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Nomura eyes China retail brokerage biz, to boost US ops; Sri Lanka holds rates

Editor's note: This feature will not be published Jan. 1, 2018. The next feature will be published Jan. 2, 2018.

GREATER CHINA

* The China Banking Regulatory Commission issued draft measures to "standardize market access" for foreign lenders and to cut red tape in the industry, Reuters reported, citing a statement from the regulator. The amended measures will also put in place procedures that will provide a clear legal basis for foreign-funded banks' equity investments in China's financial institutions. The move follows an announcement in November that China will lift foreign ownership limits in financial companies.

* Ping An Insurance (Group) Co. of China Ltd. and China Life Insurance (Group) Co. invested about 30 billion yuan in purchasing shares in seven listed companies in 2017, Securities Daily reported. Meanwhile, Ping An Life Insurance Co. of China Ltd. and Minsheng Life Insurance Co. Ltd. spent 10.5 billion yuan investing in stocks of two unlisted companies during the year.

* Thirty-three insurance companies on China's National Equities Exchange and Quotation, also known as the "new third board," have raised a total fund of 435 million yuan in 2017, more than 6x the amount raised in 2016, the Securities Daily reported.

JAPAN AND KOREA

* Nomura Holdings Inc. plans to set up a retail brokerage business in China and is open to making acquisitions in the U.S. to bolster its investment banking operations there, Reuters and Bloomberg News reported, citing CEO Koji Nagai.

* Kinki Osaka Bank Ltd. and Kansai Urban Banking Corp. will begin consolidating their branches in 2018 as part of a wider merger plan, The Nikkei reported, citing Tetsuya Kan, president of Kansai Mirai Financial Group Inc. which will become the banks' holding company. The move is aimed at expediting the group's transition into new management.

* Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Co. Ltd. will substitute 90% of work handled by its sales force with artificial intelligence from 2018, The Nikkei reported. The company said this will reduce company-wide human workload by 20%.

* South Korea's Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that cancelled 38.3 billion South Korean won out of a 103.1 billion won tax assessment on dividends paid to Lone Star Investment Advisors LLC by Korea Exchange Bank, now known as KEB Hana Bank, The Chosun Ilbo reported. U.S.-based Loan Star Funds owned a majority stake in Korea Exchange Bank prior to its sale to Hana Financial Group Inc.

* South Korea's Financial Services Commission nominated Lee Jung-hwan, former CEO of the Korea Exchange Inc., as CEO of Korea Housing Finance Corp., the Maeil Business Newspaper reported.

* Bank of Korea plans to continue its expansionary monetary policy in 2018 amid low inflationary pressure, Yonhap News Agency reported, citing a report on the central bank's annual monetary strategy for 2018.

ASEAN

* Thailand's Ministry of Finance, the Bank of Thailand, the Securities and Exchange Commission of Thailand, the Anti-Money Laundering Office and related agencies are discussing ways to publicize and educate people regarding the risks of investing in bitcoin, Manager Daily reported.

* Thailand's Fiscal Policy Office is confident that the country's economic growth in 2017 will stand at 3.8%, as expected, thanks to the performance of the export sector and the tourism sector, Daily News reported.

* The Indonesian government plans to form three large-scale Shariah banks, with discussions expected to begin January 2018, Bisnis Indonesia reported, citing an official from the Ministry of State Owned Enterprises. One of the banks will result from the merger of PT Bank BNI Syariah and the Shariah business of PT Bank Tabungan Negara (Persero) Tbk, while the other two will be formed by having PT Bank BRISyariah and PT Bank Syariah Mandiri (Perseroan Terbatas) partner with foreign companies. The banks will have a core capital of at least 5 trillion Indonesian rupiah, Bisnis Indonesia separately reported.

* Bank Tabungan Negara appointed Dasuki Amsir as managing director of distribution and network, Bisnis Indonesia reported.

* Canada's Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. completed the sale of a 97.7% stake in Singapore-based First Capital Insurance Ltd. to Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Co. Ltd., a unit of Japan's MS&AD Insurance Group Holdings Inc., for US$1.6 billion in cash. The companies had already received all necessary regulatory approvals for the deal.

SOUTH ASIA

* The Central Bank of Sri Lanka maintained its policy interest rates, amid expectations that inflation will return to the "desired" level toward the end of first quarter of 2018. The standing deposit facility rate remained unchanged at 7.25% and the standing lending facility rate at 8.75%. The central bank also kept the statutory reserve ratio unchanged at 7.50%.

* Bank of Baroda will acquire UniCredit SpA's entire 51% equity stake in their joint ventures Baroda Pioneer Asset Management Co. Ltd. and Baroda Pioneer Trustee Co. Pvt. Ltd. The deal is subject to regulatory approvals.

* Indian Overseas Bank is looking to sell 6 billion rupees worth of exposure in troubled Bhushan Steel Ltd., Mint reported, citing two people aware of the development. Axis Bank Ltd., Punjab National Bank (International) Ltd. and Assets Care and Reconstruction Enterprise Ltd. are the forerunners for the debt purchase, the publication noted.

* Equity issuance in India in 2018 will likely surpass the 1.95 trillion rupees of issuance recorded for 2017, thanks to a booming stock market, Mint reported, citing V. Jayasankar, head of equity capital markets at the investment banking unit of Kotak Mahindra Bank Ltd.

* ORIX Leasing Pakistan Ltd. agreed to sell 30,392,901 shares in Oman ORIX Leasing Co. SAOG to National Finance Co. SAOG for a cash payment of 1.2x the book value per share of Oman ORIX Leasing as of Dec. 31. The sale is part of Oman ORIX Leasing's planned merger with National Finance Co.

AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND

* QBE Insurance Group Ltd. agreed to pay A$132.5 million to settle a class-action lawsuit over its share price collapse in 2013. The insurer said it will pay the amount in full, which includes interest and the applicant's cost. The settlement does not indicate an admission of liability by QBE Insurance and is subject to court approval.

* The Australian government will consider if there is a need for a last-resort compensation for victims of bad financial advice in its banking royal commission, following the release of an independent report suggesting a "limited and carefully targeted" compensation scheme, The Australian Financial Review reported.

* Tranwall Ltd., a Perth, Australia-based fintech company, inked a nonexclusive reseller agreement with Beijing-based Union Mobile Financial Technology Co. Ltd. to reach out to clients in China, ATM Marketplace reported. Tranwall allows customers to manage their card and account transactions via multiple channels in real time, the report added.

IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD

Middle East & Africa: Sasfin Holdings names finance chief; Israel Discount Bank reinstates dividends

Europe: Barclays tax hit; Goldman denies Dublin rumor; German insurers' €2B nat-cat cost

Latin America: Cade recommends approval of Itaú-XP deal; Argentina passes tax reform

North America: FINRA fines JP Morgan Securities $2.8M; Atlantic Capital selling trust biz

North America Insurance: Aegon to reinsure US life block; activist investor opposes Humana/Kindred deal

Janna Estares, Sally Wang, Jonathan Cheah, Jaekwon Lim and Santibhap Ussavasodhi contributed to this report.

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