* The China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission relaxed rules on the market access of financial companies based in foreign countries, including removing the total asset requirement for banks and easing limitations on shareholders of joint venture lenders, Reuters reported. Overseas lenders will also be allowed to launch both branches and wholly-foreign-owned banks at the same time.
* The PBOC will provide improved incentives for lending to small and micro businesses and increase access of these businesses to funding by targeted reserve cuts, relending and rediscounting, among other methods, Bloomberg News reported, citing a statement from the central bank. The regulator also said it would focus on developing a long-term regulatory framework for online finance and real estate financing.
* Bloomberg News also cited a statement from the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission saying it is planning to set up a resolution fund and bridge banks, permitting exits from the market and introduce measures to reduce bad loans and promote mergers, capital injections and restructure high-risk institutions.
* More than 1,000 South Korean bankers have left their jobs as of December 2019, amid programs by the country's major commercial banks to encourage early retirement, which has been partly attributed by the automation of work in the sector, Maeil Business Newspaper reported, citing industry sources.
* KakaoBank of Korea Corp. Co-CEO Lee Yong-woo said the South Korean lender is eyeing an IPO by the end of 2020, Yonhap News Agency reported. The report quoted another bank official saying the lender would likely make preparations to go public in the second half.
* KB Financial Group Inc. Chairman Yoon Jong-kyoo said the group would focus on expanding its businesses in Vietnam and Indonesia, including through mergers and acquisitions, The Korea Times reported. KB Financial plans to set up consumer finance and microfinance businesses in the two countries and to collaborate with local and South Korean firms operating there to expand its corporate finance business.
* Thailand's Securities and Exchange Commission appointed Saovanee Suwannarong its assistant secretary-general, effective Jan. 1, according to a release. Saovanee is in charge of the Capital Market Education and Provincial Network Department, the Environmental Social and Governance Department and the Corporate Communication and Investor Service Department.
* Bank Indonesia Governor Perry Warjiyo said it expects loan growth to increase to between 10% and 12% in 2020, after four rate cuts that the central bank made in 2019, Bisnis Indonesia reported.
* Beyond Consortium, comprising V3 Group Ltd., EZ-Link Pte Ltd, Heliconia Capital Management Pte. Ltd., MSIG Insurance (Singapore) Pte Ltd., Far East Organization Pte. Ltd. and the Singapore Business Federation, has joined the race for a digital banking license in Singapore, Bloomberg News reported. iFAST Corporation Ltd. has also applied for a license in alliance with its Chinese partners, Yillion Group and Hande Group.
* A consortium led by Sheng Ye Capital Ltd., and including Phillip Capital (USA) Pte Ltd. and Advance.AI, also joined the running for a digital banking license in Singapore, The Business Times reported. The consortium plans to focus on small and midsize enterprises.
* Malaysia-based CIMB Bank Bhd. and CIMB Islamic Bank Bhd. earmarked 3 billion ringgit for sustainability-linked loans for corporate lenders, where borrowers are given interest rate rebates for meeting pre-agreed sustainability performance targets, The Sun reported.
* The Philippines' Department of Justice filed criminal charges against the board chairman of now-defunct Accord Savings Bank Inc., who was also CEO of now-closed Philippine Farmers Bank Inc., for causing material losses to depositors and the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp., the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported. Also charged were a board member of Accord Savings Bank and a vice president of Philippine Farmers Bank.
* National Stock Exchange of India Ltd. has asked the Securities and Exchange Board of India to approve its IPO plans, Mint reported, quoting a spokesperson with the stock exchange. Meanwhile, State Bank of India announced plans to sell 1.01% from its 5.19% stake in the bourse via competitive bidding and Indian Bank advertised a sale of 1 million shares in the stock exchange.
* HDFC Bank Ltd. is looking to raise capital via the issuance of secured redeemable nonconvertible debentures worth 30 billion rupees with a 20-billion-rupee oversubscription offer on a private placement basis, Indo-Asian News Service reported. The lender will use the proceeds to meet the requirements of its housing finance business.
* Indian Overseas Bank disclosed that it would receive 43.60 billion rupees as the government's investment in a preferential allotment of equity shares for the 2019-20 financial year.
* Dewan Housing Finance Corp. Ltd.'s committee of creditors approved a proposal under which the company will start making loans worth 5 billion rupees monthly to sustain its loan book, Mint reported. The firm currently receives up to 18 billion rupees from past loans, the report added, citing a document from DHFL's administrator.
* The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India ruled that all general and health insurance firms in the country should offer a standard health insurance product with a maximum sum insured of 800,000 rupees, Mint reported.
* UCO Bank recovered up to 9 billion rupees in the quarter ended December 2019 from the completion of the debt resolution of Ruchi Soya, Essar Steel, RattanIndia Power and Prayagraj Power, The Economic Times reported, citing AK Goel, the lender's managing director. He added that it is committed to bring down its net nonperforming ratio sufficiently by March to escape the Reserve Bank of India's prompt corrective action.
AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND
* Insurance Australia Group Ltd. increased its gross reinsurance protection to up to A$10 billion for its 2020 catastrophe reinsurance program. The company said it would use its 2019 reinsurance program to cover losses from the ongoing bushfires across Australia. Overall bushfire events are expected to contribute more than A$160 million of net claim costs in the first half, post-quota share.
* The Australian Securities and Investments Commission is looking into Evans Dixon Ltd. after the regulator received complaints concerning conflicting advice from several clients of the firm's advisory arm, The Australian Financial Review reported.
* The Australian Bankers Association announced a program under which member banks will defer scheduled loan repayments on request and waive some fees, including break costs on early redemption of farm management deposits for clients affected by the recent bushfires, The Sydney Morning Herald reported. The member banks also offered to restructure existing loans without the usual fees.
* Australia's Financial Adviser Standards and Ethics Authority released a code of ethics, which went into effect Jan. 1, under which financial advisors cannot designate a client as a sophisticated wholesale investor based on their assets if they are not financially literate, The Australian Financial Review reported. Some financial advisers including JBWere and Morgan Stanley have altered their model in light of the new code.
R Sio, Sally Wang, Sarun Saelee, Cathy Hwang, Emi White and Aditya Suharmoko contributed to this report.
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