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Allianz closes takeover of Sri Lanka insurer; CBA to dispute rate-rigging claims

GREATER CHINA

* Zhongtai Financial International, the Hong Kong unit of China's Zhongtai Securities Co. Ltd., has proposed taking over Hong Kong-listed corporate advisory and toymaking company Quali-Smart Holdings for HK$2.15 billion, which would give the parent listing status in the city, the South China Morning Post reported, citing a release. Zhongtai Securities applied to list in Shanghai in 2016, but it later disclosed that China's securities regulator was investigating the company for suspected breaches of securities and futures laws.

* Louisa Cheang Wai-wan, CEO of Hong Kong-based Hang Seng Bank Ltd., said the lender plans to expand the use of financial technology to mobile banking services and is weighing the idea of incorporating facial recognition, the South China Morning Post reported. The bank's parent, U.K.-based HSBC Holdings Plc, has already adopted mobile security key and facial recognition, the report said.

* Hong Kong's Securities and Futures Commission and the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority signed an agreement to establish a framework for fintech cooperation. Under the deal, the regulators will share information on emerging trends in the sector, developments and related regulatory issues, as well as on organizations promoting innovation in financial services.

* Land Bank of Taiwan Co. Ltd. earned a pretax profit of NT$11.86 billion in 2017, marking seven straight years of profit beyond NT$10 billion, the island's Liberty Times reported.

JAPAN AND KOREA

* Japan-based SBI Holdings Inc. unit SBI Virtual Currencies Co. Ltd. is expected to commence exchange operations in the summer of 2018 with four cryptocurrencies in its trading basket, the Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun reported.

* Japan Post Holdings Co. Ltd. and Japan Post Bank Co. Ltd. are planning to reduce the number of post offices allowed to process international wire transfers to 4,053 from 7,260 nationwide, The Nikkei reported.

* South Korea-based Mirae Asset Daewoo Co. Ltd. said in a stock market disclosure that it will establish Mirae Asset Securities Holdings (USA) Inc. as its U.S.-based holding company, Yonhap News Agency reported. The company will dispose of 52,000 shares in Mirae Asset Securities USA Inc. for 300.70 billion won as part of the restructuring effort.

* South Korea's Financial Services Commission has revised peer-to-peer lending industry guidelines with an increase in the individual limit on investing in P2P loans to 20 million won from 10 million won, The Chosun Ilbo reported.

ASEAN

* Thailand's Permanent Secretary for Finance Somchai Sujjapongse, in his capacity as chairman of Krung Thai Bank PCL's board, will order the bank to suspend transactions involving trading of cryptocurrencies with the Thai Digital Asset Exchange, following the central bank's request, Manager Daily reported.

* Thailand-based TMB Bank PCL is targeting credit growth of 8% to 10% in 2018, as it aims to keep nonperforming loans at 2.3% to 2.5%, Krungthep Turakij reported.

* Malaysia-based AFFIN Bank Bhd. expressed an interest in acquiring up to a 40% stake in Indonesian lender PT Bank Syariah Bukopin from its parent PT Bank Bukopin Tbk, Bisnis Indonesia reported. In April 2017, AFFIN Holdings Bhd. CEO Kamarul Ariffin Mohd Jamil said the group was not in formal talks with Bank Bukopin to purchase the unit, adding that there was "nothing substantive" from their discussions.

* City Savings Bank Inc., the thrift banking arm of Union Bank of the Philippines, agreed to acquire a 33.73% stake, or 65 million preferred shares, in Philippine Resources Savings Banking Corp., or PR Savings Bank, from International Finance Corp. at 13.88 pesos per share. The deal is subject to regulatory approval. Earlier in January, City Savings Bank agreed to buy a 66.27% stake in PR Savings Bank from ROPALI Group.

SOUTH ASIA

* Germany-based Allianz SE completed the acquisition of a 100% stake in Sri Lanka-based Janashakthi General Insurance Ltd. from Janashakthi Insurance PLC for 16.39 billion rupees. The company had signed an agreement to sell its general insurance unit earlier in February.

* The Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission gave its approval to Dhaka Stock Exchange to sell a 25% stake to a Chinese consortium comprising the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges, The Daily Star reported, citing K. A. M. Majedur Rahman, DSE's managing director. This comes after the bourse submitted proposals from both the consortium and the National Stock Exchange of India Ltd., for the acquisition of a stake in DSE, to the securities regulator.

* India's Central Bureau of Investigation is seeking details from the chief vigilance officers of five lenders — Allahabad Bank, Axis Bank Ltd., Bank of India, Canara Bank and State Bank of India — on the financial transactions made through Punjab National Bank's Nostro accounts, in connection with a US$1.77 billion fraud detected at the bank, The Hindu reported. Nostro accounts refer to a lender's overseas accounts in other banks, according to the report.

* Nepalese Prime Minister K. P. Sharma Oli appointed Yuba Raj Khatiwada, former governor of the central bank, Nepal Rastra Bank, as the country's finance minister, Reuters reported. Khatiwada is a monetary policy expert and a graduate of the Delhi School of Economics in India, the report said.

AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND

* Commonwealth Bank of Australia said it will dispute allegations made by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, as the latter raised the number of occasions on which CBA is accused of trying to rig the benchmark interest rate to six from three. The lender noted that it is reviewing details of the statement of claim lodged by ASIC and that it has fully cooperated with the regulator's investigation.

* Westpac Banking Corp.'s sale or float of its A$5 billion dealer finance and auto loans business is reportedly slated for around March 2019 at the earliest, with the lender said to be spending about A$180 million to prepare for a divestment, The Australian reported. An independent team will be put in place to drive the sale of the business, the report said.

* Latitude Financial Services, a consumer finance company operating in Australia and New Zealand, is looking to start the domestic leg of its non-deal roadshow in the week of March 12, in connection with its planned A$2 billion IPO, The Australian Financial Review's Street Talk blog reported. The local meetings follow a global non-deal roadshow, which is said to have received some positive feedback despite concerns over the country's banking royal commission.

* Australia's banking royal commission will zero in on the major lenders' failures with fraudulent residential mortgages, dodgy car finance and excessive credit card lending in the first week of hearings, The Australian Financial Review reported, citing a schedule of case studies. The hearings will be held in Melbourne from March 13.

IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD

Middle East & Africa: First Abu Dhabi Bank eyes Saudi branch; Kenyan rate-cap law set for reform

Europe: Deutsche Bank to float DWS unit; NIBC confirms IPO plans; SEB CFO to leave

Latin America: Banco Inter files for IPO; QBE selling LatAm ops; Fitch downgrades Brazil

North America: JPMorgan agrees to close gender pay gap; Citi to refund $335M to card clients

North America Insurance: Berkshire prepared for $400B cat; D&O liability insurers to face challenges

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

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