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India, China bidding for Bangladesh bourse stake; Suncorp H1 net profit slides

Editor's note: This feature will not be published Feb. 16, 2018. The next feature will be published Feb. 19, 2018.

* U.S. authorities are investigating whether Switzerland-based Credit Suisse Group AG hired referrals from government agencies and state-owned entities in Asia in return for investment banking business and regulatory approvals, the bank said in its fourth-quarter earnings release. Credit Suisse noted it was cooperating with the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. SEC about its hiring practices in the region.

GREATER CHINA

* The People's Bank of China said it has achieved initial results in financial deleveraging, but would continue to cut systemic financial risks as debt levels remain high, Reuters reported, citing the central bank's fourth-quarter monetary policy implementation report. The central bank added that it would "strike a balance" between stabilizing growth, deleveraging and controlling risks.

* U.K.-based HSBC Holdings Plc had helped a Chinese national remit yuan-denominated money from Australia back to China, making it the first international lender to do so since cross-border yuan transactions were opened to individuals in January, the South China Morning Post reported, citing a statement from the bank. Previously, Chinese nationals living abroad could only send money back to China if it were foreign currency-denominated.

* Lin Xiaoxuan, former chief information officer of China Minsheng Banking Corp. Ltd., is being prosecuted for allegedly accepting bribes and holding large assets with unidentified sources following an investigation by the People's Procuratorate of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Xinhua News Agency reported.

* Taiwan Cooperative Financial Holding Co. Ltd. said it would hire 450 employees in the first half to meet business demand as the company aims to boost both domestic and overseas operations, Taipei Times reported. The plan was announced following the hiring of 285 staff in January.

JAPAN AND KOREA

* Japan-based SBI Holdings Inc. is expected to procure ¥50 billion during fiscal 2018 in virtual currency through its intermediary holding company, SBI Cryptocurrency Holdings, The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun reported. The funds will be used for technological development and advanced security measures.

* Japan's Seibu Shinkin Bank signed an agreement with Japan Cloud Capital to collaborate on cloud funding to support small and medium-sized companies and startup ventures, The Nikkei reported.

* Citibank Korea Inc. said it would pay an annual dividend of 295 South Korean won per common share and 345 won per preferred share for a total of 93.89 billion won, down from 114.6 billion won paid out in 2017, the Maeil Business Newspaper reported.

* South Korea-based Mirae Asset Daewoo Co. Ltd. will launch a preferred stock offering to raise about 700 billion won from 140 million preferred shares, Yonhap News Agency reported. The stock offering is open to employee shareholders, existing shareholders and the general public.

ASEAN

* The Bank of Thailand's monetary policy committee unanimously voted to maintain the policy rate at 1.50%, noting that the move would help push headline inflation toward its target as it was projected to rise gradually.

* Indonesia-based PT Bank Tabungan Pensiunan Nasional Tbk CEO Jerry Ng said the bank's unit, PT Bank Tabungan Pensiunan Nasional Syariah, plans to launch an IPO in the second quarter, Bisnis Indonesia reported. Meanwhile, the unit, which caters to small and medium-sized businesses, is still exploring its potential merger with PT Bank Sumitomo Mitsui Indonesia, which provides corporate banking services, Infobank reported separately, citing Ng.

* Malaysia will continue introducing new policies to preserve macroeconomic and financial stability in the country, Bernama reported, citing Bank Negara Malaysia. The central bank noted that external spillovers would continue to impact emerging economies.

* Philippines-based City Savings Bank Inc. is in discussions to acquire other rural lenders, BusinessWorld reported, citing Edwin Bautista, CEO of parent Union Bank of the Philippines. In addition, City Savings Bank Chairman Eugene Acevedo said the company would convert its micro-focused and other banking offices into "branch-lite" units, which are smaller and simplified versions of a brick-and-mortar bank branch in unbanked and underserved areas.

SOUTH ASIA

* National Stock Exchange of India Ltd. and China's Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges are bidding for a large stake in Bangladesh's Dhaka Stock Exchange Ltd., Agence France-Presse reported, citing officials, including Majedur Rahman, CEO of the Bangladeshi bourse. NSE had offered to buy a 25% stake in the bourse's 1.8 billion shares at 15 taka per share, while the Chinese exchanges made a joint bid of 22 taka per share, or US$122 million, and "offered technical support worth nearly US$37 million," Rahman said.

* India-based Punjab National Bank suspended 10 of its officials after it detected US$1.77 billion worth of "fraudulent and unauthorized" transactions at one of its branches in Mumbai, Asian News International reported. The fraudulent transactions were allegedly made for the benefit of a few account holders with their consent, the bank noted.

* India's Capital Small Finance Bank Ltd., which has opened 53 new branches in the last 22 months, is looking to expand its network to 250 branches and attain business of 120 billion rupees by March 2021, The Economic Times reported, citing Managing Director Sarvjit Singh Samra. The company became the first small finance bank in the country to commence operations in April 2016, with 47 branches.

AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND

* Australia-based Suncorp Group Ltd.'s net profit after tax for the fiscal first half ended Dec. 31, 2017, declined 15.8% to A$452 million, or 34.66 cents per share, from A$537 million, or 41.13 cents per share, in the prior-year half. Meanwhile, the group's cash earnings fell 19.2% year over year to A$472 million, or 36.11 cents per share, from A$584 million, or 44.61 cents per share.

* Insurance Australia Group Ltd. will conduct a strategic review of its underperforming Asian assets valued at A$806 million after writing A$50 million off in its first-half results, The Australian reported, citing CEO Peter Harmer. Goldman Sachs will reportedly be in charge of finding a buyer for the Asian businesses, which comprise general insurance assets in Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia and India.

* National Australia Bank Ltd. is said to be cutting its workforce early in the week of Feb. 19 as part of its flagged shedding of 4,000 positions, The Australian Financial Review's Street Talk blog reported. The bank's executives are also reportedly busy conducting a granular strategic review of its wealth operations and related divisions, including private wealth and stockbroking group JBWere.

* Commonwealth Bank of Australia banned its customers from using credit cards to buy virtual currencies, noting that such currencies "do not meet a minimum standard of regulation, reliability, and reputation." The move is effective Feb. 14. Customers, however, can continue to buy and sell digital currencies using the bank's other transaction accounts and debit cards.

* New Zealand-based Kiwibank Ltd. more than doubled the loan capital it grants to Nga Tangata Microfinance to NZ$500,000, which would enable the latter to provide more loans to people, said Robert Choy, executive officer of the microfinance company. NTM offers zero-interest loans to qualifying clients for family well-being and relief from high-interest debt.

IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD

Middle East & Africa: Moody's downgrades Kenya; Riyad Bank FY'17 profit up; Bank of Uganda cuts rate

Europe: Credit Suisse posts loss on US tax reform; Agricole profits rise despite tax hit

Latin America: Interacciones eyes Chinese partners; Ecuador plans debut eurobond offering

North America: Trump considers Mester for Fed vice chair; 2 Texas banks merging

North America Insurance: House GOP eyeing employer mandate repeal; Kemper buying Infinity in $1.4B deal

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

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