* The European Commission approved new rules to lower the capital requirements for insurance companies' investments in equity and private debt, as well as providing long-term capital financing. The changes will be subject to a three-month review period by the European Parliament and Council.
* The European Union will give the U.K. the option to unilaterally exit the bloc's customs union while maintaining the other elements of the proposed Irish border backstop, EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said.
* British lender Standard Chartered PLC and Swiss banking giant UBS Group AG agreed to settle alleged market misconduct related to the 2009 IPO of a now-defunct Chinese forestry firm in Hong Kong, Reuters reported, citing a counsel for the Hong Kong's Securities and Futures Commission.
UK AND IRELAND
* U.K. challenger banks OneSavings Bank PLC and Charter Court Financial Services Group PLC confirmed they are in advanced talks on a potential all-share merger. The combined group is expected to have a market capitalization of roughly £1.6 billion, the Financial Times noted.
* The Bank of England's Prudential Regulation Authority ordered several British banks to boost their stock of liquid assets ahead of Brexit to enable them to cope with the market meltdown expected to happen if the U.K. fails to reach a withdrawal deal with the EU, insiders told the Financial Times.
* U.S.-based Mastercard Inc. said its offer window to acquire U.K. payment processing company Earthport PLC has lapsed March 8, placing rival Visa Inc. in pole position to purchase the firm.
* The BoE directed Visa unit Visa Europe Ltd. to implement all the remediation actions recommended by an external party review over a June 2018 service outage and appoint audit firm PwC to assess its progress in implementing them.
* U.K.-based Non-Standard Finance PLC CEO John van Kuffeler told Reuters he remained confident that the subprime lender will succeed with its proposed £1.3 billion offer to acquire rival Provident Financial PLC, but declined to comment on whether the value of the bid will be increased. Meanwhile, the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority has warned Non-Standard Finance over its plans to potentially restructure Provident Financial should a deal be completed, according to The Times.
* British asset manager Hermes Investment Management Ltd. launched new offices in Germany and Denmark ahead of the U.K.'s impending departure from the EU, the Financial News reported. The launch comes after the firm established a subsidiary in Ireland in January as its main EU base.
GERMANY, SWITZERLAND AND AUSTRIA
* The German government's concerns about the health of Deutsche Bank AG drove it to push for a merger with local peer Commerzbank AG despite the risk of a multi-billion-euro financial shortfall, Reuters wrote, citing a German official. Deutsche Bank CEO Christian Sewing reportedly abandoned his strong opposition to the tie-up amid continued low interest rates and shareholder pressure over the bank's performance, according to the Financial Times.
* Amid intense speculation about the potential Deutsche-Commerzbank tie-up, the supervisory boards of the lenders had not given a mandate to their chief executives to hold talks about the move, Handelsblatt wrote, contradicting earlier media reports. The likelihood of a merger is nevertheless growing due to continuing political pressure and the fact that Deutsche Bank's executive board has given the go-ahead for discussions with Commerzbank, the report added.
* Three former Credit Suisse Group AG bankers facing fraud and money laundering charges over $2 billion debt deals for three state-owned firms in Mozambique in 2013 will fight extradition to the U.S., The Wall Street Journal reported.
* German payments processing firm Wirecard AG expects the final report on a probe into alleged fraud at its Singapore office to be presented soon, an insider told Bloomberg News.
* ERGO Group AG unit ERGO International AG has agreed to sell its life and non-life subsidiaries in Romania and the Czech Republic and its non-life company in Belarus to the Euroins Insurance Group AD, a subsidiary of Eurohold Bulgaria AD, Börsen-Zeitung reported, citing a company statement. Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.
* Germany's justice and finance ministries have announced plans to set up a government-run electronic register that would boost the use of blockchain technology and other electronic instruments, Reuters reported. The register, which would regulate the sector and protect investors, would initially apply only to electronic bonds but would deal with digital stocks in a subsequent step.
FRANCE AND BENELUX
* France's BNP Paribas SA and Société Générale SA both suffered from IT outages last week, a topic at the center of European regulators' focus, according to Les Echos.
* Bank of France Governor François Villeroy de Galhau told French radio BFM Business that the country's financial stability council is considering whether banks should set aside more capital due to the accelerating rise in French credit growth, Reuters wrote.
SPAIN AND PORTUGAL
* Spain's stock market regulator, the Comisión Nacional del Mercado de Valores, detected "irregular practices" in relation to Banco Popular Español's 2016 accounts, purportedly carried out by a number of top managers including former President Ángel Ron and former CEOs Pedro Larena, Roberto Higuera and Francisco Gómez, Expansión reported. The alleged discrepancies included a series of accounting adjustments in excess of €209 million that actually amounted to €387 million.
* Mapfre SA Chairman and CEO Antonio Huertas said the Spanish insurer expects to achieve revenues of €30 billion in 2021, with an average annual increase of 5% in premiums and a payout of between 50% and 65% of its profits, Expansión wrote. Under its new 2019-2021 strategic plan, the company expects a return on equity equal to 10%. It also plans to strengthen its life business segment with an 8% average annual increase "at constant rates" in premiums, an average combined ratio in the three-year period of 96% and a solvency ratio of 200%.
* The hearings of the new commission inquiry into Caixa Geral de Depósitos SA, set to start today, have been postponed for a week, as Portugal's parliament did not have time to analyze all the documents, some of which were delivered in the last minute, Jornal de Negócios reported.
* Rui Rio, leader of Portugal's Social Democratic Party, criticized the government's capital injections to Novo Banco SA, claiming that despite being granted as a loan, the funds are very unlikely to be returned, and that if it is to be recovered, it will be in 30 or 40 years from now, Jornal de Negócios wrote.
ITALY AND GREECE
* The controlling investor in Banca IFIS SpA, the La Scogliera holding company owned by the Fürstenberg family, has decided not to renew the mandate of CEO Giovanni Bossi, who has held the post for 24 years, according to Il Sole 24 Ore. The move appears tied to the family's desire for Ernst Fürstenberg, son of Banca IFIS founder and chairman Sebastien Egon Fürstenberg, to have a seat on the lender's board, La Repubblica wrote.
* Banca del Fucino SpA shareholders, including Igea Banca SpA, have cleared plans for a €200 million capital increase, Il Sole 24 Ore reported. Of the amount, €150 million has already been carried out while the remaining €50 million in capital will be injected in three tranches over the next three years.
* Italian insurer Società Cattolica di Assicurazione -Società Cooperativa reported full-year 2018 consolidated profit attributable to the group of €107 million, up from €41 million in the same period a year ago.
*Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is being probed for alleged corruption in a case related to a stake his holding company Fininvest has in Banca Mediolanum SpA, a judicial source told Reuters.
* Swedbank AB (publ) is facing investor scrutiny to disclose more about what it knew about the money laundering allegations linked to Denmark's Danske Bank A/S that the Swedish lender finds itself in, Reuters reported.
* Members of Swedbank's board of directors are on course to receive an average rise in their financial remuneration of 5% at the lender's annual general meeting March 28, Sydsvenskan wrote.
* Nordea Asset Management is partnering private equity veteran Jan Ståhlberg to establish a so-called "impact investment" fund that will target non-listed companies with strong sustainable development targets. Nordea plans to invest up to €500 million in the new fund, according to Affärsvärlden.
* Gjensidige Forsikring ASA's online service platforms experienced a serious disruption on March 8, impacting customers in Norway, Denmark, Sweden and the Baltic states. Around 900,000 customers were affected in Norway alone by the technical interruption, e24.no noted.
* Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority Director General Erik Thedéen said the Scandinavian country's decision to be part of Europe's Banking Union should be determined on whether it joins the eurozone or not.
* Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipilä stepped down last Friday over the collapse of a key healthcare reform, just one month before general elections.
* National Bank Trust PJSC, Russia's bad bank, finalized the merger with JSC Avtovazbank, taken over by the Russian central bank in December 2017 together with its parent PAO Promsvyazbank, news agency RBC reported, citing Trust's head Alexander Sokolov. The merger also includes the transfer of 340 billion Russian rubles worth of problem assets to Trust, the newswire noted.
* Almost 13% shares of Russian financial group Budushchee changed hands via recent transactions on the Moscow Exchange, with National Bank Trust being the likely seller, Kommersant reported, noting that Budushchee's majority shareholder could be preparing the repurchase of the company's shares from the remaining minority shareholders.
* The Bulgarian central bank nominated the country's deposit insurance fund's Chairman Radoslav Milenkov as replacement for Dimitar Kostov, who recently resigned as deputy governor in charge of banking supervision, Reuters wrote. The Bulgarian parliament is expected to vote on the nomination of the new deputy governor within the next two weeks.
* MBank SA unit mLeasing mLeasing Sp. z o.o. finalized the acquisition of a 100% stake in leasing fintech LeaseLink Sp. z o.o., with the value of the transaction amounting to almost 32 million Polish zlotys, Rzeczpospolita reported. A merger of the two companies is currently not planned, and the LeaseLink brand will remain on the market following the acquisition.
IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD
Asia-Pacific: China may let shadow banks resume ops; Westpac, CBA face customer complaints
Middle East & Africa: Isracard IPO gains steam; no tax hike in Saudi Arabia; Amen Bank gets new chair
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Deza Mones, Ed Meza, Danielle Rossingh, Gerard O'Dwyer, Beata Fojcik, Heather O'Brian, Stephanie Salti, Praxilla Trabattoni and Mariana Aldano contributed to this report.
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