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South Korea, Malaysia renew currency swap; Japanese, UK banks end partnership

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South Korea, Malaysia renew currency swap; Japanese, UK banks end partnership

* Bank of Korea and Bank Negara Malaysia renewed their bilateral currency swap agreement for three years. The size of the arrangement was maintained at 5 trillion South Korean won, or 15 billion Malaysian ringgit, the same amount under the initial arrangement in October 2013. The central banks also have the option to extend the swap arrangement.

* Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc. units Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. and SMBC Nikko Securities Inc. will cease cooperation with Barclays Bank Plc in the private banking business targeting rich Japanese individuals, effective April 1. The three companies began working together in July 2010.

* eBullion Inc subsidiary Man Loong Bullion Co. Ltd. has become an official member of the Myanmar Finance Exchange. The membership will allow Hong Kong-based Man Loong Bullion to offer foreign exchange trading services, such as Forex.com and FXCM.com, to individuals and corporate clients in the country.

* Fitch Ratings said ASEAN member states have made gradual, uneven progress toward the integration of the region's banking sector. The agency added that further moves may stay slow and full integration of the financial sector in the region is likely to be a distant goal.

GREATER CHINA

* The People's Bank of China launched six-month and 12-month medium-term lending facility programs for 22 financial institutions at a rate of 2.95% and 3.1%, respectively, 10 basis points higher than the previous operation, the China Business News reported.

* China's banking industry issued 13.25 trillion yuan worth of interbank negotiable certificates of deposits in 2016, 140% more than those issued in 2015, www.ce.cn reported.

* Despite recent layoffs across Asia, investment banks are hiring staff with Chinese language skills and relevant financial expertise to help lenders in China offset effects of a financial crisis, Bloomberg News reported. The difficulty in finding qualified bankers is also forcing companies to "re-tool" their existing staff with training, global headhunting company Sheffield Haworth noted.

* Taiwan's Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics said the island's economy grew 2.58% in the fourth quarter of 2016, raising its GDP growth to 1.4% for the year, as external demand and private investment recovered at a mild but stable pace, the Taipei Times reported.

JAPAN AND KOREA

* Large Japanese commercial banks are beginning to surpass online banks in the number of customers banking through smartphone applications, The Asahi Shimbun reported.

* SBI Sumishin Net Bank Ltd. opened its first offline branch in Tokyo to sell mortgage loans, The Nikkei reported.

* Nomura Securities Co. Ltd. will make arrangements with six major Japanese banks for direct fund transfers from bank accounts into brokerage accounts, The Nikkei reported.

* Hyundai Motor Co. said it will not bid for General Electric Co.'s remaining stake in Hyundai Capital Services Inc., Yonhap News Agency reported.

* Fitch Ratings said it expects Korean banks to have a slightly better performance in 2017 than in 2016, but this year they face political instability and risks from corporate restructuring. The agency added that regulatory changes may also have an impact through a reduction in government support, resulting in negative ratings action for some commercial lenders.

ASEAN

* PT Asuransi Jasa Indonesia (Persero) said its gross premium income stood at 5.2 trillion rupiah in 2016, Bisnis Indonesia reported.

* RAM Ratings said Malaysia was the leading sukuk issuer in 2016, accounting for 41.1% of total global sukuk issuance worth US$29.9 billion, Malaysia's The Edge reported.

* Syarikat Takaful Malaysia Berhad recorded a 7.9% increase in net profit to 39.26 million ringgit for the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, 2016, compared with 36.38 million ringgit in the prior-year quarter, Malaysia's The Sun reported.

* Small & Medium Enterprise Development Bank of Thailand will launch a new soft loan scheme worth 15 billion baht in total for small and medium-sized enterprises, Thailand's Krungthep Turakij reported. The interest rate charged will be lower than 4%.

* The State Bank of Vietnam plans to restructure all credit institutions in the next few years to ensure the protection of depositors, Viet Nam News reported. The central bank is finalizing plans under the government's direction and will focus on implementing the project in 2017, said Nguyen Van Hung, deputy chief inspector of the central bank.

SOUTH ASIA

* Multi Commodity Exchange of India Ltd. confirmed that the Securities and Exchange Board of India is seeking a forensic audit of its trading software to examine if the software gave preferential access to certain members. MCX said it has been notified by the regulator regarding the matter, but it did not provide further details as the matter is under regulatory purview.

* The Indian government approved a two-month interest waiver on short-term crop loans offered by cooperative lenders to provide relief to farmers affected by the demonetization of old banknotes, Mint reported, citing Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

* IFCI Ltd.'s board approved the disinvestment of a 45.5% stake in associate company Hardicon, as it plans to exit from noncore business activities, Press Trust of India reported.

AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND

* The surge in lending to property investors has raised the possibility of a new regulatory crackdown amid concerns that the market is overheating again, The Australian reported.

* Economists predict that any interest rate increase by the Reserve Bank of Australia will be delayed amid stubbornly low inflation, The Australian reported. They noted that while too much inflation will hurt the economy, low inflation can negatively affect growth as consumers and businesses postpone their spending.

IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD

Middle East & Africa: Kenyan banks face new headache; Aramco seeks IPO advisers

Europe: Santander posts large profit; Generali surprised by Intesa; Brexit ruling

Latin America: Banco Macro seen as favorite in Patagonia race; Brazil to simplify reserve rules

North America: Capital One's Cabela deal may fall through; court throws out ICBA vs NCUA suit

North America Insurance: Trump's health pick supports insurance for people with pre-existing conditions

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

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