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Weekly news through April 1

This weekly article offers aselection of our top banking stories published throughout the week.

Lackluster results

MajorChinese banks, including the big four, reported lackluster earnings results forthe 12-month period ended Dec. 31, 2015, as they struggled with declininginterest margins and rising nonperforming loan ratios amid a slowing economy.

Eachof the big four banks — Agricultural Bank of China Ltd., , and ChinaConstruction Bank Corp. — reported a less-than-1% increase in netprofit for 2015. In addition to profit, results of the big four banks revealedsome more interesting commonalities: All of them posted a decline in netinterest margin and a rise in nonperforming loan ratio for 2015.

For2015, net interest margins at Agricultural Bank of China and Bank of Chinadropped to 2.66% and2.12%, respectively,while the two banks' NPL ratios increased to 2.39% and 1.43% from 1.54% and1.18% in the prior-year period. ICBC and China Construction Bank wereno different,reporting netinterest margins of 2.47% and 2.63%, respectively, down from 2.66% and 2.80% asof Dec. 31, 2014. NPL ratios at ICBC and China Construction Bank climbed to1.50% and 1.58%, respectively, from 1.13% and 1.19% as of the end of 2014.

Othernotable Chinese lenders also did not have any surprises in their 2015 results.China Minsheng Banking Corp.Ltd. and ChinaMerchants Bank Co. Ltd. reported 3.51% and year-over-year in net profit for 2015.NPL ratios at ChinaMinsheng Banking and China Merchants Bank increased to 1.60% and 1.68%,respectively, from 1.17% and 1.11% in 2014. Surprisingly, China Merchants Bank's netinterest margin increased to 2.75% in 2015 from 2.64% as of Dec. 31, 2014.

Similarly,China's Bank of CommunicationsCo. Ltd.'s net profit for 2015 inched up 1% year over year to 66.53 billion yuan from65.85 billion yuan in 2014. The group's net interest margin declined by 14basis points to 2.22% and its impaired loan ratio rose to 1.51% from 1.25% in2014.

Deal news

*CTBC Financial Holding Co.Ltd. unit CTBC BankCo. Ltd. agreed to acquire a 35.6% stake in Thailand's for 16.60 billionbaht. The Taiwanese lender separately purchased US$35.6 million of loan assets from

*Australia & New ZealandBanking Group Ltd. pared down its stake in Bank of Tianjin Co. Ltd. to11.9% from 14.2%.

*KB Financial GroupInc. confirmed in a filing that it was as the preferred bidder for theacquisition of a 22.56% stake in Hyundai Securities Co. Ltd.

*State Bank of Indiareportedly plans to merge five of its sponsored rural banks to form oneentity.

The 1MDB saga

Singaporeanregulators reportedly queried Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. andNational Australia BankLtd. in connection with alleged money laundering involvingMalaysian state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd., or 1MDB, opening anotherchapter in the long-running saga.

ANZand NAB were two of the approximately 40 banks in the city-state that wereasked to provide on money flows from entities linked to 1MDB.

The1MDB scandal garnered widespreadattention after a media report in 2015 sparked suspicions overMalaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak's personal gain through the stateinvestment vehicle. The report said a probe in Malaysia found that aboutUS$681 million of funds connected to 1MDB had passed through Singapore to endup in an onshore bank account of Prime Minister Najib Razak in March 2013.

Separately, the U.S. Justice Department JPMorgan Chase & Co., Wells Fargo & Co. and to hold onto — andpossibly turn over — documents from as far back as 2009 as part of its probeinto alleged money laundering through 1MDB. The probe has so far focused onGoldman Sachs Group Inc., which managed bond offerings for 1MDB, and may havebeen aware that the capital being raised was being funneled to personalaccounts.

In other news

*Five Indian public sector lenders — UCO Bank, Central Bank of India, , and — are set toreceive from theIndian government. In addition, Bankof India raised 11.5 billion rupees via the issuance of shares tothe government.

*The Central Bank of SriLanka maintained its key policy rates on the back of continuedeconomic growth and increase in inflation parameters.The standing depositfacility rate and standing lending facility rate were maintained at 6.50% and8.00%, respectively. The statutory reserve ratio was held at 7.50%.

*Moody's loweredoutlook on four Singapore financial institutions — , , and UnitedOverseas Bank Ltd. — to negative from stable.

*Kingfisher Airlines and its promoter Vijay Mallya reportedly to repay 40 billion Indianrupees to a consortium of Indian banks led by State Bank of India.

*Vietnam Prosperity Joint-StockCommercial Bank, or VPBank, is preparing to list shares on the stock market to complywith regulatory rules.

*UBS Group AG isreportedly considering a plan to relinquish its banking license inSouth Korea.

*Malaysia's Public BankBhd. obtained a 100% foreign-owned bank license from theState Bank of Vietnam for its joint venture bank with , or BIDV.

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