* Former Bank of Finland Governor Erkki Liikanen, ECB Executive Board member Benoît Cœuré and Banque de France Governor François Villeroy de Galhau are among the favored candidates to succeed Mario Draghi as president of the ECB, according to economists polled by the Financial Times.
* Günther Oettinger, the EU's budget commissioner, said it is "not entirely unlikely" that the U.K. parliament will vote in favor of the Brexit agreement in January 2019 despite the increase in likelihood over the past few months that the U.K. might remain in the bloc, Reuters reported. Oettinger added that there was "no majority" for a disorderly Brexit or a new referendum.
* Visa Inc. is acquiring U.K.-based cross-border payment services provider Earthport PLC for £198 million, according to Reuters.
UK AND IRELAND
* The U.K. Financial Conduct Authority imposed £60.5 million in fines in 2018, including penalties against Santander UK PLC and Tesco Personal Finance PLC, down from £230 million a year ago, according to Bloomberg News. The 2018 figure is as of Dec. 21.
* Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC applied for a German banking license ahead of Brexit in a bid to ensure the bank maintains access to European markets, the Financial Times reported. RBS plans to replace its Frankfurt branch with a new unit that will act as a regional payments hub while continuing to use infrastructure maintained by Germany's central bank.
* Payments giant Ant Financial is in talks for a £500 million takeover of British payments company World First U.K. Ltd., in a move that would be one of the most significant instances to date of a Chinese company buying a British fintech, Sky News reported.
* U.K.-based insurance broker Stackhouse Poland Ltd. is discussing a sale with several potential buyers including Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., Aon PLC, Acrisure LLC and PIB, The Insurance Insider reported.
* A December survey by corporate lobby group the Institute of Directors showed that British business leaders' confidence in the U.K. economy has sunk to its lowest level in more than 18 months amid growing concerns over the risk of a no-deal Brexit scenario, Reuters wrote.
GERMANY, SWITZERLAND AND AUSTRIA
* Melanie Kehr, former chief information officer at Bayerische Landesbank AöR, is set to join the executive board of KfW to lead the bank's information technology division, Handelsblatt wrote.
* UBS Group AG has invested CHF3.5 billion in IT and banking software this year, up 25% from 2013, Neue Zürcher Zeitung quoted Sabine Keller-Busse, the bank's group COO, as saying.
FRANCE AND BENELUX
* Euronext NV is looking to acquire Oslo Børs VPS Holding ASA and units for €625 million in cash as part of its drive to diversify from share trading. Euronext had received Oslo Børs VPS shareholders' support for its offer for the 49.6% of outstanding shares.
* The French senate passed a law to fight against "banking deserts" in villages where there are no cash distributors and limited card payment facilities, by linking state aid to banks for toxic loans to cash machines, provoking opposition from bankers who will urge the government to ignore the proposals, Les Echos reported.
* The week before Christmas saw €2 billion in M&A in Belgium, L'Echo noted.
SPAIN AND PORTUGAL
* Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA said it has reached an agreement with announced Voyager Investing UK LP, an entity managed by Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, for the transfer of a €1.49 billion portfolio of nonperforming and in-default mortgage loans. The banking group estimated that the impact of the transaction on profits will amount to some €150 million, net of taxes and other adjustments. The effect on the bank's CET1 fully loaded ratio is expected "to be slightly positive." The deal is slated to close in the second quarter of 2019.
* A group of some 100 investors holding bonds that were transferred from Novo Banco SA to the "bad bank" of failed lender Banco Espírito Santo SA have written to the central bank to demand €19.3 million in compensation for losses they incurred as a result of the operation, the official Lusa news agency reported.
ITALY AND GREECE
* Generali is looking at acquisition opportunities in Eastern Europe, Asia and even Latin America and prices for those who are looking to buy are starting to come down, director general Frederic de Courtois told Milano Finanza.
* Malacalza Investimenti, the major shareholder of Banca Carige SpA with a 27.5% stake, abstained from voting at a shareholders meeting on the €400 million capital increase needed to safeguard the lender thereby blocking the recapitalization, all dailies including Il Sole 24 Ore reported. The blocking of the capital increase could pave the way for Carige to undergo special administration, MF reported.
* Banca Carige deputy chairperson Letizia Reichlin and Raffaele Mincione, the third largest shareholder of the lender with a 5.4% stake, resigned from the board of directors, La Repubblica wrote.
* Poste Italiane named Vladimiro Ceci as head of the risk office at its insurance unit Poste Vita, MF wrote.
* The Moscow Exchange's planned acquisition of up to a 20% stake in Kazakhstan Stock Exchange is likely to be delayed to early 2019, as it took more time to approve the necessary documents and make the payment, Reuters reported. The first of a two-stage acquisition plan was initially expected to complete this year.
* Slovenia-based Pozavarovalnica Sava d.d. signed an agreement to purchase a 77% stake in KBM Infond družba za upravljanje d.o.o. from Nova Kreditna banka Maribor d.d.
* The Central Bank of Azerbaijan maintained the refinancing rate at 9.75%.
IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD
Asia-Pacific: Mizuho to launch cryptocurrency in 2019; Allahabad Bank to raise 8B rupees
Middle East & Africa: NCB, Riyad Bank in merger talks; Rwanda ups capital requirements for banks
Latin America: Grupo Wiese agrees to sell Sura AM stake; Colombia maintains key rate
North America: Trump may meet Fed chair; Mnuchin reportedly under pressure amid market turmoil
Global Insurance: Indonesia tsunami death toll reaches 430; Stackhouse in talks with suitors
Sheryl Obejera, Arno Maierbrugger, Meike Wijers, Gerard O'Dwyer, Yael Schrage, Brian McCulloch, Praxilla Trabattoni and Helen Popper contributed to this report.
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