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CBA suspends demerger plans; China hikes tolerance for micro companies' NPLs

GREATER CHINA

* The China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission has allowed banks to increase their tolerance for the nonperforming loan ratios of inclusive loans to small and micro companies by three percentage points, a move seen as a way to help support these companies. The regulator said the risk in these loans remains controllable. It also said that the aggregate outstanding loans to small firms by the country's five major banks should rise by 30% in 2019.

* The International Monetary Fund said its IMF Staff Retirement Plan and IMF Investment Account intend to invest in China through its recently approved Renminbi Qualified Foreign Institutional Investor license, www.yicai.com reported, citing an IMF spokesman. The license gives the funds access China's onshore investment market.

* China-based ZhongAn Online P & C Insurance Co. Ltd. and Fubon Life Insurance (Hong Kong) Company Ltd jointly registered a life insurance venture in Hong Kong, The Paper reported. ZhongAn Online will hold a 65% stake in the new company called ZA Life Ltd.

JAPAN AND KOREA

* Japan's Nomura Asset Management Co. Ltd. named Junko Nakagawa CEO, effective April 1, Asia Asset Management reported. She is currently an executive managing director and will become the first woman to lead the company.

* The Regional Banks Association of Japan is calling on the Bank of Japan to consider the potential risks of its prolonged monetary easing, which has affected banks' profit and lowered liquidity in the bond market, Reuters reported, citing Takashige Shibato, chairman of the lobby group. The group also wants the central bank to relax rules to allow banks to expand beyond traditional banking operations.

* Japan's North Pacific Bank Ltd. will invest ¥10 million in E+CRAFTMAN, a cloud and IT service company, and will work with the company to offer consolidated data processing services utilizing Japan Bankers Association's new system, The Nikkei reported.

* South Korea's KTB Investment & Securities Co. Ltd. said it will list its Thai subsidiary on the Stock Exchange of Thailand by the end of 2019, The Korea Times reported.

* South Korean telecommunication company KT Corp. has applied with the Financial Services Commission to hold more than a 34% stake in K Bank, the country's first purely online bank, The Chosun Ilbo reported.

ASEAN

* Thailand-based Kasikornbank PCL is now offering personal loans to low-income earners based on a data-driven risk analysis technology, Post Today reported, citing Kattiya Indaravijaya, a president of the bank. The lender expects data-driven income to account for 50% of total income within five years.

* As of December 2018, 46.5 million Thai citizens signed up for the PromptPay money transfer service under the government's national e-payment scheme, Lavaron Sangsnit, director of the country's Fiscal Policy Office, said in a release. The number of PromptPay transactions totaled 1.1 billion with a combined value of 5.8 trillion baht.

* Alliance Islamic Bank Bhd. filed a 2.50 billion ringgit perpetual Islamic bond program with the Securities Commission Malaysia. The bank also established an Islamic commercial papers program worth 300 million ringgit.

* Philippines-based East West Banking Corp. posted a net income of 4.5 billion pesos for 2018, and booked a net interest income of 19.3 billion pesos.

SOUTH ASIA

* Indian lender Karur Vysya Bank Ltd. raised 4.87 billion rupees through the issuance of Basel III compliant Tier 2 bonds to fund its growth plans. The bonds carry an annual coupon of 11.95%.

* The Reserve Bank of India will conduct a US$5 billion buy-sell swap auction of the U.S. dollar and the Indian rupees on March 26.

* Janata Bank Ltd., Bangladesh Krishi Bank and eight other banks in Bangladesh have failed to meet the minimum regulatory capital requirements and face an aggregate capital shortfall of 266.87 billion taka as of December 2018, Dhaka Tribune reported.

AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND

* Commonwealth Bank of Australia suspended preparations for the demerger of its wealth management and mortgage broking businesses to focus on remediating past issues and refunding customers following the recently concluded banking royal commission.

* Partners Group is looking to raise up to A$500 million in an IPO of a new ASX listed investment trust, The Australian Financial Review reported. The listed investment trust is expected to target retail investors.

* Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. unit ANZ Investments appointed Alan Clarke and Maaike Van Tol head of its diversified portfolio management, representing over A$20 billion of funds under management.

* The Reserve Bank of New Zealand defended its decision to require Australia's major banks operating in the country to hold an additional NZ$12.5 billion in capital, The Sydney Morning Herald reported. Deputy Governor Geoff Bascand said the plan justifies the potential social costs in case of a banking crisis and noted that New Zealand cannot count on the Australian banks to bail out their subsidiaries.

IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD

Middle East & Africa: FirstRand fiscal H1 earnings up YOY; EU adds UAE, Oman to tax haven blacklist

Europe: Standard Life Aberdeen shakeup; 2nd Brexit deal defeat; Värde eyes Carige

Latin America: 4 more LatAm nations in EU tax haven blacklist; Santander Río Q4'18 profit rises

North America: OCC disappointed with Sloan's testimony; Goldman Sachs reviews businesses

Global Insurance: US FAA stands by 737 MAX; EU blacklists Bermuda; PartnerRe shuffle

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

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