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HK bourse enhances ESG focus; Westpac served with shareholder litigation


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HK bourse enhances ESG focus; Westpac served with shareholder litigation


* Stock Exchange of Hong Kong Ltd. is imposing new mandatory disclosure requirements on listed companies from July 1, 2020, which include a statement setting out the board's consideration of environmental, social and governance matters, application of reporting principles of "materiality," "quantitative" and "consistency," as well as explanation of reporting boundaries of ESG reports. In addition, the deadline for publication of ESG reports will be shortened to within five months after the financial year-end.

* Hengfeng Bank Co Ltd. will issue 100 billion shares through a private placement. Central Huijin Investment Ltd. will purchase 60 billion shares of the bank, while Shandong Financial Asset Management Co. Ltd. will purchase 36 billion shares. Singapore's United Overseas Bank Ltd. and other investors will subscribe to the remaining 4 billion shares.

* Overseas funds have increased their holdings on seven Chinese insurance stocks by more than 100 million shares via the Shanghai-Hong Kong stock connect and Shenzhen-Hong Kong stock connect programs since Oct.1, Securities Daily reported. Overseas funds bought 44.49 million shares in Ping An Insurance (Group) Co. of China Ltd. during the period, the largest volume of such holdings through the schemes.

* Financial Supervisory Commission Chairman Wellington Koo said all bank branches in Taiwan are expected to offer bilingual services in Chinese and English by 2030, the Taipei Times reported. Koo said each bank branch should have at least two or three employees who can serve foreign clients. Branches should also have information and signs in both languages, as well as account application forms in English.

* Chinese regulators have given the nod to JPMorgan Chase & Co. to establish a majority-owned securities venture in China, Reuters reported. The joint venture will offer brokerage, investment advisory, underwriting and sponsorship services.

* ZA Bank, co-owned by China-based ZhongAn Online P & C Insurance Co. Ltd. and Sinolink Group, launched services in Hong Kong under the Hong Kong Monetary Authority's sandbox mechanism, becoming the first virtual bank in the territory to do so, the South China Morning Post reported. The bank will initially serve 2,000 selected users and a full rollout will occur later, if all goes well with the launch.


* Japan's Financial Services Agency is scrapping its "financial inspection manual," a set of guidelines aimed at supervising bank lending. Banks now have more discretion in their lending, giving them greater flexibility in assessing risk factors in financing activities.

* The Regional Banks Association of Japan appointed Yasuyoshi Oya its next chairman, replacing Ritsuo Sasajima in the role, The Nikkei reported. Oya, who is president and CEO of Bank of Yokohama Ltd., will commence his one-year term with the industry body in June 2020.

* South Korea's Financial Supervisory Service will now regulate the institutional funding of commercial banks to government organizations with an apparent goal of acquiring government accounts, the Chosun Ilbo reported. The regulator plans to issue guidelines on the extent of a bank's contributions based on its current profitability and solvency.


* Krung Thai Bank PCL President and CEO Payong Srivanich plans to shutter up to 70 branches by 2020, mostly in Bangkok, Daily News reported. Srivanich further clarified that the lender would not lay off its employees despite the branch closures.

* The Bank of Thailand's monetary policy committee left the policy rate at 1.25% and revised its GDP growth forecasts to 2.5% from 2.8% for 2019 and to 2.8% from 3.3% for 2020, citing a greater-than-expected contraction in merchandise exports. The bank also downgraded its projections for core inflation in 2019 to 0.5% from 0.6%, and in 2020 to 0.7% from 0.9%.

* Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Benjamin Diokno said the regulator will slash key rates by at least 50 basis points in 2020, BusinessWorld reported.

* Indonesian President Joko Widodo said the government is exploring a number of alternative methods to resolve the financial problems of PT Asuransi Jiwasraya (Persero), The Jakarta Post reported. He added that law enforcement agencies will also investigate if the insurer engaged in any irregularities.

* All nonperforming loans that Vietnam's Kienlong Commercial Joint Stock Bank had previously sold to Vietnam Asset Management Co. have been cleared before the maturity date, Viet Nam News reported, citing the asset manager.


* India Resurgence Fund, a platform which makes investments in distressed assets by buying existing debts and equity securities and newly issued securities joint sponsored by Bain Capital Credit LP and Piramal Enterprises Ltd., received a US$225 million commitment from Canada Pension Plan Investment Board through unit CPPIB Credit Investments Inc.

* L&T Finance Holdings Ltd. issued up to 30 million cumulative compulsorily redeemable nonconvertible preference shares with a 100-rupee face value on a private placement basis to raise up to 3 billion rupees.

* JM Financial Ltd. group launched a digital platform enabling more than 20,000 independent financial distributors to take fixed deposits from companies for their end clients, Press Trust of India reported, citing Surajit Misra, head of JM Financial Services. The service will initially collect fixed deposits for HDFC Bank Ltd., Bajaj Finance Ltd. and Mahindra Finance.

* India's finance ministry sent a letter to departments in the state and central government urging them to continue doing business with IDBI Bank Ltd. after the ministry noted that certain departments began withdrawing funds and deposits from the lender, following the acquisition of a controlling stake in the bank by Life Insurance Corp. of India, Press Trust of India reported.


* New Zealand is working on a review of the Reserve Bank Act, under which it would provide deposit insurance of NZ$50,000 per financial institution, according to Finance Minister Grant Robertson. Meanwhile, the central bank would be given additional powers, including authorizing it to undertake onsite inspections of banks.

* Australian law firm Phi Finney McDonald filed a lawsuit against Westpac Banking Corp. in federal court, alleging that the firm failed to assess money laundering and terrorism financing risks, conduct due diligence over customers allegedly financing child exploitation material and report to the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Center, The Australian reported. Westpac confirmed that it was served with the lawsuit.

* The Australian Financial Industry Association started public consultations to develop a code of conduct for so-called buy-now-pay-later firms, The Australian reported. The report quoted Chief Executive Diane Tate as saying that the code was a response to an Australian Securities and Investments Commission report and a recommendation by an Australian senate committee.

* AMP Financial Planning Pty. Ltd. stopped offering managed discretionary account services, saying the conditions imposed by ASIC and their declining use made offering those services unsustainable, The Australian Financial Review reported, citing a company spokesperson.


Middle East & Africa: Tel Aviv bourse looking to boost liquidity; Morocco's central bank holds rate

Europe: Crédit Agricole sees Q4 profit hit; UniCredit exits Pekao; BBVA eyes job cuts

Latin America: Argentina's Q3 GDP down 1.7%; BICE may shift to development banking

North America: Bank deals in Maine, Texas; firms settle GSE bond rigging case for $250M

Global Insurance: New York Life/Cigna deal progress; Voya divestment; new AIG president

R Sio, Sally Wang, Sarun Saelee, Cathy Hwang, Emi White and Aditya Suharmoko contributed to this report.

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