norwegian Finans Holding ASA will propose to name Bjørn Østbø chairman at the bank's next general meeting, replacing Bjørn Kise.
* Kaupthing ehf unit Kaupskil ehf. completed the acquisition of the Icelandic government's 13% stake in Arion banki hf. for 23.5 billion Icelandic krónur. Arion banki also completed the purchase of 9.5% of its own shares.
* JSC VTB Bank reported full-year 2017 net profit attributable to shareholders of the parent of 120.3 billion Russian rubles under International Financial Reporting Standards, up 130.0% from a restated attributable profit of 52.3 billion rubles in 2016. The bank is reviewing several small merger and acquisition opportunities in Russia, Deputy President and Chairman of the Management Board Herbert Moos said.
* Meanwhile, Vedomosti cited VTB deputy head Herbert Moos as saying that negotiations for merging VTB's insurance unit with Sogaz were not successful and the insurance business will for now be developed as part of VTB Group.
* PAO Credit Bank of Moscow's supervisory board approved the candidacy of Mikhail Polunin to the post of first deputy chairman of the management board.
* Russia's Federal Antimonopoly Service allowed Otkritie Holding JSC to increase its stake in Baltic Leasing to 100%, Kommersant reported.
* The Russian central bank will continue with the cleanup of the banking sector despite concerns over growing state ownership in the segment, Reuters reported, citing the regulator's head Elvira Nabiullina. The official noted, however, that the central bank needs to return bailed-out banks to the market at a faster pace.
* Russia-based Vyatka Bank will no longer operate as a unit of Latvian lender JSC Norvik Banka, but will be controlled directly by the lenders' owner Grigory Guselnikov, Kommersant reported.
* Latvia yesterday called for an emergency meeting of financial authorities in a bid to mitigate the effects of the collapse of ABLV Bank AS, the Financial Times reported. Latvian authorities noted that the scandal would not hurt the country's financial system, with Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis reiterating that the system remains stable and can regain its "reputation."
* Meanwhile, ABLV told Reuters that its main owners, Ernests Bernis and Olegs Fins, have decided to liquidate the lender, as they believe it is the best way to ensure the protection of its assets and to carry out payments to clients.
* Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania are working to create a common market for goods and services, but integration of the finance sectors remains distant, according to statements by their prime ministers in a London press conference yesterday.
* Czech nonbanking loan provider Provident Financial s.r.o. received a license from the local central bank to offer consumer loans in the country, E15 reported.
IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD
Asia-Pacific: Allianz closes takeover of Sri Lanka insurer; CBA to dispute rate-rigging claims
Middle East & Africa: Attijariwafa Bank FY'17 profit up 13.3%; Nene back as South Africa finance chief
Latin America: Banco Inter files for IPO; QBE selling LatAm ops; Fitch downgrades Brazil
North America: JPMorgan agrees to close gender pay gap; Citi to refund $335M to card clients
North America Insurance: Berkshire prepared for $400B cat; D&O liability insurers to face challenges
NOW FEATURED ON S&P GLOBAL MARKET INTELLIGENCE
VTB Bank seeks to prop up regional retail, SME ops with M&A: VTB Bank is looking to strengthen its regional units across Russia, particularly in retail and SME banking, by acquiring small regional lenders. It is also planning to equalize dividend for all shareholders, deputy chair Herbert Moos said.
Bank of Ireland returns to dividends, but margin guidance tempers enthusiasm: Ireland's biggest bank will pay its first dividend in a decade but warned that its net interest margin will weaken in 2018, in part because of Brexit headwinds in the U.K.
QBE Europe CEO warns of inflation hit to insurers: Insurers' loss ratios have benefited from low inflation in recent years, and QBE Europe is monitoring the effects of inflation "very carefully", said Richard Pryce.
Sheryl Obejera, Ed Meza, Meike Wijers, Gerard O'Dwyer, Beata Fojcik, Heather O'Brian, Stephanie Salti, Praxilla Trabattoni and Mariana Aldano contributed to this report.
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