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Anbang sells 35% stake in local bank; Bandhan Bank gets nod to open 40 branches

GREATER CHINA

* Government-controlled Chinese insurer Anbang Insurance Group Co. Ltd. off-loaded a 35% stake in Chengdu Rural Commercial Bank Co. Ltd. for US$2.4 billion, the Financial Times reported, citing a Chinese filing.

* The Melbourne branch of China's Bank of Communications Co. Ltd. has commenced operations in the Australian city, marking the lender’s third branch in the country and its 22nd overseas outlet, Caijing reported.

* Fubon Financial Holding Co. Ltd. posted a net income of NT$620 million for November, down 83% year over year, the Taipei Times reported. Fubon Life Insurance Co. Ltd., meanwhile, reported a net loss of NT$1.05 billion for November, compared with a net income of NT$1.43 billion a year earlier, due to lower investment gains and a stronger New Taiwan dollar against the U.S. dollar.

JAPAN AND KOREA

* The Second Association of Regional Banks appointed Bank of Nagoya Ltd.'s Ichiro Fujiwara its new chairman, who will take over the role from Toshiyuki Kumagai, head of Keiyo Bank Ltd., Tokyo's The Nikkei reported. Fujiwara's term starts in June 2019.

* Orient Corp. is looking to raise ¥5 billion through an issuance of green bonds in January 2019, The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun reported.

* Moreover, Orient is looking to boost its overseas auto loan business in China, Indonesia, the Philippines and Cambodia, The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun reported separately. The company is eyeing M&A and joint venture opportunities in the region. Currently, the firm operates an overseas auto loan business in Thailand.

* South Korea's KEB Hana Bank signed a memorandum of understanding with Western Union Co.'s Seoul office to boost cooperation between the two companies in mobile settlements and foreign currency remittances, the Hankook Ilbo reported, citing the bank.

ASEAN

* Thailand's Kasikornbank PCL and LINE Financial Asia are collaborating to establish Kasikorn Line Co. Ltd. with 4.99 million baht of registered capital to support personal and retail lending, offer financial services, and sell insurance and funds on an open-architecture platform, Krungthep Turakij reported.

* CIMB Thai Bank PCL's research unit has forecast the Thai economy to grow 4% in 2018 and 3.7% in 2019, Manager Daily reported. The research office also expects the Thai central bank's monetary policy committee to raise the policy rate to 2% by the end of 2019.

* Bank Indonesia expects the share of the domestic Shariah financial market to reach 20% of total financial assets nationwide in the next five years, Bisnis Indonesia reported, citing Governor Perry Warjiyo. The Shariah financial market currently accounts for 8% of total financial assets in the country, Warjiyo noted.

SOUTH ASIA

* Bandhan Bank Ltd. secured approval from the Reserve Bank of India to open up to 40 more branches, The Economic Times reported. Previously, the regulator placed a restriction on the bank's branch opening spree in September.

* Meanwhile, Bandhan Bank executives, including retail banking head Rahul Johri and MFI lending chief Prasanta Kumar Sahu, have left the bank to form their own microfinance venture, The Economic Times reported. The executives and Sumit Sharma, former head of human resources at Jana Small Finance Bank Ltd., are seeking approval from the Reserve Bank of India for their new initiative.

* Mahindra & Mahindra Financial Services Ltd. is looking to raise 10.56 billion Indian rupees through an allotment of secured redeemable nonconvertible debentures. The company will raise funds by issuing secured redeemable bonds in two tranches.

* Fitch Ratings said the resignation of Urjit Patel as Reserve Bank of India governor highlights risks to the central bank's policy priorities. The rating agency noted that the regulator's effort to tackle bad loan problems could revamp banking-sector health. However, increased government influence on the central bank could undermine efforts to address such issues.

AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND

* Omnio Group, a banking and payment services provider, appointed Keith Richbell chairman to lead its operations in Australia, Finextra reported.

* AUB Group Ltd. appointed David Franks and Allan Luu company secretaries, effective Dec. 21. The appointment follows the upcoming departure of company secretaries Justin Coss and Howard Edelman, effective Dec. 21 and 31, respectively.

* New Zealand-based Smartpay Holdings Ltd. appointed Carlos Gil and Bill Pulver nonexecutive directors.

* Law enforcement authorities in New South Wales, Australia raided the residence of Rosemary Rogers, a former chief of staff to National Australia Bank Ltd. CEO Andrew Thorburn, amid an ongoing investigation into possible kickbacks received in connection with A$110 million worth of company-sponsored trips, The Australian reported. The authorities confiscated files and computers from her home, the publication noted.

IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD

Middle East & Africa: Doha Bank to cut exposure to construction firms; Ghana halts 2 banks' merger

Europe: UK's May faces no-confidence vote; French banks move to appease protesters

Latin America: Fitch ups Paraguay outlook; US probes Grupo Aval over road project

North America: Morgan Stanley to lead Uber's 2019 IPO; Berkshire Hills, SI Financial ink deal

Global Insurance: US-UK covered agreement; AIG returns to CLOs; Federal Life completes conversion

R Sio, Sally Wang, Sarun Saelee, Cathy Hwang, Emi White and Aditya Suharmoko contributed to this report.

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