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QBE to divest LatAm ops; Indonesian president nominates new central bank chief

GREATER CHINA

* The China Insurance Regulatory Commission said three local insurers — Ping An Insurance (Group) Co. of China Ltd., New China Life Insurance Co. Ltd. and China Re Asset Management Co. — have violated regulations on overseas investments and gave the companies a month to comply with the guidelines, Reuters reported, citing three separate statements. The move follows the seizure of Anbang Insurance Group Co. Ltd. as it "broke insurance laws" and in turn damaged its solvency.

* The China Banking Regulatory Commission has revised its rules for foreign lenders, removing approval procedures in four areas including overseas wealth management products and portfolio investment funds, Xinhua News Agency reported, citing a regulatory statement. The commission has also simplified procedures for setting up new branches, naming executives and issuing bonds. The changes took effect Feb. 13.

* Liu He, an economist who serves as Chinese President Xi Jinping's top adviser on economic policy, emerged as the leading candidate to head the People's Bank of China, Reuters reported, citing "three sources with knowledge of the situation." Liu would replace incumbent Governor Zhou Xiaochuan, who is expected to retire in March after holding the post since 2002. Liu is also expected to become China's vice premier overseeing the economy and head of the cabinet-level Financial Stability and Development Committee.

* Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing Ltd. is looking to ease rules for U.S.- and U.K.-listed Chinese and other international companies to consider a secondary listing in Hong Kong. The plans are part of proposed rules to expand Hong Kong's listing regime to facilitate listings of "emerging and innovative" companies. Public feedback to the proposals will end March 23.

JAPAN AND KOREA

* The Bank of Korea is expected to keep its key rates unchanged at 1.5% on Feb. 27, Yonhap News Agency reported. This will be the last rate-setting decision of a monetary policy committee meeting under Governor Lee Ju-yeol, whose term will end in March.

* According to data from South Korea's Financial Supervisory Service, 76, or 35.5%, of 214 asset management companies in the country registered net losses in 2017, Yonhap News Agency reported.

* Woori Bank said in a Feb. 23 bourse release that it is considering transitioning into a holding company for management efficiency and business diversification reasons, Yonhap News Agency reported.

* South Korea's seven financial holding companies have raised a total of 1.5 trillion won from bonds since Jan. 1, in anticipation of higher funding costs on rising interest rates, The Financial News reported.

ASEAN

* Indonesian President Joko Widodo nominated Perry Warjiyo to become the next governor of Bank Indonesia, Reuters reported, citing a confirmation from a senior adviser to the vice president. Warjiyo, who serves as deputy governor of the central bank, will replace Agus Martowardojo, whose five-year term ends in May.

* PT Bank Maybank Indonesia Tbk posted a net profit after tax of 1.8 trillion rupiah in 2017, 5.26% lower than 1.9 trillion rupiah in the year-ago period, Bisnis Indonesia reported.

* The State Bank of Vietnam urged credit institutions to restrict their lending to real estate and construction sectors in a bid to control bad debts, Viet Nam News reported, citing a document from the central bank. The institutions were also told to continuously review the progress of real estate projects and their developers' financial condition and to come up with measures to handle defaults.

* Joint Stock Commercial Bank for Foreign Trade of Vietnam, or Vietcombank, plans to sell more than 350 million shares, or a 10% stake, to overseas investors in the first half, The Nikkei reported, citing Chairman Nghiem Xuan Thanh. The proposed private equity placement had been approved by relevant authorities, the chairman noted.

SOUTH ASIA

* The Reserve Bank of India ordered lenders to link their internal software with the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication's interbank messaging system by the end of April, and to make changes to a range of other protocols with immediate effect, Reuters reported. This comes on the heels of a US$1.77 billion fraud discovered at Punjab National Bank.

* The Securities and Exchange Board of India told HDFC Bank Ltd. to strengthen its systems and controls to prevent any leakage of unpublished price-sensitive information, following a 2017 report about prescient messages on company earnings being posted in WhatsApp groups. HDFC Bank was also ordered to submit a report on its existing systems and controls and the details of the entities responsible for overseeing such systems.

* Indian e-payments and e-commerce company Paytm is rolling out a credit-scoring product called Paytm Score on its platform, which is based on customer transactions and behavior, The Economic Times reported, citing "people aware of the matter." Paytm has started tapping a number of digital lenders and nonbanking financial companies with the product, according to one of the sources.

* The Financial Action Task Force, a global money-laundering watchdog, decided to put Pakistan back on its terrorist financing watchlist in June as part of a broader U.S. strategy to pressure the country to cut alleged ties with Islamist militants, Reuters reported, citing a Pakistani government official and a diplomat. The move follows reports that the country had been given a three-month reprieve before being included on the list, which analysts say could interfere with banking and foreign investment.

AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND

* Australia's QBE Insurance Group Ltd. will divest its operations in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Mexico to Switzerland-based Zurich Insurance Group AG for US$409 million, as it posted a statutory net loss after tax of US$1.25 billion for 2017, compared with a net profit after tax of US$844 million in 2016. QBE will retain its Puerto Rico operations to facilitate the servicing of claims resulting from Hurricane Maria.

* Australia-based financial services company AMP Ltd. is said to be fielding approaches from Hong Kong's AIA Group Ltd. and U.S.-based American International Group Inc. about acquiring at least A$5 billion of assets, which comprise AMP's life insurance, wealth management and New Zealand operations, The Australian reported. The two overseas groups have been mentioned as potential buyers of AMP's life business, but their interest has reportedly spread to all assets up for sale.

* New Zealand's CBL Corp. Ltd. appointed voluntary administrators to prevent other authorities from taking action after unit CBL Insurance Ltd. was placed into interim liquidation by the country's High Court, The New Zealand Herald reported, citing Managing Director Peter Harris. The move means that "everything from here on operates under a protective umbrella of voluntary administration," Harris said.

R Sio, Sally Wang, Jonathan Cheah, Jaekwon Lim and Santibhap Ussavasodhi contributed to this report.

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