* ECB President Mario Draghi informed EU leaders that companies in the private sector need to step up their preparations for a potential no-deal Brexit, an EU source told Reuters.
UK AND IRELAND
* Pressure mounted on U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May to step down as thousands of people took to the streets of London on March 23 to call for a second Brexit referendum amid a worsening political crisis over Britain's departure from the EU. Additionally, May hinted she may not bring her Brexit deal back to Parliament if it looks doomed to fail, while one of her Cabinet ministers said the government will allow lawmakers to hold a series of indicative votes on other Brexit options.
* Barclays PLC and Standard Life are poised to transfer approximately €200 billion in assets to Ireland as part of their Brexit preparations, the Irish Independent reported. The British lender is transferring assets of €190 billion to its Barclays Bank Ireland PLC unit, while Standard Life Assurance obtained court approval to transfer some €19 billion in assets to its Irish arm.
* Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC is seeking to wind down a £1 billion loans portfolio held by local councils across the U.K. by the end of the year, The Guardian reported. The controversial loans have been criticized by British activists over high repayments that have led cash being diverted from council services.
* Meanwhile, RBS is facing investor scrutiny over corporate governance at the bank, the Financial Times reported. Shareholder rights group are pushing for the formation of a committee that would regularly meet with the lender's board over matters such as executive pay.
* SaintMichelCo Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Epiris Funds, agreed to acquire the entire issued and to be issued share capital of U.K.-based asset management firm IFG Group PLC for about £206 million.
* Lloyd's of London is scheduled to hold an emergency meeting of its senior executives and underwriters to discuss how to make it easier for employees to flag and file complaints against inappropriate behavior in the company, sources told The Times. The move comes after claims of entrenched "laddish" culture at the marketplace. Meanwhile, Lloyd's said its chief risk officer, Hilary Weaver, will leave at the end of March.
* The European Commission approved Marsh & McLennan Cos. Inc.'s pending acquisition of Jardine Lloyd Thompson Group PLC.
* London-based alternative investment manager Trium Capital has applied to establish a management company in Dublin to retain access to the European market in the event of a no-deal Brexit, according to The Irish Times.
GERMANY, SWITZERLAND AND AUSTRIA
* Deutsche Bank AG CEO Christian Sewing expressed thinly veiled skepticism towards the idea of a possible merger with German peer Commerzbank AG at a recent supervisory board meeting Börsen-Zeitung reported, without citing specific sources.
* Deutsche Bank's investment banking unit and its U.S. operations are understood to be the center of the formal discussions with Commerzbank regarding a potential merger, insiders told The Wall Street Journal. Commerzbank wants a clear picture of Deutsche's willingness to overhaul its investment bank, a source said. Commerzbank CEO Martin Zielke told employees a quick decision on a merger would be made, according to a memo seen by Reuters.
* Deutsche Bank awarded CEO Christian Sewing total compensation of €7 million for 2018, compared to the €2.9 million he earned a year earlier, when he was heading the group's retail banking operations. Meanwhile, Deutsche's investment banking head, Garth Ritchie was paid €8.6 million, including €250,000 a month extra to oversee the bank's plans for Brexit, according to the Financial Times.
* Chinese conglomerate HNA Group has further reduced its stake in Deutsche Bank to 5.11%, the Financial Times reported, citing a regulatory statement. HNA Group now owns just 0.19% of the German bank, with the rest of the stake covered by derivatives that will unwind over time.
* Deutsche Bank extended Wirecard AG founder and CEO Markus Braun a €150 million loan, with the German lender accepting almost half of Braun's shares in the embattled payments processing firm as collateral, insiders told the Financial Times. The so-called margin loan, which was disclosed in December 2017, allows customers access to cash without selling their shares.
* A lack of investigators could mean that many parties suspected of taking part in dividend-stripping could get away without punishment due to the statute of limitations, according to the Süddeutsche Zeitung. Only 15 tax investigators and a handful of detectives in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia are involved in the complex case, which has enveloped bankers, stock traders and investment fund managers accused of illicitly earning billions in tax refunds.
* Volksbank Oberberg eG and VR-Bank Rhein-Sieg eG have canceled a planned merger scheduled for 2020, Börsen-Zeitung reported. The move, which the lenders had been planning since 2017, would have placed the group in the top ranks of Germany's cooperative banks.
* An employee of Pictet & Cie Group SCA is facing a criminal investigation in Geneva after allegedly embezzling funds in the low single-digit millions of Swiss francs from the private bank, finews.com reported. The employee is suspected of siphoning money from the bank for almost a year, insiders told the financial news site.
FRANCE AND BENELUX
* U.S. hedge fund manager BlackRock Inc. entered into an exclusive agreement to acquire all of the equity interests in Paris-based eFront SA, which provides software solutions to the financial industry primarily in France, from private equity firm Bridgepoint Advisers Ltd. and eFront employees for $1.3 billion in cash.
* Belgian bank ING België NV has been implicated in a large money laundering scandal, De Tijd reported. For three years, over €1.7 billion was channeled through ING accounts by Lithuanian bank Ukio Bankas. It recently emerged that the Italian operations of Netherlands-based ING Groep NV were being investigated for money laundering.
SPAIN AND PORTUGAL
* Madrid-based Bankia SA shareholders agreed to raise the bank's dividend by 5% to €357 million, or 11.576 euro cents per share.
* Lisbon-based Haitong Bank SA announced the sale of its Irish subsidiary, Haitong Investment Ireland, as part of its restructuring strategy, Jornal de Negócios reported.
* The government of Venezuela is taking Novo Banco SA to court after the Portuguese bank blocked accounts on suspicions of money laundering. A total of €1.5 billion from the public bank Bandes and three oil companies have been held since February, Jornal Económico wrote.
* The Spanish Ministry of Economy will convene the first meeting of Amcesfi, a new macroprudential authority established to try to prevent economic crises and mitigate systemic risk, in April, reported Europa Press.
ITALY AND GREECE
* Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told reporters the country is considering claiming compensation from the European Commission over the strict interpretation it gave to banking rules in the bloc, Reuters wrote. The move comes after the EU's general court annulled the Commission's decision to block a 2014 rescue of small Italian lender Banca Tercas SpA. Italian banks argue that subsequent bank rescues were more expensive because of the Commission's decision.
* Italy-based Cassa depositi e prestiti SpA plans to issue "Panda bonds" worth 5 billion renminbi and will create a co-financing program for Italian groups active in China worth 4 billion renminbi as part of a partnership deal with Bank of China, said Reuters. Meanwhile Intesa Sanpaolo SpA signed a memorandum of understanding with the Chinese city of Qingdao to develop wealth management services for local clients through wholly owned company Yi Tsai, reported Reuters.
* BlackRock, Varde and Apollo are studying the possibility of making binding offers for Italian bank Banca Carige SpA, said La Repubblica, noting that they are interested in the opportunity to sell off the bank's bad loans.
* The Norwegian Financial Supervisory Authority disclosed in its annual report that it has probed several banks operating in the country that made inadequate anti-money laundering risk assessments in 2018, Reuters wrote.
* Norway-based DNB ASA has decided to withdraw from the Nordic banking cooperation P27, a project which aims to find better payment solutions across the Nordic currencies, E24 reported.
* Danish bank Københavns Andelskasse retained a Swedish customer despite knowing that it was charged in a $250 million money laundering case by the U.S. authorities, Børsen reported. The customer, Monark Finance AB, triggered 16 money laundering warnings, but the bank did not report this until after the Danish financial regulator Finanstilsynet had reported the bank to the police in the autumn of 2018.
* S&P Global Ratings raised Croatia's sovereign credit ratings to investment grade, citing the country's improving fiscal metrics, including declining government debt.
* Fitch Ratings revised the outlook on Bulgaria's long-term foreign-currency issuer default rating to positive from stable while affirming the BBB rating, citing an improvement in the country's external finance metrics.
* The Bulgarian central bank named Radoslav Milenkov deputy governor for a six-year term of office. Milenkov will be responsible of the banking supervision department.
* Turkey's Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency launched a probe into U.S. bank JPMorgan Chase & Co. and another separate investigation into unnamed banks, saying the lenders drove a sharp fall in the lira, Bloomberg News reported. It said a JPMorgan research note recommending people sell the lira had "misguiding and manipulative" content.
* Finvision Holdings, through which Russian businessman Artem Avetisyan owns his minority stake in Russia-based Public Stock Co. Orient Express Bank, asked a local arbitration court to freeze a 9.99% stake in the lender owned by its majority shareholder Baring Vostok Capital Partners Ltd. as part of an ongoing call option dispute, news agency Prime reported. Finvision Holdings also asked the court to prohibit Orient Express Bank's management from making any decision with regard to an additional share issue planned at the bank. Meanwhile, Baring Vostok said it still plans to go ahead with the additional share issuance at Orient Express, which is aimed at boosting the lender's capital as part of its recovery plan and has already been agreed upon by the Russian central bank.
* Bulgaria-based Doverie United Holding AD completed the settlement for the acquisition of a 63.89% stake in Moldovan lender BC Moldindconbank SA, SEENews reported. The new owner now plans to focus on modernizing the Moldovan bank and strengthening its market position.
* Growth in the Russian leasing sector is expected to slow down further in 2019 due to the current macroeconomic conditions and the situation in the main segments of the sector, Kommersant said, citing analysts from Russian credit ratings agency Expert RA.
IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD
Asia-Pacific: China Pacific Insurance FY'18 profit up; Karnataka Bank reports fraud
Middle East & Africa: UAE's ADFG, Shuaa in merger talks; Angola recoups assets; Tunisia holds key rate
Latin America: Argentina's GDP shrinks in Q4; Caixa targets Petrobras stake sale in May
NOW FEATURED ON S&P GLOBAL MARKET INTELLIGENCE
Italian securitization wave may have peaked, but GACS remains a helpful tool: Italy's government is planning to renew the guarantee system that has already helped the country's banks to shed €62 billion in toxic debt, but analysts have said it is unlikely that the securitization of soured loans will exceed the record levels of 2018.
Central bank digital currencies: good in theory, less so in practice, says BIS: Central banks across the world are toying with the idea of issuing their own digital currencies as the use of paper money declines. But in practice, few see the value of venturing into such uncharted territory, according to a senior official from the Bank for International Settlements.
Ben Meggeson, Ed Meza, Meike Wijers, Esben Svendsen, Beata Fojcik, Heather O'Brian, Brian McCulloch, Sophie Davies and Helen Popper 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.